GOP member calls for journalism code to shun 'bias'

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) on Monday called on the Society of Professional Journalists to restore an ethics code that was changed in the mid-1990s, and suggested that change has led to biased reporting.

Speaking on the House floor, Smith said the Society's code used to say that "news reports should be free of opinion or bias and should represent all sides of an issue." He said removing that line seems to have had an effect on reporting.

ADVERTISEMENT
"How can we expect journalists to cover events in a fair and objective way when their own code of ethics no longer discourages biased reporting?" he asked. "Maybe that explains the slanted coverage we see so often today, when news stories have become editorials.

"The Society of Professional Journalists should reclaim their ethics and restate their commitment to fair and balanced reporting."

According to a staff member of the Society is currently in the middle of reviewing its ethics code, and may make some changes based on input it's gathering from reporters and others.

The language Smith referred to was removed from the Society's code of ethics in 1996, according to the Society. The group says that decision was based on a decision that no one is free of bias, and reflects a move to get reporters to recognize their own bias and try to avoid producing stories that favor their own opinion.

The current code does have language calling on reporters to avoid imposing their own values on others, support an exchange of views, distinguish between advocacy and news reporting, avoid conflicts of interest and disclose unavoidable conflicts.