Man Bites Dog: The Nature and Nurture of Ethical Journalism

Judah Freed
5 min readApr 28, 2018

In our age of “fake news” with journalists widely distrusted by the public, we may benefit from a better understanding of what good journalists do, how to identify ethical journalism, and how to support more of it.

Despite what some pundits would have us believe, good journalists do exist. They work each day with the highest professional ethical standards in mind.

According to The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), ethical journalism is “truthful, compassionate, independent and transparent.”

We need ethical journalism now more than ever.

Let’s be real here. No journalist is ever wholly objective on any news topic, especially whenever a story is controversial. However, ethical journalists consistently write honestly balanced and reliable news stories.

Good journalists are not that hard to spot.

Good journalists report all the sides in an issue as accurately and equally as possible. Good journalists make sure all opposing viewpoints are reported accurately and fairly. No special interest get special treatment in the selection of quotes or facts.

Good journalists may have their own views on the people and events they cover, especially when controversial, but you will find no trace of it in their writings. Their news stories are free of bias. A news story may have an “angle” or “news hook,” but never a slant.

Good journalists verify each “fact” from as many sources as possible, the more the better. In the canon of ethics for journalists, news stories citing only one single source are discouraged, although necessary at times, but that single source must be carefully vetted and corroborated before the news story ever appears in print.

Good journalists verify all facts in a story from at least two reliable “sources,” more if possible, and ideally from a variety of sources. In a story on a traffic accident, for instance, statements from the drivers are balanced by statements by at least one eye-witness along with quotes from the investigating officer and ideally the police accident report.

Good journalists ask the tough questions. They dig for the story behind the story. The investigate and…



Judah Freed

Author of MAKING GLOBAL SENSE: Grounded hope for democracy and the earth inspired by Thomas Paine's Common Sense.