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.
- 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.
- 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 want our news coverage to be fact-based, without expression of opinions, but reporters are encouraged to provide commentary in related blog posts or columns, being transparent about their opinions.
- 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.
- 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.
Bombs and Other Threats
- We will consult with local officials to determine whether a bomb threat is credible before we publish a story, but we will reserve the right to publish regardless of what officials say
- We permit undercover reporting only when we feel a story is important enough to justify doing so, and we have exhausted all other reasonable methods.
- We do not publish information from sources we cannot name. Reporters may grant confidentiality only in an effort to find named sources for the information.
- 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 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.
- Our journalists always obtain a parent’s permission before interviewing or photographing a child.
- We will cooperate with authorities’ recommendations in covering 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.
- Our organization never pays for interviews.
- Our organization permits interviewees with transcripts to revise their comments to clarify complicated or technical matters.
- Our organization never provides interview subjects with lists of questions in advance.
- Our organization will provide interview subjects with a general idea of our questions in advance.
- Articles and reports must state the method of interviewing (i.e., whether it was in person, by telephone, video, Skype or email) if doing so enhances the context of the interview and article.
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 disclose how sources In “ordinary people” stories were identified (e.g. through Twitter).
- 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 consistently include clear attributions throughout a story, even if something has been established as fact.
- We will clean up random utterances such as pauses, “um” or “you know” unless they materially alter the meaning.
- 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.
- 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 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 wait to publish or air a story until comments from key sides of an issue have been gathered.
- We do not permit anonymous comments at all.
- We allow commenting only with a verified identity, such as a Facebook login.
- Unless we have a compelling reason to withhold a name, we always publish names of people involved in the stories we cover.
- 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, unless compelling circumstances justify publication as soon as we have verified the names.
- We should always be careful about identifying kidnap victims if the person may be in danger.
- 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.
- We will consider a disclosure page on our blog or website that lists our financial interests if we cover business or finance regularly.
- 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 should avoid community involvement in areas that they cover. Journalists should tell their supervisors about their community involvements, including when a story suddenly arises that may present a conflict. When they have to cover an area where they have a personal involvement, we should consider assigning another journalist. If a conflict can’t be avoided, coverage should disclose the conflict.
- 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.
Plagiarism and Attribution
- We must always attribute all sources by name and, if the source is digital, by linking to the original source.
- 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.
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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- A staff member who considers not identifying himself or herself accurately in a social media profile should explain the extraordinary circumstances to a top editor and receive approval before starting such an account.
- 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.
- For platforms that don’t allow editing of posts, we should leave original posts untouched, unless they are defamatory or otherwise legally problematic.
Awards and Contests
- 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.
- We will refuse any attempt to censor our material, accepting delay as the price for putting out exactly what we want.
- If a mistake is made in a social media post, we will publish a corrected version indicating that the new post is a correction. We will include a link to the erroneous original post and allow it to stand.
- We will show all changes that have been made to online stories.
- We will post all of your corrections in a single corrections area.
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.
Reporting On Our Organization
- We will avoid all potential conflicts of loyalty by refraining from covering the story when our organization has done something newsworthy. We will let others cover our organization. If an issue is particularly newsworthy, we will limit ourselves to publishing official company statements.
- We encourage staffers to seek diverse sources, both in specific stories and in routine beat coverage.
- 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.
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 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 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.
- We will use obscenities, vulgarities or slurs only in direct quotations and only if the quote is essential to the story.
- We will apply the same standards on obscenities, vulgarities and slurs to reader comments on stories that are applied to the story itself.
- 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 consider the standard for publishing material about private individuals who are thrust into the public eye as higher than that for public individuals.
- We do not believe that everything celebrities and public officials say and do should be made public, even though they cede a great deal of privacy when they enter the public eye. We analyze cases on an individual basis, taking into account the news value of the public figure’s action.
- 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 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 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 treat all publication decisions based on the standards of the local community.
- 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 cuts of newsmakers may be edited to remove insignificant stumbles, as long as there’s a disclosure that the audio was edited.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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 not ask subjects to pose or to re-enact an event.
- 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 refrain from using “handout” photos or video unless your own photographers are unavailable to cover the story.
- We will clearly label the source of all “handout” photos or video.
- We will refrain from using any generic photos or video to illustrate a specific story.
- We will verify photos or videos from social media before using them.
- 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 consider UGC an extension of our own journalism. We don’t run such material unless we’re sure it’s authentic.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 but have no say in stories pursued and how they are reported and written.
- Our funder(s) will not be used as sources in stories they fund.
- We will publicly disclose all funding sources.
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 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 do not allow advertisers to have a say in the selection or content of stories and photos.
Prepared using the Online News Association’s Build-Your-Own Ethics Code project. Create your own at https://ethics.journalists.org