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The Online News Association today launched a 'build your own ethics code' project to help "news organisations, small start-ups and individual bloggers" create their own code of ethics.

Made up of a series of Google Docs, the project is freely accessible to all but is still in a crowdsourcing stage, inviting journalists and editors to comment and make suggestions.

"No single ethics code can reflect the needs of everyone in our widely varied profession," said Tom Kent, standards editor and deputy managing editor of the Associated Press, in an introduction to the document.

The publisher has a huge moral and business investment on the quality of what their journalists doThoms Kent, Online News Association and Associated Press
"Therefore, after laying out some fundamentals that we believe should apply to all journalists, we offer a set of specific 'building blocks' to let any journalist customise the remainder of the code to his/her individual view of journalism."

The fundamentals of truth, avoiding or disclosing conflicts of interest, community and professionalism sit at the core of the project as a foundation on which to build an ethics code in line with "what most people expect of a journalist".

Other ethical issues in journalism, including impartiality, confidentiality and censorship, are more subjective to organisations and formed the core of the discussion at the World Editors Forum, where the project was announced.

In customising the code, journalists are given 40 documents covering a wide range of ethical issues, each going into detail to raise questions and considerations.

The project, led by Kent, was put together by 20 journalists and journalism educators from around the world and provides 15 examples of ethics codes from news organisations in a range of countries.

"We need to go beyond fixed codes to govern a new world," said Kent. "The publisher has a huge moral and business investment on the quality of what their journalists do."

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