David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D, Carolyn J. Sniezyk, MS, BCBA, and Erin Leif, PhD, BCBA-D
Association for Science in Autism Treatment
Information about autism treatment conveyed in the media influences and impacts both parents and professionals alike. According to the Ethical Journalism Network, there are scores of codes and statements to guide journalists in their important work of sharing information with the public. The largest available resource providing international codes of ethics by geographical region can be found here.
The Ethical Journalism Network has identified five common themes. In this short piece, we would like to showcase these five core principles and discuss how they intersect with media representations of autism treatment. As we highlight below, the current landscape of the autism community is fraught with multiple threats and challenges to these core principles. Finally, in the spirit of promoting accuracy and transparency, we also offer some proactive strategies and considerations.
|Core Principles of Journalism (Ethical Journalism Network. 2018)||Threats to this core principle that impact the autism community||Proactive steps for journalists to avoid conflicts with this principle|
|1. Truth and Accuracy|
“Journalists cannot always guarantee ‘truth’ but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. We should always strive for accuracy, give all the relevant facts we have, and ensure that they have been checked. When we cannot corroborate information, we should say so.”
“Journalists must be independent voices; we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural. We should declare to our editors – or the audience – any of our political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute a conflict of interest.”
|3. Fairness and Impartiality|
“Most stories have at least two sides. While there is no obligation to present every side in every piece, stories should be balanced and add context. Objectivity is not always possible and may not always be desirable (in the face for example of brutality or inhumanity), but impartial reporting builds trust and confidence.”
“Journalists should do no harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.”
“A sure sign of professionalism and responsible journalism is the ability to hold ourselves accountable. When we commit errors, we must correct them, and our expressions of regret must be sincere not cynical. We listen to the concerns of our audience. We may not change what readers write or say but we will always provide remedies when we are unfair.”
The following sources provide more information about ethics for journalists: IFJ Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists (International), Accountable Journalism (International), Society of Professional Journalists (USA), European Federation of Journalists (Europe), MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics (Australia). We hope these ethical guidelines, along with the proactive strategies described above, serve as a useful source of guidance for journalists who are looking to write the next story on autism.
Citation for this article:
Celiberti, D., Sniezyk, C., & Leif, E. (2020). Five principles of ethical journalism: Implications for media representations of autism treatment. Science in Autism Treatment, 18(2).
Other ASAT articles that may be of interest:
- Resources for journalists: Ten websites supporting science journalism
- How ASAT supports journalists?
- Questions to ask before writing the next story
- Know the science: 9 questions to help you make sense of health research
- Ten resources for consumers to evaluate information sources
- Autism treatment in the media
- A review of the complete guide to autism treatments (2nd edition)
- “Verification” and the peer review process
- ASAT’s Contribution to Responsible Journalism
- Caveat Lector: Let the reader beware
- Science Corner: Retraction of published research
- Perspectives: An unexpected journey into retraction
- Also check out our library of Media Watch letters