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Lois Lane's Rules of Reporting - in Connection to PRSA Ethics

By Sarah Draper

In celebration of this year’s mighty expansion of the DC and Marvel comics into every corner of media as possible, we’re throwing back to the ’00 years. More specifically, we’re talking Season 8 of Smallville.

This show brought to light the development of Superman, our hero of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, starting as Clark Kent, klutzy freshman of Smallville High. However it isn’t grown Clark, reporter of the Daily Planet that we’ll be discussing. Rather, it’s the pain-in-his-side-turned-woman-of-his-dreams Lois Lane that we’re shining a light on. After all, it was Lois that gave Clark his training wheels at the Daily Planet. Along with those training wheels, she so humbly provided Clark with the quality “Lois’ Rules of Reporting”.

These tips are fairly (loosely) similar to the code of ethics that PRSA lays out for all Public Relations practitioners. Though journalism and PR aren't exactly the same, we do have similar value systems. We thought we’d break it down for you from Lois’ rules as closely as we can, with a few great hero pics to inspire.

1) Always know your source.
This aligns with PRSA’s Honesty policy. “We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.” As PR practitioners, we should be as accurate as possible in communicating information. That means making sure that the facts you are sharing are from credible sources. Let’s face it, being blind to your sources is just as bad as intentionally lying to the public.

2) Always make a good first impression (and don't screw up with the boss).
If you didn’t already assume it, one this we value is Expertise. “We acquire and responsibly use specialized knowledge and experience. We advance the profession through continued professional development, research, and education. We build mutual understanding, credibility, and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences.” We should continually learn about the industry and network with other professionals to improve the industry all around. And if we aren’t satisfying our own bosses, we certainly aren’t doing our job. In a career where we help individuals, companies, or organizations improve their branding and community involvement from the beginning, it’s pretty sad when we can’t do it for ourselves.

3) Do whatever it takes to get the story.
Of course, PRSA wouldn’t leave out Loyalty. “We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest.” We are loyal to two parties: our clients and the general public. This doesn’t mean we are forever torn like Clark between human kind and his Kryptonian brethren of Kandor in Season 9. When crisis strikes, we are bound to protecting the general public and disseminating the truth; but we will not abandon a client, we are taught to have clients keep the public at the forefront of their minds when taking action to the best of our ability.

4) If something seems too weird to be true, it usually is.
In searching for the truth, we must remember our position of Advocacy. “We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts, and viewpoints to aid informed public debate.” This connects us back to honesty and loyalty, with important nuances.

5) Never take deadlines too seriously. This one we don’t have an equal for; deadlines are pretty important in PR. Miss one and a whole event could fall apart! However, I’ll introduce you to Fairness: “We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and the general public. We respect all opinions and support the right of free expression.” We can’t cover up people or their voices, but we can help clients fairly deal with those who don’t agree with them.

6) Triple check your facts.
The Code also includes Independence. “We provide objective counsel to those we represent. We are accountable for our actions.” This includes checking your facts. It’s on you to be sure you disseminate the correct information.

7) Put all the good stuff at the beginning.
Well, we’ve run out of Code ethics, and I can’t say there’s a part of it about specific information order placement, but putting things at the beginning is just good reporting! It works for press releases as well. Reporters will expect their news just as they write it for the news; they won’t read the details in the middle if you don’t catch their attention at the beginning. I would advise not using this tactic for all writing, however; if book writers adopted this rule, we’d all be sorely disappointed.

The alignment isn’t exactly straight, but you can see the similarities in values. We hope the pictures picked you up for the day!

Here’s to Truth, Justice, and the PRSA way.

Students, check out your local chapters of PRSSA and Kappa Tau Alpha (academic honors society for Communications) for more on values to keep close in your career.

For more information on PRSA’s Code of Ethics and Provision of Conduct or to see the Member Pledge, click here.

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