Social and Cultural Awareness
When writing about groups of people readers won’t
particularly have experience with, a journalist must take in
to consideration the different ethnic/social backgrounds,
the way that they explain the group influences how the
reader feels about them – bias representations of these
groups will have a bad impact on them, what would make it
a good piece of factual writing would be a balanced piece.
The NUJ (National Union of Journalists) has created a range of
ethical guidance sheets for it’s members to use, this makes
sure they adhere to certain guidelines to make sure their
writing will not effect anyone in any way.
The NUJ guidelines are there for journalists to refer to, especially when reporting on serious issues such as: race or religion.
Journalists don’t have to follow them, but they are there as a general guideline when dealing with things that could
offend or seriously effect people – they are also there to keep away court cases, here are some examples:
When reporting on race: Only mention someone’s race if it is strictly relevant. Check to make sure you have it right. Would
you mention race if the person was white? http://ethicaljournalisminitiative.org/en/contents/nuj-guidelines-on-race-reporting
When reporting on immigration and asylum: Don’t use terms such as, ‘bogus’, ‘illegal’ or ‘failed’ asylum seeker. If necessary,
use ‘refused’ asylum seeker instead. A fairer term to use for someone who has outstayed their visa is ‘undocumented’
or ‘irregular’. https://www.nuj.org.uk/news/updated-nuj-race-reporting-guidelines-and-efj-manifesto/
When reporting on age: Provide balance when reporting intergenerational conflict: include views from older people who
support the young, as well as those who complain about them. https://www.nuj.org.uk/news/guidelines-on-bullying-harassment-
When reporting on suicide: Avoid disclosing method of suicide whenever possible, for example never print details of drugs
used or their dosages. http://suicideprevention.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Scotland_Reporting-Mental-Health_-
They also cover areas on disability, mental illness and sexually transmitted diseases. They also have a hotline journalists can
contact when enquiring about a particular story or problem.
NUJ Code of Conduct
The National Union of Journalists enforces a code of conduct that consists of 12 guidelines a
journalist must adhere to and agree with when they sign up for the NUJ, these rules are clear
instructions that also aid a journalist in their writing, some of these rules are:
- Does her/his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies.
- Differentiates between fact and opinion.
- Does nothing to intrude into anybody's private life, grief or distress unless justified by
overriding consideration of the public interest.
- Protects the identity of sourced who supply information in confidence and material gathered in
the course of her/his work.
- Produces no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination, on the ground of a persons age,
gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status or sexual orientation.
- Avoids plagiarism. https://www.nuj.org.uk/about/nuj-code/
The idea behind the conscience clause was to enforce a rule that allows journalists to refuse n
assignment that would ‘contravene their ethical code’ they feel that, ‘no journalists should be
disciplined or suffer detriment to their careers for asserting their right to act ethically.’ The
conscience clause would protect them against being disciplined or facing any implications
with their career for refusing an assignment they see as unethical.
Connotation is an associated or secondary explanation of either a word or expression in
comparison to it’s primary meaning.
For example, if you were to call someone a dog, it wouldn’t mean you’re literally calling them a
dog, it’s alternative meaning is generally ‘ugly.’
When talking about disability, the NUJ would rather a journalist refers to say, someone in a
wheelchair as a wheelchair user rather than ‘wheelchair bound’ or make any kind of
reference to them being ‘confined’.
Or when writing about deaf people, don’t call them, ‘the deaf’ refer to them as, ‘hard of
hearing’ or ‘deaf.’
When talking about age, be careful that you refer to them as, say ‘elderly’ rather than
‘pensioner’, ‘OAP’ or ‘grandma/grandpa’ as it can cause offence or marginalise people.
If the objective was to write a story on the elderly, you wouldn’t call them ‘grandma’ or,
‘grandpa’ as it’s quite a personal statement – only call them that when absolutely necessary,
for example: been given permission to use those terms. The same goes for younger people,
you wouldn’t categorize them as thugs or bums as that’s disrespectful to the age group,
refer to them as: ‘youngsters’ or ‘youths.’
Although writing is generally aimed at a specific audience, it’s a good idea to
take in to consideration the fact that people from other groups could end
up reading it. Because of this, it’s essential to make sure that all points are
equally balanced and take other ages and subcultures in to account, for
A report on age and the differences between old and young should be fairly
balanced and have an argument and an explanation for both – it should be
fairly balanced and there should be no inclination of bias reasoning’s or
examples, everything should be fairly assessed and evaluated.
If it’s not fair, with arguments for both and bias on the writers account, it could
cause problems for the writer and the audience reading it, as they could
become offended and angry – sparking arguments within the media,
especially between these two groups.
It’s imperative that all of the facts, data and information is correct and well
thought out for different groups – otherwise problems can arise.
Credibility is how reliable or trustworthy something is, in
this case it’s news stories and reports.
If a story is not seen as credible or believable then it loses
it’s value – this could be very bad for both the
journalist and the newspaper they are working for.
In order to be credible, a journalist must focus on:
• How fair and balanced a story is
In order to create a successful story, journalists must make sure they are equally distributing the
facts, unprejudiced and unbiased, this is to ensure the story won’t offend anyone or go
against the objective, which in turn will make sure the article and the newspaper wont get in
If a journalist has an agenda they will look for evidence that will support their ideas and they will
discard any evidence that doesn’t work – because of this they will produce work that doesn’t
have an independent look on an event and will instead be heavily reliant on the journalists
Most newspapers have a political agenda, this will lean either towards the ‘left wing’ with
positive views on equality and supporting those who can’t support themselves, standing for
ideas such as: national health service (NHS) and job seekers allowance.
Whereas the ‘right wing’ has negative views on equality and has views such as: survival of the
fittest, economic freedom and also that we should all be able to look after ourselves,
enforcing ideas such as freedom to succeed over equality – the polar opposite to the ‘left
In April of 2013, the BBC was accused of being more ‘leftie bias’ when they covered the death
of Thatcher – it’s main news website was supposedly filled with negative articles aimed at
her, such news stories as: ‘What if Margaret Thatcher had never been?’ and ‘The TV was
turned off when she came on.’
There was a lot of news coverage over the cost of Thatcher’s funeral which caused quite an
uproar from left wing newspapers – they focused on how Thatcher was supposedly racist
with ‘no corresponding article about her many fans.’
It’s very important to ensure that all names, dates, times, quotes and other factual information included within a story
to support the writing is one hundred percent correct, making sure the story itself is accurate to report and
Failure to do so can harm and cause distress to people or groups of people – cases of libel can be brought up if there is
false allegations against a particular person or a group, for example:
In the Ballard News-Tribune article, entitled: How does Ballard stack up in residential burglaries?’ the Ballard Smoke
Shop was wrongly accused of having rowdiness and bar fights within it’s walls; the incident - a visiting tourist got a
glass smashed against his face – actually happened just down the road and a reader assured the writers that the
Smoke Shop doesn’t allow rowdiness and they don’t over serve their customers – always keeping a watchful eye to
make sure incidents like that don’t happen.
The Press Complains Commission (PCC) look in to stories and complaints like these and assess them – the editors code
of conduct on accuracy states:
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with
due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence
should be agreed with the PCC in advance.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party,
unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
It’s important to be truthful when it comes to articles – it’s heavily dependant on facts and
truth and has the power to sway a persons opinion on a particular group or subject.
If a journalist was to write fiction; their work can have some serious legal and ethical
consequences – however these rules are constantly broken, newspapers try to grab the
attention from readers using fake news stories that sound appealing or interesting – they
can also do it so that they are following their particular political agenda.
For example: in 2009, the Daily Record released a story that a man in India was going to sue
Axe Body Spray after he ‘failed to attract swimsuit models who would carry pitchers of beer
to his apartment.’ What really happened was a reporter, Tommy Christopher went to the
Axe company – found a spokesperson and found out that they managed to trace the story
back to a ‘parody news site.’
Fair and Balanced
When writing an article or news story, it’s imperative that the whole thing is open
minded and non-discriminatory!
There should be two sides to the story – it should be unbiased as readers usually
makes decisions based on facts.
This is often overlooked or ignored as a rule because using emotive language or an
emotive subject usually gets more sales.
The NUJ rule strictly states: ‘Produces no material likely to lead to hatred or
discriminations on the grounds of a person’s age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal
status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation.’
For example: imagine the objective is to write a story between two groups, for
example, the Ferguson news story that is currently circulating through the media. You
wouldn’t just focus on one side of the story, you’d write a fair and balanced report on
the happenings currently going down in that area of the world – no bias opinions and
no taking sides, equal arguments from both sides – that’s what makes a good, true