New: NSPA Model Code of Ethics for High School Journalists

Teaching ethics in the high school journalism classroom can be a challenge. Most teachers start with the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, and while it gives a great overview, it lacks flexibility for the unique situations faced by high school journalists. Other educators cobble together a workable model and plenty of hypothetical and example situations to prepare students for the eventual challenges they would face.

NSPA is announcing a new tool for student media advisers and young journalists. The NSPA Code of Ethics establishes seven ethical principles for high school journalists. No more modifying other codes of ethics. This one is specific to the situations facing high school students and advisers. And, it’s been created with all media in mind.

Excerpts from the introduction:

Scholastic journalism best serves learners and the school community when students produce free and responsible news media by balancing rights and responsibilities, applying ethical prudence and advancing the best interests of young citizens and the school mission.

The focus of student journalists must always be aimed beyond their self-interests toward doing what is best for society. Their motivation should be driven by service rather than ego gratification.

The NSPA Code of Ethics for High School Journalists was created to help guide students in the direction of responsible journalism. This model code may be adopted without change or modified to meet the particular needs of a news staff.

A code of ethics should be a primary reference source for student journalists. It should be part of the curriculum and readily available not only to media staffs but also to those served by news media and those who oversee production.

Reputable conduct by student journalists helps secure the public trust and news media credibility. A code of ethics serves as the foundation for free and responsible student media.

The seven principles of the NSPA Code of Ethics are:

  • Be Responsible.
  • Be Fair.
  • Be Honest.
  • Be Accurate.
  • Be Independent.
  • Minimize Harm.
  • Be Accountable.

These new guideposts are exciting. Download the full version of the NSPA Code of Ethics, and you’ll want to include some or all in your curriculum and staff manual. NSPA’s Board of Directors encouraged this creation. Also deserving of much public praise is Randy Swikle, retired from Johnsburg, Ill., High School after many years living these principles. He crafted a beautiful document, and NSPA is very thankful for his many hours of research, drafting and rewriting.

NSPA members should watch for a digital copy by e-mail soon, and printed copies will be available by the end of the summer. Others who want copies for summer workshops and presentations should contact