Code of Ethics for Bardic Journalism

The Code of Ethics

Bardic journalists and those who manage creative arts as vital aspects in news coverage and production are accountable for upholding the following standards in their daily work:

  1. Represent subjects accurately and comprehensively using images, stories, verse, and creative media presentations. The results should convey an accurate effect, while enabling the bard to develop details as a storyteller and reserving the ancient privileges of independent expression, of wit, satire, and metaphor to reveal the living truth within an event, a person, or group, or the moment.
  2. Be wary of manipulation by staged news-making efforts of individuals or organized political-interest groups. Take responsibility for the creative flow, remembering to empower the apprehension of truth and increase understanding of the story or event.
  3. Be Clear, comprehensive, and complete when organizing story elements. Provide context when describing story elements or artistic media such as audible or visual resources. Avoid stereotyping specific individuals and groups. Yet, be aware of iconic images and constructs in prose and verse, with a watchful eye or ear to the effects these have on audiences. Does the message distort understanding or broaden, deepen, and promote it? In factual accounts, recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work. In creative accounts, disclose your position, point of view, or frames of reference. Have you produced a truthful effect? Does your audience have a better understanding after exposure to your presentation or performance?
  4. Approach every assignment with respect for the dignity of the peoples and cultural circumstances inherent in the story. Remember all journalists in democracies should expose injustice, cruelty, and unfairness. Serve the public good in exchange for the privileges and rights of serving as journalists. Each bardic journalist is responsible for her or his conduct, so assume responsibility for every aspect of a presentation, image, or story. Remember to show sensitivity to the conditions and needs of people who suffer misfortune, cruelty or tragedy. Do not exploit the unfortunate or those immersed in grief, but balance the needs of the public to know with responsible conduct. When in doubt, check with experienced journalists or editors to understand appropriate ethical conduct.
  5. While performing or presenting before subjects or investigating a story, “do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.” As a journalist, the bard reports and conveys the deeper story, underlying causes, and reveals the texture of life. Bards record the living moment but must remain responsible for the accurate impact of any bardic work. Allow events and activists to reveal their story, then apply the art, craft, practice, and skill of the bard. The bard is not the story but may exercise extraordinary creativity in encapsulating and recasting the story and message for the audience. The addition of bardic arts does not supplant practices of ethical journalism but empowers the bard to increase understanding and awareness of the truth within the story, moment, or event.
  6. Editing should maintain the integrity of any auditory or photographic content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter the sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects. Employ creative expression, but do so without damaging the truth of the message. Appropriately label all content, particularly when employing storytelling techniques, in compliance with the codes of ethics of modern journalism and documentaries. Always disclose and label and identify methods and techniques employed in producing a story or package.
  7.  Do not provide a material reward or pay sources or subjects for information or participation.
  8. “Do not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.” Insist on editorial independence and journalistic integrity when approaching and presenting any story or message.
  9. Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists. However, standards themselves may well be an important story element when conduct becomes part of a story.

Ideally, bardic journalists should

  1.  Work to ensure the public’s business is conducted openly and transparently, protecting the public’s right to know and access for all journalists.
  2. Think proactively, as a student of humanities and the social and behavioral sciences, politics, and art “to develop a unique vision and presentation.” Employ the full resources of contemporary media to develop and convey a story, all the while holding true to the ancient prerogatives of bardic heritage.
  3. “Strive for total and unrestricted access to subjects,” avoid shallow or unnecessarily abbreviated presentations, avoid excluding points of view regardless of popularity or unpopularity. Remember, journalists enjoy additional protections under national and international law as custodians of the people’s trust and the spirit of democracy. The living flame of freedom burns within the heart of every bard.
  4. Avoid political, civic, and business involvements or other employment that compromise or give the appearance of compromising one’s own journalistic independence. Always reveal your affiliations with causes, people, groups, or events. The light of day will allow greater freedom of expression and action, so, when in doubt, label, disclose, reveal, and report.
  5. Strive to be unobtrusive and humble in interacting with subjects. However, the ancient right of the bard to evoke the right to be secure and confident in her or his art, to engage as the bard of record, to specify “not hard to answer” as a satirical device remains an important method in the bardic toolkit.
  6. Respect the integrity of the moment. Life just may describe itself far better than attempts to alter recordings or images of events. So, avoid such manipulation apart from mixed media, animation, or illustrations. And, as always, accept responsibility as guardians of understanding and truth flowing from employing the bardic arts.
  7. “Strive by example and influence to maintain the spirit and high standards expressed in this code.” When encountering uncertainty, do not hesitate to inquire as to best practices from experienced journalists to maintain the measure of public trust granted to all journalists.

The Code of Ethics for Bardic Journalism

Bardic journalists, like any journalist, should continuously study their craft and the ethics that guide it.

Preamble

TRIADS by Salembard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welsh_Triads)

I am bard.  My art infuses the creative arts with the flowing spirit of inspiration.
I am bard. My craft empowers truth and understanding.
I am bard, my practice revitalizes the land and people.
I, bard, standing on the land, hold sacred the people’s trust.
I, bard, move upon the waters, harnessing the freedom of the people for democracy.
I, bard, reach upward to the sky, reminding all to hold in trust the gifts of
freedom, responsibility, and fairness.
Through bardic art, I increase understanding,
Through bardic craft, I enable apprehension of Truth,
When I weave a story, I always disclose, reveal, and report my method.

What Is a Bard?

Excerpt from Liv Torc, a modern British bard on the art and craft:

“A bard is a keeper and teller of stories, they work with the magic of Awen (inspiration or ‘flowing spirit’) to help the human race understand its own nature and the nature of the world around us. They are visionaries and guides using a multitude of media to express their ideas, from poetry, art, music, film, photography, dance, stories, plays, sculpture, cookery, and even gardening. Everyone should have access to the bardic arts, it is a basic human right that allows us to fully realize who we are.”

Observations on the modern bard as a journalist by Dean Edwards, Salembard.

What are the qualities and responsibilities of our historic bards? They had skills as chroniclers of events using verse, language, storytelling; often with music and other performing arts and genealogy.  It could cause effects to the spirits of those in an audience through their craft and the flowing spirit in the land, air, and sea. They exercised extraordinary freedom to express themselves with wit, sarcasm, and metaphor; determining the needs of the message not by rote fact, but by theme, concepts, thought-provoking portrayals, and direct challenges to authority or to the common wisdom of an audience. They could empower imagination in an audience seeking alternatives to conditions limiting day-to-day life and hopes.

As a contemporary journalist, a bard employs: verse, storytelling, music, and other creative and performing arts to illustrate and breathe life into a story element. In doing so, the modern journalist-bard conveys an authentic voice, clarifies understanding and awareness, describes conditions and needs, employs skills to provide inspiration, and helps an audience to apprehend factual conclusions and themes. The bard weaves results not only from outer details but is free to employ all the arts of story and verse.  The bard uses all the powers of imagination in pursuit of truth and understanding to move an audience to feel and appreciate the value of their lives and the impact of their moment in history. 

The independence of a bard grants extraordinary freedom to express truth as a fundamental right. The power of this flowing truth, Awen in Welsh, Imbas in Irish, comes more from the impact of results instead of from the details employed to achieve results. However, these additional practices add to the skills set of the bardic journalist. They do not displace the canon of responsible and ethical journalism.

Yet, as we examine the Irish and Welsh triads, bards or fili conform to strict principles, an ethic drawing them into the living flow of inspiration. Like other journalists, today bards must inform, accept responsibility to improve understanding, and serve the deeper truth of the moment and of the ages. Each is obliged to revitalize land and people as she or he crafts their practice in service to democracy and freedom. Each bard adheres to the canon by identifying and “labeling” the nature of their art and delivering results according to responsible ethics inherent in bardic tradition.

The modern bard always increases understanding and makes truth more recognizable to an audience. The end result delivers these twin goals: greater understanding and apprehension of truth, bringing them closer to the audience. The bard must also reveal, disclose, label, and report any method employed to develop a story other than strict descriptions of fact.

The Society of Professional Journalists advocates the following practices in their Code of Ethics. We employ them here for bardic journalists as well.

Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.

Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.

The following is based on and adapted from the Code of Ethics of the National Press Photographers Association. Excerpts from the NPPA code of ethics appear in “quotes.”

Empowering the creative and performing arts for twenty-first-century journalists

Dean Edwards, copyright 2015-2021.

References

Two projects with common origins, Democracy Watch Media News and the International Collaborative Media Alliance in 2015, began negotiating with a variety of authors, academics, bardic orders, and journalists to develop and reach a consensus on a code of ethics to return bards to their ancient roles as chroniclers. Means and standards needed to be codified to allow for a traditional license for creative and performing arts and for satire, poetic metaphor, and storytelling for reporters to add to their toolkits. The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids and the Ancient Order of Druids in America reviewed and added important recommendations for the following code of ethics. The code owes much to guidance from the Society of Professional Journalism and the National Press Photographers Association. We owe particular thanks to the NPPA for granting permission to pattern and use citations from their code of ethics to draft these guidelines for bardic journalism.

Ethics in bardic journalism from Google Scholar.

Copyright Dean Edwards, 2015–2021.

Author

  • Dean Edwards

    International coordinating editor, Democracy Watch News; Pacific Northwest coordinating editor, International Collaborative Media Alliance.