For the sake of argument: Subjects's Bill of Rights

To arrive at a bill of rights for subjects, we inverted the Society of Professional Journalists’s code of ethics, and as such:

1. Seek Truth and Report It
a. the right to be reported on truthfully

2. Minimize Harm
a. the right not to be harmed unnecessarily

3. Act Independently
a. the right not to be subjected to a conflict of interest

4. Be Accountable
a. the right to respond

1. The right to be reported on truthfully
Truth means more than simply getting the facts right. The frame used to tell the story and the order in which information appears affects the truthfulness of the article
o Case: 15-year old Devante Beard was incorrectly identified by the Toronto Star as having been shot and killed this spring
o Rosie DiManno employed stereotypes in writing a column about crime and young urban black males. Is this truthful reporting? Does this serve journalism’s first priority to the truth?

2. The right to not be harmed unnecessarily
Three areas the public interest is always served by reporting: a public figure’s public performance, accidents crime
o Do public figures have a right to privacy? Where do you draw the line?
o Case study: Coverage of city councillor Adam Giambrone’s illicit affair during his mayoral campaign
o Was the harm done to Adam Giambrone justified by the public’s right to know? Did the public have a right to know?

3. The right not to be subjected to a conflict of interest
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know. In some cases this might be more obvious than others.
o Is this a hard and fast rule or is there a grey area?
o Case study: the Los Angeles Times’ coverage of the Staples Centre

4. The right to respond
Journalists are accountable to their readers, viewers, listeners and each other
o Is there a duty to admit and correct mistakes, to engage in dialogue over journalistic conduct or to hear grievances against the news media?
o Is there a duty to provide a story subject a public platform for response?
o Case study: the last baby born at Women’s College Hospital


The following audio file is a condensed interview with Arthur Brisbane, current public editor for The New York Times. In the interview, Brisbane discusses his thoughts on journalistic ethics and duties.

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