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Personal Code of Ethics Essay

After spending much time considering this assignment, I feel now that developing a code of ethics is an important thing to do. The basic knowledge of what is right and what is wrong make up our “internal” code of ethics and the best way to know what those internal guidelines are is to create a written code to follow. This paper will explain why I believe developing a code of ethics is important, highlight the motives behind what I base my daily decisions and ethical behavior, clarify the outcomes and consequences that will take place if the code is not followed, and outline in list form my own personal ethics.

I think that ethical behavior is an important quality for people especially those who are leaders. If I plan on being a leader in my career, it is important to know when to take a stand on difficult issues. I can’t lead if I am irresolute or indecisive. I am not saying though, that I shouldn’t be open to new arguments. Many of the most significant discussions (ethical and otherwise) have strong points on both sides, and all choices should be considered carefully. Ethics inspire trust, loyalty, and effective, meaningful relationships.

If I am going to make a difference, I must set high ethical examples for others to follow. My personal code of ethics includes not only how I wish to conduct myself on a daily basis, but also as a professional in the field of broadcast journalism. Much of my own code reflects on that of the Society of Professional Journalists (Andy Schotz, 2007). I hope to re-examine this during my future career and perhaps even make necessary changes that will keep it as up to date as possible and relevant to the field at that time. The times and technology are always changing, and respectfully, so should my code as to reflect these inevitable changes.

The basis for my own code is somewhat conflicting. I find myself understanding and believing in many concepts and views of ethics. I will try here to explain the reasoning behind my motives and hopefully it will be made clear. First, I believe strongly in utilitarianism ethics (Neher & Sandin, 2007). I think this concept drives many of us in our big decisions, I know I consider what would affect other people when I make a decision, especially if the decision is to be made on behalf of a group. I would never knowingly undermine, harm, or sabotage anyone in any way, even if it is to stand a great gain for myself. I try to consider what helps the greater good, partly because my background is in organizational leadership and functionality (and is therefore what I am accustomed to), what stands to benefit the group also stands to benefit me as a part of the group. I also, however, agree with the ethical egoism perspective.

The ethical egoism perspective, of course, is based upon the view that behavior which advances long-term self interests is ethical (Neher & Sandin, 2007). Ethical egoism, I think, comes off harsh and selfish, but I do not mean it in a cut-throat sense. I know that this view of ethics promotes the pursuit of self interests without regard to its effect on other people, but I think that it tends to imply a negative connotation. I do not wish to take it to an extreme of cruelty or heartlessness. I only mean that my responsibilities are my responsibilities, not anyone else’s, and I need to be the one to take care of them, in order to do that I have to put my task above doing something for someone else.

This includes advancing my career, this is not to say I will deliberately undermine or hurt someone, but I will work for my best interests and towards advancing my career, and caring for my (hypothetical, future) family. For example, I will do everything in my power to earn a promotion, more so that I would help a competitor for the same promotion. I think that we can apply Kant’s categorical imperative, and then this concept has the potential to become utilitarianism. If everyone strived to do what was best for them and those they loved, wouldn’t society be better off? I think it would.

The application of the code requires good sense and judgment, and its use may depend on certain situations. Individual judgment calls on ethical decisions may be necessary. These decisions will probably depend on several aspects, including but not limited to, the presence or absence of shared values and opinions, political views, and the individuals involved in the situation. As inconceivable as it may seem, my ideal theme of personal ethical behavior then would be a blend of these two themes. When I am faced with a problem that requires a decision based on ethics, I hope to first ask myself a series of questions to help guide my decision. They will consist of, is this right? Is it fair? Who gets hurt in the end? Would I be comfortable if the details of my decision were reported on the front page of your newspaper?

This code of ethics cannot and does not attempt to assure constant behavior or resolve all disputes, it does, however, provide a standard to which I aim and against which my actions can be judged. Nevertheless, there is no judge to determine guilt of breaking a rule in the code, except myself. Consequences of a violation of a rule will include self inflicted punishment. The harshest punishment comes from one’s self, and in this case the penalty will be disappointment, and shame. I would find it particularly hard to live with the knowledge that I knowingly broke a rule in my own code of ethics, because I feel that these are important in my life. The internal punishment that I would put upon myself in the form of guilt heavily outweighs simply doing the right thing in the first place, no matter how tedious or daunting it may be at the time. Owning up to a mistake or intentional rule violation to the harmed individual will also be a penalty.

The basic ideas of this code of ethics are personal behavior, continual education, demonstrating a professional attitude and responsibility, decency and treating others equally, respect to me and others maintain self direction and motivation, and truth. The code is not in order of importance as every guideline is equally as important and none are intended to be of better value than any other. I have arranged them into themes. Points 1-6 deal with responsibility and professionalism at work (in any setting), points 7-12 discuss the importance of journalistic ethics, and finally points 13-16 are more personal life applications of this code.

Jessica Dirr’s Personal Code of Ethics:1.I will maintain the highest level of professional standards as an employee of my company and conduct myself accordingly at all times.

2.I will respect other people’s time and be punctual and prepared daily.

3.I will accept the duties that I have been assigned and collaborate with others in a spirit of teamwork to complete the tasks at hand.

4.I will always work to develop my own professional skills, continue my education, and to be aware of changes in the field, and modify my own practices accordingly.

5.I will be honest and trustworthy. I believe that honesty is an important part of trust, and trust is essential not only at work, but in personal lives as well.

6.I will display a high moral level and not take part in any behaviors or activities that might reduce my value to the company for which I am employed.

7.I will honor confidentiality whenever necessary or requested, not only in my career, but also in my personal relationships and trusted people (Radio-Television News Directors Association, 2000).

8.I will thoroughly check the facts on any story and verify all sources, and will never present questionable or false information.

9.I will promote equal access and opportunity without regard to race, gender, nationality, ability or other quality.

10.I will strive to approach all assignments with an unbiased attitude and strive to gather evidence fairly and accurately (Andy Schotz, 2007).

11.I will not let sponsorship, political efforts, or advertisers shape or change my news stories. In accordance, I will not allow the benefit of ownership or management influence the content of the news stories. (Radio-Television News Directors Association, 2000)12.I will never plagiarize or take credit for other’s ideas or work.

13.I will strive to not cause harm to anyone.

14.I will admit any and all mistakes and make every effort to correct them quickly.

15.I will make every attempt to listen to and allow people to give me information without interrupting or arguing with them.

16.I will avoid being rude, and demonstrating the appearance of bad taste.

I would like to expand on these points. The first few (points 1- 6) deal with a general work ethic that could be applicable in any business or career setting. I strongly believe that my work ethic comes from my upbringing. My father, who is a business owner, instilled this strong value in me at an early age. I learned to respect others’ time and efforts. I saw how a single person could affect how the rest of the day works. I also have seen firsthand the effects that one person’s negligence can have on another’s experiences. I think that this sort of experience with the consequences on “other side” of the actions makes my work ethic portion of the code more personal.

Also, I learned at a very young age how to act professionally and the “There is a time and place for certain behavior” concept. When I would accompany him on his “rounds” (by this I mean we would travel from store to store and he would do inspections, and other managerial duties, so I was not allowed to misbehave) I would have to conduct myself with a certain demeanor and respect the employees and my father. I knew that my actions were not necessarily reflective on myself, but more so reflective on him. I felt that if I misbehaved he would lose an authority or respect by his employees. The one time I deviated from this standard I wasn’t reprimanded per se, but I did realize the consequences of my actions, I felt a shift in the status quo, and disappointment in myself more than anything. At the age of seven, I knew the importance of professional conduct and hold firm to that lesson even today.

Often, in my undergraduate career, I was assigned group projects, most of which one or two people (usually myself) ended up doing the bulk of the work. I suppose I brought this upon myself to ensure that the project would be completed, also I was untrusting of others to “do it right” a.k.a. my way. In hindsight this was not the best course of action, as it not only brought more workload on myself, but it hurt the spirit of teamwork in our class, and the other members suffered a loss of the knowledge to be gained by collaborating on the project. I think that this can be applicable in workplace situations, as often tasks are assigned to teams and collaborating colleagues. This rule is in place to remind me that in order for a project or task to be the best it can be, teamwork is necessary. Also it will help me maintain control over my perfectionism and “control freak” personality. By allowing me to be open to suggestions I am letting down barriers that I have created that ultimately hinder my personal and professional development more than protect myself.

The field of news and communications is constantly and rapidly changing (Bogart, 1968). I hope to never be so closed minded that I am not willing to learn more, new and different techniques and styles. Often, it appears that members in this industry that get left in the past with outdated techniques aren’t of value to the station, and eventually lose their jobs. I don’t want that to happen to me. Therefore, I will always be open minded and eager to learn new technology and techniques for which to better my career. The concept of being honest and trustworthy is relatively simple. I do believe that honesty is an important part of trust, and trust is essential not only at work, but in personal lives as well. In order to maintain that trust, I will not do anything or act in a way that will betray a trust that I have with someone.

Also, the idea of displaying a high moral level is reasonably straightforward. I will not take part in any activities that might make me look bad to my company. This includes any and all illegal activities or even something that is unprofessional or not representative of my usual character. I have certain, and very specific boundaries which I will not cross, and those are clear. I do on the other hand recognize that mistakes happen, and sometimes (usually when prompted by high levels of stress or emotion) I act not in accordance with my usual demeanor. In the event that this happens, I will try to prevent this from occurring in a negative manner that may affect another person, and certainly not at work.

The following (points 7-12) are related specifically to my career in journalism and news reporting. First, I stated that “I will honor confidentiality whenever necessary or requested, not only in my career, but also in my personal relationships and trusted people”. Confidentiality is a sticky topic. Some would argue that it isn’t necessary in the news, especially if an irresponsible reporter fabricates their facts. I have learned that for better, or for worse, confidentiality is an important aspect in news (Radio-Television News Directors Association, 2000). Some interviewers and some sources require it, it allows for an anonymity that might afford them the freedom to say what they intend to or want to without fearing the repercussions of identifying one’s self.

However most important to the news field, it is also useful in personal life. Often, people express something to another “in confidence” which means they trust you to not relay the information to anyone else. This goes back to trust and honesty, and I believe that it is an integral part of ethics. Leading from the confidentiality theme, I will thoroughly check the facts on any story and verify all sources, and will never present questionable or false information. Studies have shown the effects of confidentiality and falsifying sources in the news (Wulfemeyer, 1982), and I find it appalling that a professional journalist would make up a story and claim that she had gave her sources confidentiality. I will never under any circumstances act in that manner.

The next three are again pretty clear-cut. I will support equal access and opportunity (without regard to race, gender, nationality, ability or other quality). I do not believe in (or very much understand) the concept of discrimination based on differences. I think to do so is demonstrating of one’s own ignorance and closed mindedness. I then go onto say that I will strive to approach all assignments with an unbiased attitude and attempt to gather evidence fairly and accurately (Andy Schotz, 2007).

I understand that a bias comes built into all of us, but in the effort to produce completely factual news stories, I will try to put any natural bias aside. Also, I will never allow any alteration or censorship of material produced for any reason other than common decency or personal judgment. Corporate sponsorship and political motivations and do not drive the news, and should not be a foundation upon which our stories are based (Radio-Television News Directors Association, 2000). Also, I will never plagiarize or take credit for other’s ideas or work.

The final section of my personal code of ethics (points 13-16) highlights personal guidelines and standards. First of all, I will strive to not cause harm to anyone. Of course I know that some actions (even if they are done with good intent, which may include any actions that complete assigned tasks or stories) could potentially cause harm accidentally. If this happens, I will try to remedy or relieve the effects as much as I can. In an effort to avoid unintended harm I will be sure to consider any and all potential outcomes my decisions might have an effect on. I will give credit where credit is due when I am assisted with projects. Also, following this, I will admit any and all mistakes and make every effort to correct them quickly. I hope to never be so proud that I am unwilling to admit that I have made a mistake, we are all only human and it is bound to happen from time to time.

And finally, I will make every attempt to listen to and allow people to give me information without interrupting or arguing with them, and I will avoid being rude, and demonstrating the appearance of bad taste. This is for my own sake, as I am known sometimes to be stubborn and set in my ways. I need to practice the art of patience and listening without interrupting someone. This one might be hard to do. However, in accordance with being open to other’s opinions I must first be willing to let go of total control and allow others to give their input. I always strive to be polite and courteous in every situation, and in doing so showing respect for the people and situation with which I am involved. I feel this is a great tool in personal life as well as professional.

In conclusion, I hope that by setting this code in place, I will better myself and my career. I also hope that it allows me the opportunity to lead by example, and that others will feel so motivated to practice good ethical decisions and practices. I also hope that by outlining these ethics I can be better aware of my own actions and whether or not what I ultimately decide to do is the right decision ethically and personally. I tried to clarify why developing a code of ethics is important, I emphasized the foundation to what I base my daily decisions and behavior, I stated the outcomes and consequences that will take place if the code is not followed, and I explained in detail my own personal ethics.


Andy Schotz. (2007). Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Retrieved September 22, 2007, from Society of Professional Journalists: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.aspBogart, L. (1968, December). Changing News Interests and the News Media. The Public Opinion Quarterly , pp. 560-574.

Fackler, M., Christians, C. G., & Ferré, J. P. (1993). Good News: Social Ethics and the Press. New York: Oxford University Press.

Neher, W. W., & Sandin, P. J. (2007). Communicating Ethically: character, duties, consequences, and relationships. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Radio-Television News Directors Association. (2000, September 14). Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. Retrieved September 23, 2007, from Radio-Television News Directors Association: http://www.rtnda.org/pages/media_items/code-of-ethics-and-professional-conduct48.phpWulfemeyer, T. K. (1982). The Use of Anonymous Sources and Related Ethical Concerns in Journalism: A Comparison of the Effects of the Janet Cooke/”Washington Post” Incident on the Policies and Practices of Large Newspapers and Television Stations. Athens: The Association for Education in Journalism.

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