The Fourth Estate Code of Practice

Alan Sunderland

Fourth Estate Journalism Advocate

For some months now, Fourth Estate has been working on a new Code of Practice to reflect the key standards and principles of modern journalism.

The aim has been to preserve what is fundamental and important about journalism while also recognising what has changed.

One of the most obvious things that has changed is that journalism is no longer solely the preserve of the professional journalist.

In the industry of journalism, jobs are being lost, newspapers are being closed or hollowed out, and huge swathes of important civic and local reporting are disappearing or under threat.

The good news is that in many cases, the community is stepping in to fill the gap. Whether it is community social media pages, blogs, podcasts or newsletters, people are committing ‘acts of journalism’ every day as they work to inform their communities about matters of public interest.

The bad news is that in other cases, the gaps are being filled by misinformation, disinformation, fake news and spin from lobby groups, vested interests and and those who prefer to push their own barrows rather than work for the public good.

The aim of the Fourth Estate Code of Practice is to provide the basic ethical standards of journalism for everyone to refer to and abide by, whether they be professionals or volunteer members of the community.

Adherence to this code will be a clear marker to delineate between those who engage in journalism as a public good and those who seek to distort, mislead or pursue ends other than informing the public.

As Journalism Advocate for Fourth Estate, I have sought input and advice, called out for ideas and suggestions and referred back to my own 40 years in the industry both as a reporter and as a manager responsible for editorial standards in newsrooms.

The result is our Draft Code which you can find here.

I want to stress that this is the start of a process, not the end. We are calling it a ‘draft’ code because it needs your ideas, suggestions and feedback to improve it. 

I would encourage all Fourth Estate members, supporters and the wider public to take a look and let us know what you think.

You can email me at with your ideas.

Like all good codes, this will grow and evolve over time to ensure it reflects the needs of the public. 

Journalism is vital to a healthy society, and healthy journalism is what society has every right to expect.

The standards in the Fourth Estate Code of Practice are designed to encourage and defend strong, ethical journalism that speaks truth to power, holds the powerful to account, and delivers news to the community that informs and empowers. Your input will help us do that.