As the News of The World saga gains momentum and the full extent of ethically-void journalism practices unfold, I can’t help but feel depressingly disillusioned.

Is this dark newsroom culture so inherent that at some point we are going to have to accept it? And what is the role of public relations in maintaining ethics and standards in news reporting?

I think it calls for a refresher course in Ethics 101!

There’s a plethora of ‘Ethical Codes’ out there, but one of the most comprehensive lists of PR ethics I found was the PRSA Code of Ethics.

Here is a crude summary of what they are and the full resource can be found here,

Translating values into principles of ethical practice, the Code advises professionals to:
• Protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information.
• Foster informed decision making through open communication.
• Protect confidential and private information.
• Promote healthy and fair competition among professionals.
• Avoid conflicts of interest.
• Work to strengthen the public’s trust in the profession.

Code guidelines (the practical implementation of ethics in a day to day setting):
• Be honest and accurate in all communications.
• Reveal sponsors for represented causes and interests.
• Act in the best interest of clients or employers.
• Disclose financial interests in a client’s organisation.
• Safeguard the confidences and privacy rights of clients and employees.
• Follow ethical hiring practices to respect free and open competition.
• Avoid conflicts between personal and professional interests.
• Decline representation of clients requiring actions contrary to the Code.
• Accurately define what public relations activities can accomplish.
• Report all ethical violations to the appropriate authority.

Digging even deeper… Looking at practice challenges:
• Pay-for-play journalism.
• Anonymous Internet posting, “flogs” and viral marketing.
• Front groups.
• Disclosure of payment of expert commentators.
• Truth in wartime communications.
• Overstating charges or compensation for work performed.

So, how responsible do you think Public Relations professionals are in providing transparent and honest stories?

Have you ever been confronted with ethical issues surrounding a ‘sensational’ (in all aspects of the term) story angle?

Here is a link to the journalism code of ethics as a point of comparison.