According to Kovach, the five fundamental principles of journalism are as follows:
1. Never add anything that was not there. This one pretty much goes without saying. Adding anything to a story simply for the sake of making it more interesting is dishonest and takes the story out of context. To add information to a story would be to put the work of journalism on the same level as that of tabloids.
2. Never deceive the audience. It is the purpose of a journalist to communicate transparently to his or her audience in order to present them information. In any given situation, there are always people who will believe what a journalist says as well as those who realize that a journalist is attempting to mislead them. If the first, the journalist is succeeding in informing his or her audience with faulty information, which is obviously wrong on many levels, and, if the second, the journalist loses all credibility.
Unless it’s April Fool’s Day
3. Be transparent as possible about your methods and motives. In regards to Vladimir Lenin’s death, Walter Lippmann said, ““There is no defense, no extenuation, no excuse whatsoever, for stating six times that Lenin is dead when the only information the paper possesses is a report that he is dead from a source repeatedly shown to be unreliable. The news, in that instance, is not that ‘Lenin is Dead’ but ‘Helsingfors Says Lenin is Dead.’ And a newspaper can be asked to take responsibility of not making Lenin more dead than the source of the news is reliable. If there is one subject on which editors are most responsible it is in their judgment of the reliability of the source” (Lippmann 226). Transparency requires a journalist to offer to his or her audience all information about his or her sources and methods of obtaining the news. This allows the audience to determine any deceptions or bias that those sources may carry with them and adds to the journalist’s credibility.
4. Rely on your own original reporting. It is very difficult for journalists to verify information that they have not gathered themselves partly because it is hard to determine another’s motives behind gathering that information in the first place (as well as the methods he or she used to do so) and partly because those sources would have to be double-checked in order for them to truly be deemed credible.
5. Excercise humility. You can’t know everything. Journalists should never make assumptions when gathering information and should always double check with sources when they possess little knowledge on the event they’re reporting. In this, the audience can be assured that the news they are receiving is indeed sound and credible.
Journalists are humans. They have opinions and biases like everyone else. However, in adhering to these five principles, journalists can better maintain objectivity and thus present truly credible news to viewers. In the end, it is this process of verification which separates journalism from entertainment, propaganda, etc.