No matter what your journalistic niche
, everyone agrees that there is a lot going on
in the world right now. Freelance journalists
are feeling a whole spectrum of emotions
about covering it all.
The topic of ethics in journalism
is also buzzing. Journalists are reporting on anything and
everything — making it harder and harder to navigate the blurred lines
of ethics and balancing creative tendencies
with the responsibility to be ethical
in writing. Don't stress! media update's Alrika Möller is drawing you a map through the ethical maze of freelance journalism.
The hope is that every freelance journalist strives
to be ethical in their writing. It can be tricky to cover all the bases, and not everyone is aware of the many bases they need to cover in the name of ethics.
Here are a few things to keep in mind
Some people find this one a little tricky. So
, let me simplify …
If you didn't
write it, don't
say that you did. If you use someone else as a source
, you have to give credit
. That is the basics of plagiarism
and how to avoid it.
There are many ways to navigate
this issue — from linking to articles
you used to the traditional method of citing
at the very end of your piece.
Depending on the formality
of your piece, the method of citing sources and giving credit can differ.
Some informal publications are not too bothered
by the how; they just care that you do it. Some publications, however, have a set style guide
that specifies the acceptable methods.
If you are doing formal or academic writing, the good old-fashioned
Harvard methods are the favourite.
to what some might think, most people are quite trusting
, and they tend to believe the things they read. This is especially true if it was written by a journalist who claimed what they wrote to be fact
This trust is why the accuracy of information
always comes up during discussions about ethics
If you want to be on the right side of correctness, a good rule of thumb is to fact-check yourself.
If you find a fact or statistic that you wish to reference in your writing, check:
- the credibility of your source
- how long ago it was published
- if the information is up-to-date, and
- if other publications are reporting the same thing.
Once you confirm that your facts are correct and up-to-date
, you can add them to your writing. Just remember
to add where
you found those facts.
This is not just to avoid
plagiarism but also to allow your readers the chance to do some fact-checking
Be aware of your biases
This one can be especially tricky
! We all have our biases
If you stand on one side of an issue, you will see more and more
content that supports your point of view
. This will happen when you do research for your writing as well.
That is why freelance journalists have a responsibility to check their biases
. How do you do that?
During the research section of your writing process, the ethical thing
to do is to always check what the other side is reporting
as well. This practice stands regardless
of whether it is a political, environmental or social issue.
Do a quick Google search
to find the other point of view or perspective
you might be missing.
It can mean the difference between writing a propaganda piece
or an informational piece that provides all the facts
, as all good journalists should.
As a freelance journalist, you might find yourself in a position where a client asks you to write with a specific bias
. You have the responsibility
to disclose that fact in your writing, as well as ask them to state the request in writing.
A big part of working in the freelance industry
is working with clients and building client relationships. Every client
you write for wants to feel like they are your only client
This does not just
mean that you have to deliver the same quality
of work to all your clients but that you have to treat each client with respect
When a client provides you with any sensitive
personal or company information to be used within your piece, ethics dictates that you do not use the information anywhere else
This is the case for all kinds of information
provided by a client, from big business deals to a person's real hair colour
. If you don't have the client's permission to use it for other writing projects, you can only use that information for the project the client hired you for.
To be perfectly clear, you cannot even write about it in a personal blog. Keep it out of your dear diary
stories as well — just to be on the safe side.
The word ethics can scare
some freelance journalists. But don't be intimidated; just remember that it is always better to be safe than sorry.Which tip on ethical freelance journalism did you find the most helpful? Let us know in the comments section below.
*Image courtesy of Canva