First NUJ code of conduct 1936

This is the text of the first NUJ ethical code of conduct.

NUJ code of professional conduct

As agreed by the union's annual delegate meeting in 1936.

Through years of courageous struggle for better wages and working conditions its pioneers and their successors have kept these aims in mind, and have made provision in union rules not only for penalties on offenders, but for the guidance and financial support of members who may suffer loss of work for conforming to union principles.

While punishment by fine, suspension or expulsion is provided for in cases of "conduct detrimental to the interests or the union," any member who is victimised (NUJ rule 10, clause 3) for refusing to do work … "incompatible with the honour and the interests of the profession," may rely on adequate support from union funds.

A member of the union has two claims on his loyalty – one by his union and one by his employer. These need not clash' so long as the employer complies with the agreed union conditions and makes no demand for forms of service incompatible with the honour of the profession or with the principles of trade unionism.   

  1. A member should do nothing that would bring discredit on himself, his union, his newspaper, or his profession. He should study the rules of his union, and should not, by commission or omission, act against the interests of the union.
  2. Unless the employer consents to a variation, a member who wishes to terminate his employment must give notice, according to agreement or professional custom.
  3. No member should seek promotion or seek to obtain the position of another journalist by unfair methods. A member should not, directly or indirectly, attempt to obtain for himself or anyone else any commission, regular or occasional, held by a freelance member of the union.
  4. It is unprofessional conduct to exploit the labour of another journalist by plagiarism, or by using his copy for linage purposes without permission.
  5. Staff men who do linage work should be prepared to give up such work to conform with any pooling scheme approved by the national executive council (NEC), or any union plan to provide a freelance member with a means of earning a living.
  6. A member holding a staff appointment shall serve first the paper that employs him. In his own time a member is free to engage in other creative work, but he should not undertake any extra work in his rest time or holidays if by so doing he is depriving an out-of-work member of a chance to obtain employment. Any misuse of rest days – won by the union on the sound argument that periods of recuperation are needed after strenuous hours of labour – is damaging to trade union aims for a shorter working week.
  7. While a spirit of willingness to help other members should be encouraged at all times, members are under a special obligation of honour to help an unemployed member to obtain work.
  8. Every journalist should treat subordinates as considerately as he would desire to be treated by his superiors.
  9. Freedom in the honest collection and publication of news facts, and the rights of fair comment and criticism, are principles which every journalist should defend.
  10. A journalist should fully realise his personal responsibility for everything he sends to his paper or agency. He should keep union and professional secrets and respect all necessary confidences regarding sources of information and private documents. He should not falsify information or distort or misrepresent facts.
  11. In obtaining news and pictures, reporters and press photographers should do nothing that will cause pain or humiliation to innocent, bereaved, or otherwise distressed persons. News, pictures, and documents should be acquired by honest methods only.
  12. Every journalist should keep in mind the dangers in the laws of libel, contempt of court, and copyright. In reports of law court proceedings it is necessary to observe and practice the rule of fair play to all parties.
  13. Whether for publication or suppression, the acceptance of a bribe by a journalist is one of the gravest professional offences.