In an immensely positive development, The Economic Times has made public the code of conduct that will govern the journalists at India’s largest business daily as well as ET Now, the business news channel that went on air yesterday. The code also includes a code of financial conduct, which specifies in great detail what kind of financial investments you can hold and requires all journalists to disclose their investment portfolio. ET becomes only the second Indian news outlet to have a publicly available code of conduct that readers, sources and other stakeholders can hold a journalist and the paper against, after HT Media’s business daily Mint, which launched in 2007. The Hindu has an ombudsman, or a readers’ editor.
A senior editor at the organization said all journalists at ET Now have signed the code and is in the process of disclosing their investments to a company-appointed external auditor, while the same procedure is being introduced among journalists at ET. “This is a very important exercise in the new 24×7 breaking news environment we find ourselves in. We take this very seriously,” the editor, who asked not to be named, said.
The code tackles the issue of Private Treaties–an ad-for-equities program run by publisher Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd that has been a lightning rod for criticism in recent years for its perceived influence on editorial content. “Our reporting and analysis is entirely independent of our advertising and investment departments (Response / Sales and Private Treaties). We do not give preferential treatment to advertisers / treaty partners nor do we entertain requests from the business departments of BCCL to do so. We observe the “Chinese wall” between editorial and business,” the code says.
The code has a detailed sub section on financial conduct that attempts to eliminate any potential conflict of interest and the ability to profit from privileged information. It also comes down heavily on plagiarism, saying the practise is a sackable offense at ET. Failure to abide by the code can result in “disciplinary action, ranging from admonishment to dismissal, depending on the gravity of the infraction”.
Here’s Mint‘s code of conduct.