Walter Hussman’s rules of journalism

Walter Hussman’s rules of journalism

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By: Allen Nitschelm on October 18, 2019 | Media Criticism

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I was watching Fox News last night to catch President Trump’s latest rally and saw an interview on Tucker Carlson of Walter Hussman, Jr. Hussman is a newspaper publisher in Arkansas and has been concerned with media reporting bias. He talked about a set of rules he published every day in his 10 daily newspapers and how he and his staff use these guidelines to produce their product.

So I did an online search and they popped right up. And I am reprinting them below for Public Editor readers who wonder why it is important for the Boston Globe journalists to report news in an unbiased, non-partisan manner. I think Hussman’s rules will give some needed context to that discussion, and I would urge the Boston Globe to consider using them internally and train their news reporters on their meaning and intent.

An interesting example of how these rules are practiced was discussed. Hussman said that his reporters would never be allowed to publish a book on the topics they cover in their reporting. In other words, there can’t be a “conflict of interest” for a reporter to be doing their job while possibly profiting or having other motivations at the same time. So the following rules are not a list of what you can or can’t do, but how you approach the job and what the underlying issues are in this important profession.

“To give the news impartially, without fear or favor.” (Adolph Ochs, 1858-1935)

Impartiality means reporting, editing, and delivering the news honestly, fairly, objectively, and without personal opinion or bias.

Credibility is the greatest asset of any news medium, and impartiality is the greatest source of credibility.

To provide the most complete report, a news organization must not just cover the news, but uncover it. It must follow the story wherever it leads, regardless of any preconceived ideas on what might be most newsworthy.

The pursuit of truth is a noble goal of journalism. But the truth is not always apparent or known immediately. Journalists’ role is therefore not to determine what they believe at that time to be the truth and reveal only that to their readers, but rather to report as completely and impartially as possible all verifiable facts so that readers can, based on their own knowledge and experience, determine what they believe to be the truth.

When a newspaper delivers both news and opinions, the impartiality and credibility of the news organization can be questioned. To minimize this as much as possible there needs to be a sharp and clear distinction between news and opinion, both to those providing and consuming the news.

“A newspaper has five constituencies, including first its readers, then advertisers, then employees, then creditors, then shareholders. As long as the newspaper keeps those constituencies in that order, especially its readers first, all constituencies will be well served.” (Walter Hussman, 1906-1988)

— Walter Hussman, Jr.
Publisher

(https://www.arkansasonline.com/corevalues/)

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