Here at Upper East Site, we agree with Mom– honesty is the best policy. That means being straight with the audience, because with journalism it all boils down to trust. We’re here to earn yours by following the highest standard of ethics and integrity.
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
- Our journalists should not express opinions at all and should work to ensure that stories are neutral, not reflecting bias toward any position. Exceptions are made for journalists whose jobs specifically involve expressing opinions, such as editorial writers, columnists, commentators and cartoonists.
- Our reporters may not write opinion pieces about the subjects they cover.
- 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.
- 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.
- Concealing Identity
- 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 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 are more open to granting confidentiality to sources we approach for interviews than to sources approaching us with tips or with dirt about political opponents or business rivals.
- 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 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.
- We will take authorities’ recommendations into account but use our own judgment.
- We believe our primary responsibility in covering hostage situations is to our readers; we will carry any statements and imagery that we consider newsworthy and within our general guidelines (on gory material, etc.), whatever effect it has on the situation.
- Our organization never pays for interviews.
- 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.
- 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 refrain from quoting sources who have a conflict of interest relating to the story (e.g. a scientist who conducted a study about a drug’s effectiveness when the study was funded by the manufacturer). These sources may be used for background information, but their voices should not be included in stories.
- We use links, if available, for source attribution in online stories.
- We report things that have clearly been established as fact at the top of the story and put the attribution in later.
- We consistently include clear attributions throughout a story, even if something has been established as fact.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- We do not permit comments on any of our articles.
- 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.”)
- We do not publish names of sexual assault victims unless they agree to speak on the record.
- 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 be careful about identifying kidnap victims if the person may be in danger.
- 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.
- Our journalists may not own interests in companies they cover regularly.
- 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.
- Our journalists may not serve in publicity roles for community organizations.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- We should always cite news releases if they are our sources, and should quote them if using their exact words.
Political Activities by Staff
- Our journalists should avoid political involvement such as running for or holding office or volunteering in campaigns.
- 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 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.
- 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.
Awards and Contests
- We will accept awards only from journalistic organizations, with judges who are journalists.
- 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 delete the original post and publish a corrected version with an indication that the new post is a correction.
- 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 prohibit full-time employees from doing freelance work for a competing media organization as defined by company managers or for a political organization, elected official, government agency, candidate for office, or a non-profit agency with a political agenda, such as an environmental group.
- 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 remove an outdated story from our archives if it is causing problems for someone.
- 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 delete inaccurate social media posts but acknowledge the deletions in subsequent posts.
Reporting On Our Organization
- We will follow the same process we use for covering any other organization when our organization has done something newsworthy. We will assign a reporter, and let that reporter contact sources within our organization. The story will then be edited like any other; senior executives should not see the story before it is published or broadcast.
- 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 do not publish automatically produced stories.
- We will set goals in hiring and promotions to increase diversity in our staff and management.
- 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.
- 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 consider the climate for free 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 cover individual events of suicide as news stories if they involve prominent figures or public means.
- We will not describe a suicide attempt as “successful” or “unsuccessful.”
- We will not detail specific means of suicide in news stories or obituaries.
- We will not use sensational headlines on stories about suicide.
- 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.
- We will use obscenities, vulgarities or slurs only in direct quotations and only if the quote is essential to the story.
- We will replace obscenities, vulgarities and slurs with a descriptor (e.g. “an anti-gay slur”).
- We will replace obscenities, vulgarities and slurs with something that implies the word rather than stating it directly (e.g. “f—”).
- 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 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 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 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 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 refrain from running sensitive material specifically or solely for the revenue purposes, such as increased digital traffic.
- 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.
- We will fully identify person-in-the-street-type speakers in audio cuts unless there is a compelling reason not to.
- We will never pay for data, as it may be tainted by financial motives.
- In collaborative projects, we insist that all parties are clear on shared ethics, values and roles.
- We will put all data in relevant context.
- We will not use personally identifiable data without specific and valid news value to support disclosure.
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 use drones to capture images in public areas only.
- 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 not ask subjects to pose or to re-enact an event.
- 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 not manipulate images through Photoshop or other means.
- We will obscure or pixellate images only when the intent is to protect the identify of someone in the image or to protect viewers from gory or graphic material.
- We will refrain from doing re-enactments of news events.
- We will refrain from using any generic photos or video to illustrate a specific story.
- 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 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.
- Our funder(s) will not be able to see our stories before publication.
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 not use metric considerations in determining what we cover and how we place stories.
News and Advertising
- We do not allow advertisers to have a say in the selection or content of stories and photos.
- We require news-like content produced by advertisers to be clearly identified as advertising.
- 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.