National Public Radio in the U.S. released its new ethics handbook late last week. The handbook is an updated version of NPR’s 2003 ethics code, and looked to address shortcomings in the code that had become apparent. 

National Public Radio in the U.S. released its new ethics handbook late last week. The handbook is an updated version of NPR’s 2003 ethics code, and looked to address shortcomings in the code that had become apparent.

Poynter’s Mallary Jean Tenore gave an overview of specific examples of NPR mistakes that were addressed in the updated code, as well as some things that were missed. Craig Silverman outlined what the new code means for accuracy and corrections. And Jeff Sonderman wrote about updated social media guidelines.

Over at PressThink, Jay Rosen pointed out one difference that reflects a greater commitment to truth rather than to balance – the latter commitment having led to a “view from nowhere” in journalism, which is a problem, he says. But the new handbook calls for journalists to be "fair to the truth." As Rosen says on the new handbook:

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With these words, NPR commits itself as an organization to avoid the worst excesses of he said, she said” journalism. It says to itself that a report characterized by false balance is a false report. It introduces a new and potentially powerful concept of fairness: being “fair to the truth,” which as we know is not always evenly distributed among the sides in a public dispute.

Maintaining the “appearance of balance” isn’t good enough, NPR says. “If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side…” we have to say so. When we are spun, we don’t just report it. “We tell our audience…” This is spin!