Why we introduced the Breaker Pledge

There’s a pressing need to remind ourselves of what journalism stands for
The 2023-24 MA Multimedia Journalists taking the Breaker Pledge. Image: generated with multiple prompts on Pica AI from another (bad) photography by a lecturer who requested anonymity.

In a world where everyone is a journalist but few do (good) journalism, there is perhaps a need to remind ourselves of some basics from time to time.

Such as, what journalism stands for, what journalists strive to achieve.

On MA Multimedia Journalism, we made a formal commitment to those basics this term. With a journalism oath. We call it the Breaker Pledge, and we got our Executive Dean Professor Einar Thorsen to ‘swear in’ our 2023-24 cohorts. Here’s how it went.

Diversity, inclusivity, equity, internationality, factuality, responsibility… These are all of course values that journalism educators work to inculcate in students. But it is often the case that concepts and principles are left on the cutting-room floor of theory classes, rarely carried through adequately or elegantly into everyday newswork. We felt that there was something magical about a pledge — something communal, something primordially powerful — that would help bridge the gap between the conceptual and the practical. So we decided try.

In writing the Breaker Pledge, our main inspiration was the historic Journalist’s Creed, penned by Walter Williams in 1914. There is something about his idea of a “journalism of humanity” and its purpose of “promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship” that holds added resonance for us today.

We took inspiration from other sources as well: the NUJFair Media CouncilSPJMelvin Dean BakerRaphael Cohen-Almagor, and George Monbiot, among others.

Below, the full text of the Pledge. I hope it strikes a chord with you, as it did with those who said the words.

I do solemnly commit to upholding the highest standards of journalism as is within my skills to execute.

I understand that journalism bestows on the practitioner great power. I understand with such power comes great responsibility. I promise never to misuse my journalism. I promise to treat it as a privilege — mine to cherish, mine to protect.

I believe in a journalism that effects change, that strives to make the world better. I believe in a journalism that is fair and accurate. And I believe in a journalism that is solutional where possible. As such, I will strive to bring depth and perspective to the work I offer, so that it may inform as well as enlighten.

I commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I will value differences. I will make a conscious effort to provide meaningful representation to diversities in all my newswork and news practices. I commit to fighting hatred and discrimination. I commit to protecting human rights.

I will obtain my reportage by honest and open means except in exceptional circumstances that are overwhelmingly in the public interest, and where evidence cannot be obtained otherwise. I will work hard to ensure my journalism does not hurt others unless justified by overriding consideration of public interest.

I will protect the secrecy of my confidential sources to ensure the public’s right to know is not thwarted by conspiracies of silence.

In taking this pledge, I proudly join the tradition of journalism upheld by The Breaker and promise to be a responsible, accountable, and compassionate journalist.

Cover image: The 2023-24 MA Multimedia Journalists taking the Breaker Pledge, generated with multiple prompts on Pica AI from a rather bad photograph taken by a lecturer who requested anonymity.

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