American Association of Internet Journalists

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LawReader announces the formation of the American Association of Internet Journalists. Members willing to subscribe to its aspirational code of ethics are invited.

After reading Indiana Law Blog,and the journal article to which it links, I better understood some of the rationale inspiring this goundbreaking move to form an association with foundations of good journalism.

Also, Evan Schaeffer's Legal Underground reports
"HOW ARE WEBLOGS AFFECTING THE LEGAL WORLD? . . . Law-related weblogs are the topic of a new issue of Nexus: a Journal of Opinion. The following articles are all available online:
Editor's Note: The Times They Are a Changing, by Hugh Hewitt
The Information Age, Again, by Timothy Sandefur
Legal Blogs: The Search for Legitimacy, by Lyle Denniston
Lessons from the Clash Between Campaign Finance Laws and the Blogosphere, by Richard L.Hasen
Employee Blogs and Trade Secrets: Legal Response to Technological Change, by Vincent Chiappetta
“Or of the [Blog]," by Paul Horwitz
Blog You, by Denise M. Howell
The Impact of Blogging on the Practice of Law: Hit the Snooze Button, by Tom W. Bell
Legal Blogs and the Supreme Court Confirmation Process, by Tung Yin
Humanizing the Profession: Lawyers Find Their Public Voices Through Blogging, by Colin Samuels
The Blogosphere and The New Pamphleteers, by Donald J. Kochan
Late Night Thoughts on Blogging While Reading Duncan Kennedy’s Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy in an Arkansas Motel Room, by Franklin G. Snyder
Blogs and the First Amendment, by David L. Hudson, Jr"

Kentucky Law Blog, discusses the formation of this association with its post, Raising the Bar on Legal Journalism in the Web.

Since Blawgers are lawyers without journalism education or culture, it seems to me that such an association could not only raise the bar, but give sites some added credibility.

The Code of Ethics for members of the American Association of Internet Journalists follows:

CODE OF ETHICS FOR THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF INTERNET JOURNALISTS
Internet Journalists describe society to itself.
• They seek truth.
• They convey information, ideas and opinions, a privileged role.
• They search, disclose, record, question, entertain, suggest and remember.
• They inform citizens and animate democracy.
• They give a practical form to freedom of expression.
• They educate the public.
Many Internet journalists work in private enterprise, but all have these public responsibilities.
AAIJ members engaged internet journalism commit themselves to:
• honesty
• fairness
• independence
• respect for the rights of others.
In consultation with colleagues, they will apply the following standards.
1. Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, nor give distorting emphasis.
2. Make efforts to give the subject of any damaging report an opportunity to comment, preferably in that same report.
3. Urge the fair correction of errors.
4. Use fair and honest means to obtain material. Avoid misrepresentation and use of concealed equipment or surveillance devices.
5. Pictures and sound should be true and accurate. Any manipulation likely to mislead should be disclosed.
6. Plagiarism is stealing. Always attribute fairly.
7. Only quote directly what is actually said or written. Otherwise paraphrase. Meaning and context should be accurately reflected.
8. Disclose any direct or indirect payment made for interviews, pictures or information.
9. Do not allow personal beliefs or commitments to undermine accuracy, fairness and independence. Where a political bias is present it should be identified and disclosed publicly online.
10. Do not allow any payment, gift or other advantage to undermine accuracy, fairness and independence. Where relevant, disclose.
11. Guard against advertising or commercial considerations improperly influencing journalism. Where it occurs, disclose.
12. Accept the right to privacy of every person. Public figures’ privacy may be reduced by their public role. Relatives and friends of those in the public eye retain their own right to privacy.
13. At times of grief or trauma, always act with sensitivity and discretion. Never harass. Never exploit a person’s vulnerability or ignorance of media practice. Interview only with informed consent.
14. Do not place unnecessary emphasis on personal characteristics including race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation, family relationships, religious belief or physical or mental disability.
15. Never knowingly endanger the life or safety of a person without informed consent.
16. Exercise particular care for the welfare of children in reports involving them.
17. Respect every person’s right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.
18. Aim to attribute as precisely as possible all information to its source. When a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source’s motive and any alternative attributable sources. Keep confidences given in good faith.
19. Educate yourself about ethics and help to enforce this code.
20. If a writer, or site hosting publications of a writer, is officially affiliated with a political party or candidate for public office, he/it shall disclose that relationship on the hosting site or in the article.
21. Only members of the association in good standing shall represent themselves as such.
Basic values sometimes clash and ethics requires conscientious decision-making in context. Only substantial considerations of public interest or substantial harm to people allows any standard to be overridden.

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