NABJ Code of Ethics

Adopted by the NABJ Board of Directors

April 24, 2005


NABJ recognizes that credibility, integrity and truthfulness are building blocks of excellence in all forms of journalism. In order to earn and sustain the public’s trust, news organizations and individual journalists must reflect the highest of ethical standards in their work.

NABJ’s guidelines for newsroom conduct are part of this organizations renewed emphasis on ethical behavior. This is one response to the many signs of discontent directed at the news media. If the news media is to overcome doubts about the believability of editorial content, denials of bias, the motives of media owners and the First Amendment rights of journalists, then the case for credibility must be made more convincingly and more consistently.

NABJ is convinced that the news media’s vast potential for informing the public becomes more possible with diverse staffing and diverse content anchored on a foundation of public trust. If connections to skeptical and sometimes hostile consumers of news are to be strengthened, daily vigilance in the pursuit of credibility, integrity, and truthfulness is essential. While NABJ has an abiding interest in the full range of activities and issues that affect its many goals, it is focusing this statement on one area deserving urgent attention: guidelines for the ethical work of journalists.




  • public opinion with respect to the credibility of journalism is at a low point and that there is a need to make our organization a shining example of professional journalism;
  • and whereas the highest journalistic ethical standards are cardinal in guaranteeing the independence and the integrity of our profession;
  • and whereas NABJ members and chapters would benefit from a written Code of Ethics to help guide and inform sound professional conduct;

Therefore, be it resolved that NABJ members must adhere to its Constitution by being dedicated to truth and excellence in the news and holding high ethical standards, and that NABJ offers this Code of Ethics as a set of guidelines for ethical conduct by its members and affiliate chapters. These guidelines apply to news workers, at all levels of the operation, in all types of print, broadcast, new media and online operations. 

Under these guidelines:

  • NABJ members are encouraged to become involved in community activities but are expected to disclose their employment or other relationships with those entities that influence or seek to influence the news.
  • NABJ members are encouraged to disclose or refrain from investments or business relationships that actually bring or may appear to bring into question the integrity of their journalistic works. Members are expected to avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  •  NABJ members should disclose their political contributions to candidates and refrain from making such contributions in areas in which they cover or have journalistic contact.
  • NABJ members should not accept free services or payments from news sources or public officials. In the same regard, NABJ members should not pay news sources, offer gifts to, or accept favors from those who seek to influence news coverage.
  • NABJ members are urged to strive for words, images, graphics and sound that report truthfully, honestly and objectively.
  • NABJ members should not alter words, images, graphics or sound in a manner that deceives the public. This includes fabricating, or plagiarizing quotations and facts or electronically altering images or sound.
  • NABJ members should disclose the origin of information and label all material provided by outside agencies, such as those provided in the form of news releases, public relations statements or audio or video releases.
  • NABJ members should treat all subjects of news coverage with respect and dignity, particularly victims of crime and tragedy and their families.
  • NABJ members should examine freelance opportunities and honoraria for speeches carefully to assure that they are not disguised as gratuities.
  • NABJ members should refrain from surreptitious methods of gathering information or methods that misrepresent their standing except when traditional open methods have been exhausted or will not yield central information vital to the public.
  • As an organization that represents members of a racial minority who understand the pain of discrimination, NABJ members should avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
  • NABJ affiliate chapters should avoid association with organizations and activities that may compromise the integrity or damage credibility of its members.
  • NABJ affiliate chapters should refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise the journalistic integrity of members or could be perceived as doing so.


NABJ seeks to encourage the best of ethical practices already in place among its membership and throughout the

industry. No mere collection of rules and recommendations will serve the aims of quality journalism. On matters large and small, individuals with professional commitments to credibility, integrity and truthfulness will make the biggest difference.

To this end, NABJ will:

  • Create an ethics model. This will be in a multimedia format and accessible to all members via the Web site and the printed form.
  • Include ethics seminars at regional and national conferences, as well as at NABJ Media Institute programs.
  • Expand NABJ outreach to colleges and high schools by insisting that ethics be included in journalism classes.
  • Create an ethics discussion forum online for members to seek answers or to have discussions of ethics issues.


Respectfully submitted,


Maidstone Mulenga (chairman), Bryan Monroe (NABJ Board liaison),

Caesar Andrews, Kenny Irby, Michael Fletcher, Sherrie Marshall,

Mike McQueen, Sonya Ross and Sidmel Estes-Sumpter