Code of Ethics: Section A
- We make every effort to assure that we are accurate. We use consistent standards and approaches in verifying the facts we present and the sources of information we use.
- Whenever feasible we attribute the sources of our information. We resist anonymity, especially with respect to opinion, speculation, or personal attacks, and permit it only if we are without other means to gather compelling verifiable information.
- We place the facts we report in context. In our coverage of politics and controversial topics, we emphasize not only accuracy and full attribution, but also an impartial, non-partisan approach and attention to competing views.
- We welcome comments and corrections. If we receive additional facts that add to the precision of what we present, we are committed to timely modifications or corrections.
- Our works present a full range of views on controversial subjects – sometimes in a single story and sometimes over the course of a series of programs or set of commentaries presented in a timely fashion.
- We seek out individuals and organizations mentioned in our coverage and reports when others have made unfavourable or critical allegations about them so that they have an opportunity to respond to such assertions and our audiences are more fully informed about the controversy.
- We avoid stereotyping, with particular attention to race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, and social status.
- In our reporting we make a distinction between the accountability of public officials, business and non-profit leaders and others who serve the public or seek power and influence, and the greater rights and expectations of privacy for private individuals, which we endeavour to respect and protect.
- We’re straightforward with our audiences. When we present the work of others we say so. When we edit interviews and other material we strive to preserve the original meaning. When we process audio, video, or images electronically, we do so only to enhance clarity and not to distort meaning or mislead audiences as to how or when the content was obtained.
- We tell the people and the organizations we cover who we are and what we are doing unless public or personal safety is at serious risk and this open approach will not produce vital information. We will generally avoid an undercover approach, but will disclose when we have done so.
- When we make mistakes we admit and correct them, either in the same venue in which they were made, such as an on-air broadcast, in the enduring version of a report or program, such as the online version of a story or on-demand version of a program, or both.
- We govern our activities in ways that promote the common good and the public interest and that reflect our commitment to integrity and trustworthiness. These obligations supersede personal and institutional agendas.
- We aim to contribute to the civic, educational, and cultural life of our communities by presenting a range of ideas and cultures and offering a robust forum for discussion and debate.
- We pursue facts about events and issues in our communities and other important matters that affect people’s lives with accuracy and integrity.
- The integrity of our work is strengthened by incorporating the diversity of demography, culture, and beliefs in our communities and the nation into our work and our content.
- We share with our audiences and the public the mission-based and practical reasons for our program choices. We seek to be transparent in how we gather and report news and create other content.
- We aim for respectful relationships with our donors and clear understanding among donors and others about our fundraising operations. We acknowledge the sponsors of our programming and disclose the terms on which we obtain such support.
- We assure that our editorial process is free from undue influence. We take care in deciding from whom we seek and accept support and in setting boundaries with respect to those who contribute.
- We bring our standards into editorial partnerships and collaborations through which we expand our capacity to serve, add to the perspectives we share with our audiences, and enhance the timeliness and relevance of our work.
- The actions of our crew, even when “off the clock,” affect public trust in our integrity, credibility, and impartiality. We expect our team to uphold our integrity in their personal as well as their professional lives.
Code of Ethics Section B
— Truth and accuracy above all
- The facts should get in the way of a good story. Journalism requires more than merely reporting remarks, claims or comments. Journalism verifies, provides relevant context, tells the rest of the story and acknowledges the absence of important additional information.
- For every story of significance, there are always more than two sides. While they may not all fit into every account, responsible reporting is clear about what it omits, as well as what it includes.
- Scarce resources, deadline pressure and relentless competition do not excuse cutting corners factually or oversimplifying complex issues.
- “Trending,” “going viral” or “exploding on social media” may increase urgency, but these phenomena only heighten the need for strict standards of accuracy.
- Facts change over time. Responsible reporting includes updating stories and amending archival versions to make them more accurate and to avoid misinforming those who, through search, stumble upon outdated material.
- Deception in newsgathering, including surreptitious recording, conflicts with journalism’s commitment to truth. Similarly, anonymity of sources deprives the audience of important, relevant information. Staging, dramatization and other alterations – even when labeled as such – can confuse or fool viewers, listeners and readers. These tactics are justified only when stories of great significance cannot be adequately told without distortion, and when any creative liberties taken are clearly explained.
- Journalism challenges assumptions, rejects stereotypes and illuminates – even where it cannot eliminate – ignorance.
- Ethical journalism resists false dichotomies – either/or, always/never, black/white thinking – and considers a range of alternatives between the extremes.
— Independence and transparency
- Editorial independence may be a more ambitious goal today than ever before. Media companies, even if not-for-profit, have commercial, competitive and other interests – both internal and external — from which the journalists they employ cannot be entirely shielded. Still, independence from influences that conflict with public interest remains an essential ideal of journalism. Transparency provides the public with the means to assess credibility and to determine who deserves trust.
- Acknowledging sponsor-provided content, commercial concerns or political relationships is essential, but transparency alone is not adequate. It does not entitle journalists to lower their standards of fairness or truth.
- Disclosure, while critical, does not justify the exclusion of perspectives and information that are important to the audience’s understanding of issues.
- Journalism’s proud tradition of holding the powerful accountable provides no exception for powerful journalists or the powerful organizations that employ them. To profit from reporting on the activities of others while operating in secrecy is hypocrisy.
- Effectively explaining editorial decisions and processes does not mean making excuses. Transparency requires reflection, reconsideration and honest openness to the possibility that an action, however well intended, was wrong.
- Ethical journalism requires owning errors, correcting them promptly and giving corrections as much prominence as the error itself had.
- Commercial endorsements are incompatible with journalism because they compromise credibility. In journalism, content is gathered, selected and produced in the best interests of viewers, listeners and readers – not in the interests of somebody who paid to have a product or position promoted and associated with a familiar face, voice or name.
- Similarly, political activity and active advocacy can undercut the real or perceived independence of those who practice journalism. Journalists do not give up the rights of citizenship, but their public exercise of those rights can call into question their impartiality.
- The acceptance of gifts or special treatment of any kind not available to the general public creates conflicts of interest and erodes independence. This does not include the access to events or areas traditionally granted to working journalists in order to facilitate their coverage. It does include “professional courtesy” admission, discounts and “freebies” provided to journalists by those who might someday be the subject of coverage. Such goods and services are often offered as enticements to report favorably on the giver or rewards for doing so; even where that is not the intent, it is the reasonable perception of a justifiably suspicious public.
- Commercial and political activities, as well as the acceptance of gifts or special treatment, cause harm even when the journalists involved are “off duty” or “on their own time.”
- Attribution is essential. It adds important information that helps the audience evaluate content and it acknowledges those who contribute to coverage. Using someone else’s work without attribution or permission is plagiarism.
— Accountability for consequences
- Journalism accepts responsibility, articulates its reasons and opens its processes to public scrutiny.
- Journalism provides enormous benefits to self-governing societies. In the process, it can create inconvenience, discomfort and even distress. Minimizing harm, particularly to vulnerable individuals, should be a consideration in every editorial and ethical decision.
- Responsible reporting means considering the consequences of both the news-gathering – even if the information is never made public – and of the material’s potential dissemination. Certain stakeholders deserve special consideration; these include children, victims, vulnerable adults and others inexperienced with American media.
- Preserving privacy and protecting the right to a fair trial are not the primary mission of journalism; still, these critical concerns deserve consideration and to be balanced against the importance or urgency of reporting.
- The right to broadcast, publish or otherwise share information does not mean it is always right to do so. However, journalism’s obligation is to pursue truth and report, not withhold it. Shying away from difficult cases is not necessarily more ethical than taking on the challenge of reporting them. Leaving tough or sensitive stories to non-journalists can be a disservice to the public.