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This is a very broad question. Perhaps you could narrow it down for us so you can get a better answer.
Journalistic ethics have been very much in the news lately with the issues of phone hacking by journalists in England. This brings to light a major problem with journalists and ethics, particularly in the circumstances that face journalists today.
Today, the competition from the internet has made print media somewhat of an endangered species. Newspapers are cutting back on staff and are even going out of business. In such a setting, it becomes difficult for journalists to concentrate on acting ethically because they feel so much pressure to get stories that will attract readership from a dwindling audience. Because journalists are part of an industry that must try to make profits in a very difficult business environment, their ethics are being challenged more than ever.
Ethics and journalism seem to always be fighting a constant battle, especially when it comes to where to draw the line between privacy, privileged information, and "off the record" information. Similarly, there seems to be another conflict between ethics and journalism in terms of the establishment of physical and personal boundaries. This is when journalists try to get information from someone by going directly to them, even during situations when the individual is conducting his or her everyday business: I mean, is it really fair to ask someone about being a murder suspect when the person is entering the grocery store, etc?
Although journalists love to defend their rights and their professional ethics as reporters, they also seem to have a weakness for breaking those same ethical rules. When we see, for example, the big blow that the Casey Anthony trial's verdict caused, we must question ourselves how much did the coverage of the trial affect the clear and logical thinking of the jurors. Sure, they say that did not know about the trial, but lets face it, how could they not have heard?
In all, journalism has always been a quest for information combined with entertainment. The American public loves entertainment more than information. It has become a dangerous combination in which too much information seems to be the norm. As a result, we put into question those ethics journalists praise themselves so much about. Moreover, we also put into question what is the truth behind the words spoken by a reporter who not only wants to tell a story, but also wants to make it a much bigger deal than what it really is.
I think that we are currently at a turning point for journalistic ethics. With the new media, such as blogs and tweets, journalism continually gets redefined. Since so much of our news is instant now, there is less time for fact checking. The journalistic standards of verifying sources and checking for accuracy seem to have fallen by the wayside.
On the other hand, journalists are more hands-on now. There is some controversy about interfering with the story, and how a journalist should not be the story. I think it's wrong for a journalist to not intervene if a person is in danger, such as in Haiti or Egypt. Journalists should be people first, reporters second!
This is a question that would benefit from focusing on a given issue or a narrower topic. Clearly, journalists should try and maintain integrity in how they report stories, which involves the extent to which they involve themselves in that story and how they present the issues involved. However, it is very hard to come up with any hard and fast guidelines, especially if you are working for a newspaper or media company that has a recognised bias. Clearly, the truth should always be maintained, but significant discussion revolves around the way that the "truth" can be presented or misrepresented for a particular purpose or effect. The concept of journalistic ethics must encompass such vague and nebulous areas.
True journalism...reporters who search out the truth and then decide whether or not (or how much) to share with the public should always be ethical. I miss the days when the reporters and photographers would only photograph FDR from his waist up out of respect for his privacy and life in a wheelchair.
Today, it seems that everything is out the window as long as the reporter in question gets the scoop. There is no respect for anyone or anything, and it's appalling. Watergate is searching out the truth and putting to bed a horrible crime and abuse of power. Affair chasing (as despicable as it is to cheat on your spouse...especially if she's dying of cancer) and other character flaw pointing is incorrigible. I can't stand TV during campaigns, and I loathe what the media does to ruin the reputations of good people.
It is beyond awful that reporters would hack a young girl's phone to listen to her voicemail while she's dead or dying somewhere. Again, they're just in it for the story and not for the greater good. In fact, those reporters in Britain gave false hope to that poor mother, and impeded the investigation. They should all be punished royally (no pun intended).
Having worked in the industry for many years, I will tell you that unfortunately there are few ethics in the journalism industry...especially in television journalism.
TV is all about ratings. What sells is the sensational, the flashy, the horrifying. Our slogan in our newsroom was, "If it bleeds, it leads." We cared little about the feelings of the people we covered. As one national reporter told a local journalist friend of mine, "Just get her to cry in 10 seconds." It is all show. Once, my news director couldn't get a Christmas tree to burn for a story on the hazards of pine trees at the holidays...so he threw gasoline on it out of camera shot...and then lit it....making it look like the tree was dangerous to be in a home.
A real reporter SHOULD be objective, fair, and accurate. I don't think they are anymore.
Unfortunately there has been a tremendous decrease in journalistic ethics. The media seems to be more concerned with sensationalism and ratings. The media is also extremely biased against minorities. One example is that when someone is missing, it is usally only the cases of attractive, thin, white females (usually middle class) that is heavily focused on while other cases go ignored.
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