Code of Ethics

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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 Our Journalism

  • We encourage journalists to express opinions in their news coverage, but their facts must be accurate.
  • Our reporters may express personal opinions in their own accounts on social networks.
  • 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, salespeople and executives work to ensure that advertisers, sponsors and contributors have no influence over editorial content.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 will not publish bomb threats if a request is made by responsible community officials.

Concealing Identity

  • We have a blanket ban on undercover reporting in the belief that deception is never appropriate in news gathering, and other ways can always be found to get the story.

Confidential Sources

  • We use confidential sources sparingly to provide important information that cannot be obtained through on-the-record sources. Reporters should disclose the identity of unnamed sources to at least one editor.
  • 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 publish information from confidential sources that we consider reliable, but do not publish the opinions of unnamed sources.
  • 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.

Children: Coverage, Images and Interviews

  • We avoid identifying — by name or photo — children who are connected with a crime as perpetrators, victims or witnesses.
  • We refrain from featuring photos of children who are connected with a crime as perpetrators, victims or witnesses.
  • We identify children who are connected with a crime as perpetrators, victims or witnesses only if the child’s identity is already widely known.
  • We identify children who are charged with a crime only if the child is being tried in adult court.
  • Our journalists always obtain a parent’s permission before interviewing or photographing a child.
  • We do not require parental permission to photograph or talk with children in breaking news situations. However, we obtain that permission prior to publishing photos or interviews.
  • 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.

Interviewing

  • Our organization will consider paying a source for an interview under limited circumstances.
  • Our organization will pay for rights to photographs and video in conjunction with an interview.
  • Our organization permits interviewees with transcripts to revise their comments to clarify complicated or technical matters.
  • Our organization will provide interview subjects with a general idea of our questions in advance.
  • Our organization will provide interview subjects with lists of questions in advance upon their request, but the source must make a strong case for justifying the request.
  • 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 use links, if available, for source attribution in online stories.
  • We include source attribution in online stories themselves as well as links, if available, that provide additional information.
  • We include attributions throughout a story in a chronological account.

Accuracy

  • Our staff members should take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of information that we publish and note our sources.
  • 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.
  • Reporters may read parts of stories to sources in order to check facts or make sure they understand technical points and procedures. But they should not read full stories to sources before publication and should make clear to the sources that they are only checking facts, not providing 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).
  • We will be alert to situations where the most accessible spokesmen are at the extremes of issues, but most people are somewhere in the middle.
  • If an issue generates debate — even if one perspective on the issue has been credibly established as fact — we will seek out and report dissenting views in a proportionate way.
  • We will refrain from presenting multiple points of view if one perspective on an issue has been credibly established as fact. In other words, we will avoid “false balance.”
  • 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 review every comment by every commenter.
  • We permit comments on selected articles.
  • We believe that all public commentary is worthwhile, and we do not edit or change online comments in any fashion. We reserve the right to refuse approval of any public commentary that contains potentially libelous language or hate speech, as we define it.

Quotations

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

  • We do not publish names of sexual assault victims unless they agree to speak on the record.
  • In breaking news stories, we do not publish the names of dead people until authorities have notified their families and released the names.
  • We will consider potential harm to sources facing intolerance in their societies before naming them in stories.

Financial Interests

  • Our journalists should immediately disclose to a supervisor any interests they have in a company they are asked to cover.

Community Activities

  • Our journalists may not serve in publicity roles for community organizations.
  • Our journalists should disclose community 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.
  • 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 should disclose any gifts they receive to their supervisors and discuss whether something needs to be returned, disclosed, paid for, donated to charity or handled in some other way that protects our integrity.
  • Our journalists may accept a small gift in cases where people are being kind and clearly not trying to influence us. Our gift policy does not require us to be rude; sometimes there’s a common-sense need to accept a small gift.

Personal Ethics Statements by Staff

  • Our journalists should work precisely to our company ethics and standards; personal ethics statements are, therefore, not necessary.
  • Our organization’s policy prevails if personal ethics codes and organizational policy conflict.

Plagiarism and Attribution

  • We must always attribute all sources by name and, if the source is digital, by linking to the original source.
  • We believe a link to a digital source is sometimes sufficient attribution; we need not always name the source in the text if the information is routine.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Political Activities by Staff

  • Our journalists should avoid coverage of an issue or campaign if a family member’s political involvement would call into question the integrity of a journalist’s coverage. If avoiding such a family conflict is impossible, we will disclose the family member’s involvement in related coverage.
  • Our journalists may engage in political activities, including running for office and participating in campaigns, so long as they do not cover stories relating to the area of their political activity.
  • 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 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 involvement.

Social Networks

  • Our journalists are free to express opinions on social media.
  • Our journalists should not express opinions on social media about politics, but are free to express opinions on cultural areas such as sports, entertainment or technology if they do not cover those areas and are not likely to cover them.
  • Our journalists should not retweet, reblog, share or otherwise pass along social media posts without providing context that indicates they are not endorsing the content in the shared link or post.
  • 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.
  • Staff members should always identify themselves in social media profiles, and, if they are using the profile for professional purposes, they should identify themselves as working for our organization.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • We will assess the nature of the contest and make a decision consistent with our overall contest principles if we win a contest we did not enter.

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.
  • We will show all changes that have been made to online stories if they involve corrections or rephrasing to fix unclear material.
  • We will show all corrections in the place the incorrect material originally appeared (e.g., put corrections related to a story at the bottom of that same story).

Freelance Work by Employees

  • We permit freelancing by full-time employees, but they must receive explicit permission to do so from their direct manager before undertaking such work.
  • We allow part-time employees to perform freelance work, but they must notify their direct managers.

Handling and protection of freelancers and “fixers”

  • We will publicly credit the work of freelancers, fixers and translators unless doing so poses risk of harm, such as threatening a person’s safety.
  • We will pay reasonable fees to freelancers, fixers and translators for their services but not for contributing as sources on a story.

Removing Archived Work

  • We will never remove material from our archives.
  • 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.

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 will identify for the reader the source of data for automatically produced stories and the people or company providing the story-writing automation.

Diversity

  • We will seek diverse pools of candidates for all jobs, but will always seek to hire the most qualified candidate.
  • We encourage staffers to seek diverse sources, both in specific stories and in routine beat coverage.

Hate Speech

  • We report on hate speech and actions but include original offensive expressions only when specifically necessary for audience understanding of the case.
  • We consider the perspectives of those offended by hateful expression when making publication decisions.
  • We support local, national or international laws to combat hate speech.

Mental Health and Suicide

  • We will cover mental health and suicide as broad public health issues as consistently as we cover other health matters.
  • We will cover individual events of suicide as news stories if they involve prominent figures or public means.
  • We will not use graphic images 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 when it is important for audience understanding but not specific details (e.g., noting that a victim shot himself but not covering the type of weapon).

Naming Suspects

  • We will name criminal suspects if we have their identifications confirmed by sources we trust.
  • 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 use obscenities, vulgarities or slurs only in direct quotations and only if the quote is essential to the story.

Privacy

  • We respect individuals’ right to privacy and do not use content we discover online from private individuals without receiving their permission.
  • 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 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 seek out people in the groups we cover to gain perspective on our coverage and terminology.
  • We will use racial, ethnic, gender and sexuality identifiers when specifically germane to a story but not otherwise.
  • We will Identify transgender people by the gender they express publicly.
  • We will use plural references to avoid gender-specific pronouns when possible.

Sensational Material

  • We will run sensitive material that might be offensive to specific members of the audience after internal debate has demonstrated a clear public interest in and value from the publication.
  • We will run sensitive material when it reflects reality.
  • We will consider the differing impact of sensitive material on differing segments of the population (e.g., effects on minors, vulnerable groups or victims of crime).
  • 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 with notes of warning.

Audio

  • Audio cuts of newsmakers may be edited to remove insignificant stumbles.
  • Cuts and programs may be heavily edited and rearranged as needed, as long as there’s a disclosure the audio was edited, the meaning of statements remains the same after editing, and rearrangements of audio do not affect the original meaning.
  • Our journalists may mix sound from different sources as long as it gives a true picture of what happened (even if it was not all recorded at the same time).
  • 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 believe that data is like raw footage and may be purchased if it cannot be obtained through other means.
  • 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.
  • We will put all data in relevant context.
  • We will make original data available for download when it is not covered by a usage agreement that bars such public posting. Any usage agreement will be disclosed publicly.
  • We will not use personally identifiable data without specific and valid news value to support disclosure.
  • We will secure data to the best extent possible to prevent hacking.

Interactives

  • We will organize and internally link our interactives in a way that users entering and navigating in different ways will be able to grasp the essential points of the story.
  • Links among the parts of an interactive will be retained over time, including when the story is archived.
  • We will reconstruct or preview events through infographics or animations only if we are sure that every detail we show is correct.

Photo and Video

  • When documenting private or traumatic moments, we will seek permission from subjects before shooting photos or 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).
  • We will refrain from intentionally becoming an active participant in a news story (e.g. taking part in a rescue operation or using our camera to influence a situation).
  • 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 shoot re-enactments of news events only if they add to the understanding of an issue, and then clearly label them as re-enactments.
  • We will clearly label the source of all “handout” photos or video.
  • 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 verify photos or videos from social media before using them.

User-Generated Content

  • We will guard against using UGC in situations that might be dangerous to the person who created it or to others in the images. We will stress to possible providers of UGC that they must not take risks to gather information or imagery.
  • We partner with other organizations and the public in attempts to verify what UGC is accurate. This means distributing it with caveats that it hasn’t been verified.
  • We will not distribute UGC content unless we’re certain we have the rights to do so. The only exception might be an urgent situation where a rights-holder cannot be found.
  • If we cannot find the rights-holder in an urgent situation and use the UGC, we will make continued efforts afterward to locate and reach an agreement with the rights-holder.

Virtual Reality Journalism

  • If producers re-creating a news event in VR make every effort to determine how the event actually happened, disclosure to the viewer that it’s only a re-creation isn’t necessary.
  • In re-creating news events in VR, the viewer should get full disclosures about any guesswork or artistic license involved.
  • 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) may see our stories before publication but may not alter content or veto publishing decisions.
  • Our funder(s) may influence special topics to be covered and suggest reporting and writing approaches.
  • Our funder(s) will be used as sources in stories they fund if their contributions are specifically relevant and important.
  • We will publicly disclose funding sources only if they are financing specific topics or reporting.

Clickbait and Metrics

  • We are encouraged to write clever, creative headlines and social media posts that will entice readers to click on our stories, but headlines will not make promises that our stories don’t deliver.
  • 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 use metric considerations as one of a number of factors in determining what we cover and how we place stories.

News and Advertising

  • We do not allow advertisements for certain types of products.
  • We may accept payment from advertisers to provide stories on a general subject, but they will have no involvement in the content produced.
  • We require news-like content produced by advertisers to be clearly identified as advertising.
  • We have specific, consistent definitions of terms like “Advertisement,” “Sponsored Content” and “Message from …” and disclose them to our readers.
  • We will require that items that look too much like news stories be accompanied by a clear statement that the article was prepared by the advertiser and did not involve our editorial staff.