Code of Ethics: KPA adopted one in 1925 but no idea what became of it

Earlier this week, I got an email from a Newspaper Association Manager colleague asking if any state press associations had adopted a Code of Ethics for its members. I answered “no” originally, then changed that to a “Yes but no.” A few years ago, there was Board discussion of adopting a Code of Ethics for our members. Most were against the idea, citing that either corporate newspapers had a Code to operate by and those that don’t should adopt the SPJ or ASNE Code of Ethics. There was an agreement without a vote that we’d defer to one of those organization’s Code of Ethics instead of adopting one as an association.

So, no we don’t have a Code of Ethics but then maybe we do, just forgotten and not in effect. That’s why I changed my answer to “Yes but no.”

Here’s something from a 2005 version of On Second Thought, known then as a Friday FAX to the Board.

It quotes using The Golden Rule, calls for publishing accurate circulation figures, holding true to published advertising rates, not stealing employees from a competitor and to credit appropriately any material taken from another newspaper.

There’s a brief opening and then the language from 1925 on the KPA Code of Ethics.

KPA Code of Ethics – Adopted July 11, 1925

There have been requests for copies of KPA’s Code of Ethics over the years, interest by some parties in there being one, and strong feelings that KPA should not have a Code of Ethics at all.

Eighty years ago, there was one, adopted by the association at a “regular session on July 11, 1925.” This probably was adopted during a summer convention business meeting.

From the way it’s written (“and in witness thereof I hereby sign my name”) it would appear that at least each person present signed a copy of the Code of Ethics.

I hadn’t seen a copy, didn’t even know a Code of Ethics existed, until visiting the Harrodsburg Herald a couple of weeks ago (that was in 2005). Cathy Caton said she wanted to show me something and pulled out a framed copy of the code she had found at the newspaper.

The code from July 11 1925, read:

  1. I Solemnly Promise:

(a) To maintain a standard of Journalism in the paper which I own or manage, or on which I am employed that will reflect credit upon the Association to which I belong and win the respect of friend and foe,

(b) To strive for no success that is not founded upon the Golden Rule and the highest conception of justice and morality.

(c) To speak in respectful terms, through the editorial or news columns, of contemporary newspapers and editors, and when this cannot be done to remain silent, unless to remain silent would be to the detriment of the people I serve.

(d) To uphold through my paper the government and all laws, even though they be obnoxious or distasteful to me; and for all such laws as I can not agree with I will seek my remedy only in their repeal.

(e) To strive as far as lies in me to make all editorial comment and news reports just, fair and uncontrolled by those natural predilections which sometimes unfairly influence us.

(f) To perform every duty incumbent upon me as a member of this Association, and to accept no office or duty unless with the full determination to do my best to fulfill the requirements imposed.

(g) To give due credit for all matter copied from other publications.

(h) To hold sacred and inviolable all information given me in a confidential way, being careful not to accept confidences that may thereafter be embarrassing to the one given them and to me receiving them; information given in this manner being too often meant as an agent to close the door to legitimate publicity.

(i) To recognize the right of privacy of individuals in all matters not of public concern.

(j) To recognize it to be an ethical duty to carefully arrange such rates for services as will insure a fair profit.

(k) To conduct business in such a manner that illicit propagandists will not presume to graft space in my publication or in the publication on which I am employed.

(l) To give thorough investigation to all questionable advertising offered and refuse space to misleading, veiled, dishonest or illegitimate advertising.

(m) To give a just and correct circulation statement.

(n) To strictly maintain published rates.

(o) To refrain from engaging help employed by a competitor, or a brother newspaper man, without first giving him ample opportunity, if he so desires, to retain such help.

(p) To correct, promptly and prominently, any error in news or editorial utterance we may have published that might injure any individual or institution.

(q) To use the honorable title of editor as a prefix or affix to the name of all newspaper men in good standing with the Association.

(r) To use every laudable effort to elevate the standards of Journalism in America and win that confidence and respect that comes as a reward for right doing and right thinking.

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