Ethics Policy

Journalism Fundamentals

Telling the truth

  • Be honest, accurate, truthful and fair. Do not distort or fabricate facts, imagery, sound or data.
  • Provide accurate context for all reporting.
  • Seek out diverse voices that can contribute important perspectives on the subject you’re writing.
  • Ensure that sources are reliable. To the maximum extent possible, make clear to your audience who and what your sources are, what motivations your sources may have and any conditions people have set for giving you information. When unsure of information, leave it out or make clear it has not been corroborated.
  • Correct errors quickly, completely and visibly. Make it easy for your audience to bring errors to your attention.
  • If a report includes criticism of people or organizations, give them the opportunity to respond.
  • Clearly distinguish fact from opinion in all content.

Conflicts of interest

  • Avoid any conflict of interest that undermines your ability to report fairly. Disclose to your audience any unavoidable conflicts or other situational factors that may validly affect their judgment of your credibility.
  • Do not allow people to make you dishonestly skew your reporting. Do not offer to skew your reporting under any circumstances.
  • Do not allow the interests of advertisers or others funding your work to affect the integrity of your journalism.

Community

  • Respect your audience and those you write about. Consider how your work and its permanence may affect the subjects of your reporting, your community and ­­ since the Internet knows no boundaries ­­ the larger world.

Professional Conduct

  • Don’t plagiarize or violate copyrights.
  • Keep promises to sources, readers and the community.
  • If you belong to a news organization, give all staff expectations, support and tools to maintain ethical standards.

Nature of Your Journalism

  • We encourage journalists to express opinions in their news coverage, but their facts must be accurate.
  • We encourage our journalists to express opinions about journalism matters, advocating for freedom of information and joining the conversation within the profession about important issues.
  • Our journalists should avoid political involvement such as running for or holding office, joining political parties, volunteering in campaigns, serving on community boards, donating to campaigns or displaying campaign materials on their property or persons.
  • If a family member’s political involvement would call into question the integrity of a journalist’s coverage, the journalist should avoid coverage of that issue or campaign. If avoiding such a family conflict is impossible, the family member’s involvement should be disclosed in related coverage.
  • Our journalists should disclose community and political involvements, particularly those involving topics they might cover, both in general statements we will publish on our website and in stories relating to their involvements.
  • We encourage involvement in the community, politics and the issues we cover, but we disclose these involvements in our coverage.
  • Despite our organization’s involvement in the issues we cover, we should provide factual coverage in a neutral voice. We should disclose our affiliation for transparency reasons, but the affiliation should not be evident from a promotional voice or content.

Bombs and Other Threats

  • We view any bomb threat in our community as newsworthy and will report it as quickly as possible.

Concealing Identity

  • We give our staffers free rein to go undercover or not to identify themselves in their reporting because we are an aggressive, investigative news organization and believe that only by not appearing to be journalists will we get access to material that would otherwise be hidden from the public.

Confidential Sources

  • We will disclose to readers or viewers the reasons for granting confidentiality, such as fear for the source’s safety or job, when we use unnamed sources.
  • We do not attend “background briefings” where officials try to spoon-feed information to the media without speaking for the record.
  • We recognize that many sources cannot talk to us freely. We grant confidentiality if we think the source has a good reason. We will use information and quotes from unnamed sources we consider reliable.
  • We always assume that government snoops, law enforcement or hackers might access our regular communication channels when we grant confidentiality to a source. We should use technology such as encryption software or “burner” cell phones to protect confidentiality.

Children: Coverage, Images and Interviews

  • We identify children who are connected with a crime as perpetrators, victims or witnesses only if the child’s identity is already widely known.
  • Our journalists seek permission from a parent to interview or photograph a child when it relates to all but simple matters (e.g. asking about a favorite video game).
  • We do not require parental permission to photograph or interview children in breaking news situations.
  • We consider granting confidentiality if we’re covering a story about a sensitive issue that could cause a child to be stereotyped, judged unfairly or put in harm’s way, even if the child doesn’t request it.

Hostage Situations

  • We believe our primary responsibility in covering hostage situations is to help bring a peaceful resolution and not to advance the hostage-holders’ cause.

Interviewing

  • Our organization never pays for interviews.
  • When reporting on an interview, we do not require our staff to state the type of interview (i.e., whether it was in person, by telephone, video, Skype or email.)

Sources: Reliability and Attribution

  • We may use sources with a conflict of interest in stories, but details that signal the conflict of interest should be included (e.g. a scientist who conducted a study about a drug’s effectiveness when the study was funded by the manufacturer).
  • We include source attribution in online stories themselves as well as links, if available, that provide additional information.

Accuracy

  • Our staff members must take responsibility for the accuracy of all information that we publish, using an accuracy checklist before publication.
  • We should not publish rumors or other information we have not verified.
  • If we are unsure of the accuracy of information, we should cite our sources, word stories carefully to avoid spreading false rumors, acknowledge what we don’t know and ask the community’s help in confirming or correcting our information.
  • When possible, reporters should read stories to sources before publication to ensure accuracy. The reporters should make clear to sources that this is only a fact-checking call, not an opportunity to change the writing or approach to the story.

Balance and Fairness

  • To ensure fairness, we believe in covering not only the most powerful voices on an issue, but also those who are not normally heard (e.g. in election coverage, mainstream and non-mainstream candidates).
  • In breaking news situations, we will attempt to gather comments from key sides of an issue; if comments are not immediately available, we will publish or air the story without them, make clear that we were unable to get some comment and update our story as needed.

Online Commenting

  • We do not permit comments on any of our articles.

Quotations

  • We will clean up random utterances such as pauses, “um” or “you know” unless they materially alter the meaning.
  • We will correct grammatical errors by all sources.
  • We will allow separate phrases of a quote separated by attribution. (“I will go to war,” the president said. “But only if necessary.”)

Withholding Names

  • Unless we have a compelling reason to withhold a name, we always publish names of people involved in the stories we cover.
  • In rare cases, such as when a sexual assault allegation has been proven to be false and malicious, we will identify a sexual assault accuser.
  • In breaking news stories, we do not publish the names of dead people until authorities have notified their families and released the names, unless compelling circumstances justify publication as soon as we have verified the names.
  • We should always identify kidnap victims unless we have a compelling reason to withhold the name.
  • We do not withhold essential details, such as names, from our coverage of mass murders.
  • In covering active police or military operations, we will withhold such details as location or tactics planned, until after the operation, to avoid endangering police, troops or civilians who could be affected.
  • We will consider potential harm to sources facing intolerance in their societies before naming them in stories.

Financial Interests

  • Our journalists may not own interests in companies they cover regularly.
  • Our journalists should immediately disclose to a supervisor any interests they have in a company they are asked to cover. Supervisors should consider putting another journalist on the story.
  • Our journalists must disclose their financial interests to their supervisors.
  • Our journalists must disclose their financial interests to an outside person, retained by our company, who will protect the confidentiality of the information while assessing what the journalist can cover.

Community Activities

  • Our journalists are encouraged to be involved in the community and the issues we cover, but we will disclose these involvements in our coverage.
  • We will provide factual coverage in a neutral voice despite our organization’s involvement in the issues we cover. We will disclose our affiliation for transparency reasons, but the affiliation should not be evident from a promotional voice or content.

Gifts, Free Travel and Other Perks

  • Our journalists should accept no gifts from subjects or potential subjects of our coverage. If gifts sent to journalists cannot be returned, we should donate them to charity.
  • Our journalists may accept tickets or press passes to events we are covering or reviewing, but should not accept extra tickets for family or friends.
  • Our journalists may accept free travel and other gifts if they are financially essential, but we should disclose those gifts in our reporting.
  • Our journalists who travel internationally should use good judgment to determine if upholding our gift policy would be culturally insensitive. If a journalist accepts a gift that normally would violate our ethics, we should disclose the gift and/or donate it to charity.

Personal Ethics Statements by Staff

  • Our journalists should work precisely to our company ethics and standards; personal ethics statements are, therefore, not necessary.

Plagiarism and Attribution

  • When we are using someone else’s exact words, we should use quotation marks and attribution.
  • Attribution should be as specific as possible, including the name of the author and publication or organization of the source we are quoting.
  • We should always cite news releases if they are our sources, and should quote them if using their exact words.
  • When we use substantial material from our archives or from an author’s previous work in a current story, we should note that the material has been published before.
  • Even when taking basic facts from another source–“World War II ended in Allied victories over Germany and Japan”– we should vary the wording from the phrasing used in source materials.
  • Basic facts may be taken from other sources without varying the wording.

Political Activities by Staff

  • We encourage our journalists to be involved in the community, politics and the issues we cover, but we will disclose these involvements in our coverage.
  • Our journalists should be aware of personal biases that can skew their reporting, even if journalists conduct no public activity indicating a political bias. They will consider publishing personal ethics statements, or making colleagues aware of their beliefs to help backstop the objectivity of their work.

Social Networks

  • Our journalists are free to express opinions on social media.
  • We encourage staff members to retweet, reblog, share and otherwise pass along things they find interesting on social media. We trust them to provide context where appropriate.
  • If staff members want to share unconfirmed information on social media, such as rumor or hearsay, they should explain in the post why they are posting this information, such as seeking community confirmation for the report.
  • Staff members communicating with and about people in dangerous situations, such as war, crime or disaster zones, should consider the safety and security of people depicted or addressed in the social media content.
  • For platforms that don’t allow editing of posts, we should leave original posts untouched, unless they are defamatory or otherwise legally problematic.
  • We should edit or delete inaccurate social media posts, so people who haven’t seen the corrections will not spread them on social media. We should note that we have edited or deleted inaccurate posts.
  • We should note who has retweeted, liked or otherwise shared inaccurate social media posts that we are correcting, and attempt to message them directly to call attention to our corrections.

Awards and Contests

  • We will accept awards from advocacy organizations, if we are transparent about favoring that point of view.
  • We will accept awards from corporations if we feel such awards will not skew our reporting.

Censorship

  • We will refuse any attempt to censor our material, accepting delay as the price for putting out exactly what we want.
  • In military situations, we will be respectful of requests related to security and respect for troops, but reserve the right to make our own decisions.

Corrections

  • If a mistake is made in a social media post, we will delete the original post and publish a corrected version with an indication that the new post is a correction.

Freelance Work by Employees

  • We permit freelancing by full-time employees if it meets our overall criteria, and we do not require advance notice.
  • We allow part-time employees to perform freelance work without prior notice to direct managers.

Handling and protection of freelancers and “fixers”

  • We will pay reasonable fees to freelancers, fixers and translators for their services, including when contributing as sources on a story.

Removing Archived Work

  • We will update a story in our archives, including the headline, if the story would damage someone’s reputation and is outdated.
  • We will note when the post was updated.
  • We will correct any errors we learn of in our archived content and note the corrections.
  • We will consider exceptions to our policy in extreme cases, such as abuse or danger to someone’s personal safety.
  • We will delete inaccurate social media posts but acknowledge the deletions in subsequent posts.

Reporting On Your Organization

  • We will assign an internal reporter to cover the story when our organization has done something newsworthy, but we will allow the story to be vetted by a high-level editor.

Robot journalism

  • We consider our computer processes to be proprietary. We take full responsibility for our content, including automatically produced content; for editorial and competitive reasons, we do not feel a need to publicize our entire process.

Diversity

  • We will seek diverse pools of candidates for all jobs, but will always seek to hire the most qualified candidate.

Hate Speech

  • We consider the climate for free expression when making publication decisions.

Mental Health and Suicide

  • We will not use sensational headlines on stories about suicide.
  • We will opt for everyday images of a person who dies by suicide (such as a school photo) instead of images of people grieving.
  • We will Include contact information for resources for people in mental health crises. (e.g. “The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States is available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.)
  • We will include the method used in a suicide.

Naming suspects

  • We will name criminal suspects if they are arrested.
  • We will not name juvenile suspects in criminal cases unless they are charged with serious violent crimes, such as armed robbery, aggravated sexual assault, attempted homicide or homicide.
  • If a criminal suspect is at large and believed to be dangerous, we will identify the suspect, including a photo or sketch.
  • If we publish a the name of a person arrested or charged with a crime, we will publish a story about the resolution of the case and update the original story and headline, if they are still online, with a link to the new story.

Obscenities

  • We will fully reflect the way sources speak, including their use of obscenities, vulgarities or slurs.

Privacy

  • We view everything on social media and the Internet as fair game for journalists, and everyone knows it, even private individuals. We reserve the right to publish whatever we find online or from public sources.
  • We believe celebrities and public officials have no right to privacy, and all of their actions, whether in public or private, or in social media, are fair game for publishing.
  • We will voluntarily withhold information we have gathered when requested if we deem the individual’s request to be valid, based on our news judgment and professional standards.
  • We reserve the right to publish material that we have voluntarily withheld if we determine that the material has valid public interest or if we feel that the requesting party has deceived us as to his or her motives.
  • We do not hold back from interviewing individuals in traumatic situations (i.e., accidents, terror incidents, etc.), because the public’s right to know outweighs private individual’s rights. Also, if a private individual in such situations talks to us, that’s the person’s decision.
  • We use discretion when it comes to interviewing and publishing material from trauma victims or bystanders because we understand that to do so may cause additional harm to individuals.

Race and Gender

  • We will use racial, ethnic, gender and sexuality identifiers in stories about protests or other stories when participants are all, or almost all, from one group — even if the situation isn’t directly related to their identities.
  • We will alternate between male and female pronouns.

Sensational Material

  • We will run sensitive material when it reflects reality.
  • We will refrain from running sensitive material specifically or solely for the revenue purposes, such as increased digital traffic.
  • We will run sensitive material with stories without notes of warning.

Audio

  • Audio cuts of newsmakers may be edited to remove insignificant stumbles.
  • We will fully identify person-in-the-street-type speakers in audio cuts unless there is a compelling reason not to.
  • Our journalists may never combine sound from different sources in such a way as to create an audio scene that never happened.

Data Journalism

  • We will never pay for data, as it may be tainted by financial motives.
  • In collaborative projects, we may not be able to insist on shared ethical values with partners, but we will disclose to our readers and viewers that we have separate policies from our partners.

Interactives

  • Links among the parts of an interactive will be retained in the archive if the parts are still correct and relevant.

Photo and Video

  • When documenting private or traumatic moments, we will not seek permission to shoot, but will be sensitive to subjects’ situation.
  • We will allow the use of drones to capture images, but publish or air those images only if they serve a compelling public interest.
  • We will clearly label posed or re-enacted photos/video.
  • We do not need to label a photo or video if it is clearly posed (e.g. an award-winner holding up a trophy).
  • If we believe we can provide help or mitigate harm by actively participating in a situation (rather than only documenting it), do so and then disclose your participation to your viewers.
  • We will edit or manipulate images only if doing so doesn’t affect the news content of the image or the meaning viewers will make from it.
  • We will refrain from doing re-enactments of news events.
  • We will use generic photos only when viewers would not expect to see a photo specific to the story (e.g. using a photo of a plane from an airline’s fleet to illustrate the kind of plane that was involved in a crash.)
  • If using music in video stories, we will be cognizant of the emotional effect the music may have, and avoid using music if the story is intended to have a neutral voice.
  • We will use photos or videos from social media even if we cannot fully verify them, pointing out that they could not be verified.

User-Generated Content

  • We consider UGC an extension of our own journalism. We don’t run such material unless we’re sure it’s authentic.

Virtual Reality Journalism

  • If a VR production is designed to spread a certain political or social point of view, this should be disclosed at the beginning of the piece.
  • Producers may stage-manage a VR production if that’s the only way to overcome technical obstacles.
  • Photos and video may be manipulated if needed to avoid disturbing scenes like dead children.

Accepting money

  • Our funder(s) will not be able to see our stories before publication.
  • Our funder(s) will have no say in topics to be covered or specific stories.
  • Our funder(s) will not be used as sources in stories they fund.
  • We will not publicly disclose funding sources.

Clickbait and Metrics

  • We will accurately reflect the content of related stories in headlines and social media posts.
  • We may aggressively court audiences who would be interested in our content, but we will not try to deceive people in headlines, social media posts or marketing.
  • We will not use metric considerations in determining what we cover and how we place stories.

News and Advertising

  • We do not allow advertisements for certain types of products.
  • We do not allow advertisers to have a say in the selection or content of stories and photos.
  • We will allow advertising anywhere on our publication or site.
  • We make it clear when tweets or posts on our social media accounts are linked to advertiser-prepared material.