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Journalism Ethics

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

  • 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.

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 permit undercover reporting only when we feel a story is important enough to justify doing so, and we have exhausted all other reasonable methods.

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.

Hostage Situations

  • 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.

Interviewing

  • Our organization will consider paying a source for an interview under limited circumstances.

  • Our organization will provide interviewees with transcripts of interviews in advance of publication but does not permit them to revise their statements.

  • Our organization will provide interview subjects with a general idea of our questions in advance.

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.

Accuracy

  • Our staff members must take responsibility for the accuracy of all information that we publish, using an accuracy checklist before publication.

  • Our staff members should take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of information that we publish and note our sources.

  • 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.

  • Reporters should fact-check before publication but should not preview any of the actual text of a story with sources.

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.

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 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

  • 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 withhold essential details, such as names, from our coverage of mass murders.

Financial Interests

  • 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 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.

Community Activities

  • 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.

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 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.

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.

  • Basic facts may be taken from other sources without varying the wording.

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.

Social Networks

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Censorship

  • We will refuse any attempt to censor our material, accepting delay as the price for putting out exactly what we want.

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 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 without prior notice to direct managers.