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The 'TAO of Journalism' seal

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Following my previous blog (‘What are the universal principles that guide journalism‘) John Hamer, Executive Director of the Washington News Council (, got in touch.

He has been developing a voluntary, self-affixed seal that individual journalists – bloggers included – and media organizations could put on their sites. It has the natty title, the ‘TAO of Journalism‘, since its three tenets are Transparency, Accountability, and Openness.

Hamer explains how these are defined on his blog:

“TRANSPARENT – We will fully disclose who we are, our journalistic mission and our guiding principles. We will post information on our background and expertise, including education and experience. We will list advertisers, donors, grants, and any other payments that support our work. If affiliated with a political party or special-interest group, we will disclose that. If lobbying for any particular legislation or regulation, we will disclose that. If we are being paid to promote a product or cause, we will disclose that. If other factors could be seen as potential conflicts of interest, we will disclose them.

“ACCOUNTABLE – If we get any facts wrong, we will admit that promptly and publicly. We will post/publish/print/podcast/broadcast a correction or at least a clarification. We will fully explain what happened to cause the error or mistake. We will do a follow-up story if that is appropriate, putting the original material in better context. We will apologize and promise to be more careful next time. We will show a little humility.

“OPEN – If there are credible challenges to our point of view or simply differences of opinion, we will be open to contrary positions. We will give the other side(s) opportunity and space to express their views and engage in open public dialogue through comments or other means. If we are primarily engaged in opinion and commentary, rather than news reporting, we will make that clear – while inviting others to express their opinions through comment and feedback means.”

Some of the other principles of journalism are deliberately excluded since the seal is supposed to be inclusive rather than exclusive. That is not say the seal is not compatible with these, just that the “TAO of Journalism Seal” (a registered trademark) does not require journalists to follow any particular principles. Just to be transparent about what ethics codes or standards they follow, plus accountable for errors and open to other views.

The idea got a good reception, Hamer says, at the University of Washington ‘Journalism That Matters‘ event where it was launched. The News Council has funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to pursue this project along with others, in addition to other donations.

There is a website in development at I’ll keep a track of developments on this blog.

Written by Martin Moore

February 9th, 2010 at 10:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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