By Bob Calver, Senior Lecturer in Broadcast Journalism, Birmingham City University

Bob CalverThe recent phone hacking allegations by News of the World reporters highlights that journalists who want to expose wrongdoing should never use illegal or unethical methods to get to the truth. Just because something is possible does not make it acceptable and this is something that students hoping to work in news need to understand in order to adhere to the core values of journalism practice and ethics.

This issue again highlighted the fact that young journalists have to be clear that just because technology made something possible it does not make it acceptable. There are parallels between the hacking debate and other developments in journalism. Mobile ‘phones have made hacking into other people’s messages simple just as other technology has made it easy for anyone to upload allegations and rumour so they are accessible around the world in seconds. The job of journalism educators is to ensure future professionals understand the benefits of any emerging technology but recognise that core principles of accuracy and balance remain paramount.

The Birmingham City University Postgraduate Diploma course in Broadcast Journalism is accredited by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council which insists that journalism standards, law regulation and ethics are an essential part of any course carrying its approval. My colleague, Diane Kemp, who sits on the BJTC’s governing council, said: “It’s important that student journalists learn not just the skills they need to work successfully but also have a complete grasp of their responsibilities. If journalists want to be taken seriously in holding public figures to account they must ensure their own activities are above reproach.

This sentiment is echoed in the National Union of Journalists code of conduct which begins by asserting that journalists should strive to uphold media freedom and the right of the public to be informed but goes on to say material should be obtained by ‘honest, straightforward and open means except in cases of overwhelming public interest’.

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Bob Calver

Bob Calver

Senior Lecturer in Broadcast Journalism, Birmingham City University.