30 Jun 2007 - 21 Jan 2022
The New York Times Company Policy on Ethics in Journalism
Introduction and Purpose
1. The Core Purpose of The New York Times Company is to "enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment." The central place of our news and editorial units in fulfilling that promise is underscored by the No. 1 statement in our Core Values: "Content of the highest quality and integrity: This is the basis for our reputation and the means by which we fulfill the public trust and our customers' expectations."
2. Companywide, our goal is to cover the news impartially and to treat readers, news sources, advertisers and all parts of our society fairly and openly, and to be seen as doing so. The reputation of our company rests upon that perception, and so do the professional reputations of its staff members. Thus the company, its separate business units and members of its newsrooms and editorial pages share an interest in avoiding conflicts of interest or any appearance of conflict.
3. Conflicts of interest, real or apparent, may arise in many areas. They may involve tensions between journalists' professional obligations to our audience and their relationships with news sources, advocacy groups, advertisers, or competitors; with one another; or with the company or one of its units. And at a time when two-career families are the norm, the civic and professional activities of spouses, household members and other relatives can create conflicts or the appearance of them.
4. In keeping with its solemn responsibilities under the First Amendment, our company strives to maintain the highest standard of journalistic ethics. It is confident that its staff members share that goal. The company and its units also recognize that staff members should be free to do creative, civic and personal work and to earn extra income in ways separate from their work in our organization. Before engaging in such outside activities, though, staff members should exercise mature professional judgment and consider the stake we all have in the irreplaceable good name of our company and its newsrooms.
The Scope of This Policy
5. These guidelines generally apply to all members of our news and editorial departments whose work directly affects our content and its reputation, including those on leaves of absence. They include writers, reporters, columnists, editors, producers, editorial writers, photographers, picture editors, art directors, artists, designers, graphics editors and researchers. This group also includes News Service and syndication personnel and the shared technical staffs of broadcast and online operations to the extent that those staffs plan, create, transmit or oversee news or editorial content. This entire group of professional journalists is what this document means by "staff " or "staff members."
6. These guidelines are intended to shield the integrity not just of our journalists but of our journalism over all. For that reason, the provisions limiting political activity or partisanship apply also to publishers and to their counterparts in online and broadcast operations – that is, the executives to whom the chief editors of news and editorial staffs directly report. These specific provisions are detailed in Paragraph 88 below.
7. At the discretion of management in each of our news or editorial departments, the professional journalist guidelines may also be applied to news clerks, administrative assistants, secretaries and other support staff members whose work influences our content. Whether or not a newsroom's management applies these guidelines to the support staff, however, support people are always governed by two important provisions:
First, no newsroom or editorial page employee may exploit for personal gain any nonpublic information acquired at work, or use an association with our news organization to gain favor or advantage.
And second, no one may do anything that damages our news staffs' reputation for strict neutrality in reporting on politics and government; in particular, no one may wear campaign buttons or display any other form of political partisanship while on the job.
8. Our contracts with freelance contributors require them to avoid conflicts of interest, real or apparent. In keeping with that provision, they must honor these guidelines in their Times Company assignments, as set forth in Section C below. Similarly, the makers of television or online productions intended to bear our name or to be distributed through our outlets must comply with the policies in this document while working on those projects.
9. At each site in our company, newsroom management will obtain legal opinions on any statutes that may constrain the enforcement of these guidelines. In those units covered by collective bargaining agreements with the Newspaper Guild, management will obtain legal opinions on any limitation arising from those agreements.
The Nature of This Policy
10. Our fundamental purpose is to protect the impartiality and neutrality of the company's newsrooms and the integrity of their news reports. In many instances, merely applying that purpose with common sense will point to the ethical course. Sometimes the answer is self-evident: simply wondering whether a course of action might damage the reputation of our journalism is often enough to gauge whether the action is appropriate.
11. Every staff member is expected to read these rules carefully and to think about how they might apply to his or her duties. A lack of familiarity with their provisions cannot excuse a violation; to the contrary, it aggravates the violation. The provisions presented here can offer only broad principles and some examples. No written document could anticipate every possibility. Thus we expect staff members to consult their local newsroom management if they have doubts about any particular situation or opportunity covered by this set of rules. In most cases an exchange of e mail should suffice.
12. The company and its units believe beyond question that our staff shares the values these guidelines are intended to protect. Ordinarily, past differences of view over applying these values have been resolved amiably through discussion. The company has every reason to believe that such a pattern will continue. Nevertheless, the company views any intentional violation of these rules as a serious offense that may lead to disciplinary action, potentially including dismissal, subject to the terms of any applicable collective bargaining agreement.
13. This document is not an exhaustive compilation of all situations that may give rise to an actual or perceived conflict of interest. It does not exclude situations or issues giving rise to such conflicts simply because they are not explicitly covered within this document, nor does the document or any of its particular provisions create an implied or express contract of employment with any individual to whom the guidelines apply. The company reserves the right to modify and expand the guidelines from time to time, as it deems appropriate.
14. The authority to interpret and apply these guidelines is vested in the head of each news or editorial department in the company. That duty may be delegated to their ranking assistants, but the senior news executives remain responsible for decisions made in their name.
Other Standards of Behavior
15. This document embodies basic standards of journalistic conduct applicable across our company. Our operating units are free to adopt further or more detailed policies, such as the specialized standards and practices of the networks with which our broadcast stations are affiliated, or the rules of certain newspapers for reporters' use of unidentified sources. In case of conflict, the policy with the higher standard shall apply.
16. As employees of the Times Company and its units, we observe the Rules of the Road, which are the axiomatic standards of behavior governing our dealing with colleagues and going about our work. Copies are available from management offices in all units. Together with a statement of supporting principles, the rules are online at our Mission & Values page. We also observe the company's policies against harassment and on the use of computers and digital communications, which appear on the business ethics
page of this site.
A. On the Job
A1. Our Duty to Our Audience
17. As journalists we treat our readers, viewers, listeners and online users as fairly and openly as possible. Whatever the medium, we tell our audiences the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. We correct our errors explicitly as soon as we become aware of them. We do not wait for someone to request a correction. We publish corrections in a prominent and consistent location or broadcast time slot.
18. We treat audience members no less fairly in private than in public. Anyone who deals with our public is expected to honor that principle, knowing that ultimately our readers and viewers are our employers. Civility applies whether an exchange takes place in person, by telephone, by letter or by e-mail.
19. We gather information for the benefit of our audience. Journalists at the Times Company, or on assignment for one of its newsrooms, may not use their position to make inquiries for any other purpose.
20. Staff members or outside contributors who plagiarize betray our fundamental pact with our public. So does anyone who knowingly or recklessly provides false information or doctored images for publication. We will not tolerate such behavior.
A2. How We Gather the News
21. We treat news sources fairly and professionally. We do not inquire pointlessly into someone's personal life. We do not threaten to damage uncooperative sources, nor do we promise favorable coverage in return for cooperation. We do not pay for interviews or unpublished documents: to do so would create an incentive for sources to falsify material and would cast into doubt the genuineness of much that we publish.
22. Staff members and others on assignment for us should disclose their identity to people they cover, though they need not always announce their occupation when seeking information normally available to the public. Those working for us as journalists may not pose as anyone they are not – for example, police officers or lawyers.
23. Critics and other writers who review performances or goods and services offered to the public may conceal their press identity, but they may not normally assert a false identity or affiliation. As an exception, restaurant critics may make reservations in false names to avoid special treatment. For that same reason, restaurant critics and travel writers should conceal their affiliation.
Keeping Our Detachment
24. Relationships with sources require sound judgment and self-awareness to prevent the fact or appearance of partiality. Cultivating sources is an essential skill, often practiced most effectively in informal settings outside of normal business hours. Yet staff members, especially those assigned to beats, must be aware that personal relationships with news sources can erode into favoritism, in fact or appearance. Editors, who normally have a wide range of relationships, must be especially wary of showing partiality. Where friends and neighbors are also newsmakers, journalists must guard against giving them extra access or a more sympathetic ear. When practical, the best solution is to have someone else deal with them.
25. Though this topic defies firm rules, it is essential that we preserve professional detachment, free of any hint of bias. Staff members may see sources informally over a meal or drinks, but they must keep in mind the difference between legitimate business and personal friendship. A city editor who enjoys a weekly round of golf with a city council member, for example, risks creating an appearance of coziness. So does a television news producer who spends weekends in the company of people we cover. Scrupulous practice requires that periodically we step back and look at whether we have drifted too close to sources with whom we deal regularly. The test of freedom from favoritism is the ability to maintain good working relationships with all parties to a dispute.
26. Romantic involvement with a news source would create the appearance and probably the reality of partiality. Staff members who develop close relationships with people who are likely to figure in coverage they prepare or oversee must disclose those relationships privately to a responsible newsroom manager. In some cases, no further action may be needed. But in other instances staff members may have to recuse themselves from certain coverage. Sometimes assignments may have to be modified or beats changed.
Obeying the Law
27. Staff members and others on assignment for us must obey the law in the gathering of news. They may not break into buildings, homes, apartments or offices. They may not purloin data, documents or other property, including such electronic property as databases and e-mail or voice-mail messages. They may not tap telephones, invade computer files or otherwise eavesdrop electronically on news sources. In the case of government orders or court directives to disclose a confidential source, journalists will consult with the newsroom management and the legal department on the application of this paragraph.
28. Journalists who obtain press cards, press license plates, parking permits or other identification from police or other official agencies may use those credentials only to do their jobs. Those whose duties do not require special credentials must return them.
29. Staff members may not record private conversations without the prior consent of all parties to the conversations. In jurisdictions where recordings made secretly are legal, only the top manager of a news department may make an exception to this rule, and only after consultation with our legal department. Except in limited circumstances, we do not use hidden cameras; any exceptions should first be discussed with the top newsroom manager and the legal department.
Paying Our Own Way
30. When we as journalists entertain news sources (including government officials) or travel to cover them, our company pays the expenses. In some business situations and in some cultures, it may be unavoidable to accept a meal or a drink paid for by a news source (for example, at an official's residence or in a company's private dining room). Whenever practical, however, we should avoid those circumstances and suggest dining where we can pay our share (or, better, meeting in a setting that does not include a meal). Routine refreshments at an event like a news conference are acceptable, but a staff member should not attend recurring breakfast or lunch meetings unless our company pays for the journalist's meals. Whether the setting is an exclusive club or a service lodge's weekly luncheon, we should pay our way.
31. Staff members may not accept free or discounted transportation and lodging except where special circumstances give little or no choice. Such special cases include certain military or scientific expeditions and other trips for which alternative arrangements would be impractical — for example, an interview aboard a corporate jet where there is no benefit other than the interview. Journalists should consult responsible newsroom managers in advance when special circumstances arise.
32. If permitted by the local newsroom policy, staff members may accept press passes or free tickets when explicitly assigned to review artistic performances or cover athletic and similar events (for example, auto shows, agricultural fairs or flower shows). But no staff member except the assigned one — not even an editor in the arts, feature or sports department — may accept free tickets. And even when paying the box office price, a journalist may not use membership on our staff to obtain scarce seats unless the performance has a clear bearing on his or her job.
Dealing With Competitors
33. We compete zealously but deal with competitors openly and honestly. We do not invent obstacles to hamstring their efforts. When we first use facts originally reported by another news organization, we attribute them.
34. With the exception of press pool arrangements imposed by news sources, staff members may not join teams covering news events for other organizations (unless their work is part of a duly authorized joint venture), and they may not accept payment from competitors for news tips. They may not be listed on the masthead of any publication or Web site outside our company (except for a nonprofessional publication such as a religious congregation's newsletter, an alumni magazine or a club bulletin).
A3. Protecting Our Neutrality
35. Staff members and those on assignment for us may not accept anything that could be construed as a payment for favorable coverage or for avoiding unfavorable coverage. They may not accept gifts, tickets, discounts, reimbursements or other benefits from individuals or organizations covered (or likely to be covered) by their newsroom. Gifts should be returned with a polite explanation; perishable gifts may instead be given to charity, also with a note to the donor. In either case the objective of the note is, in all politeness, to discourage future gifts.
36. Staff members and those on assignment for us may not accept employment or compensation of any sort from individuals or organizations who figure in coverage they are likely to provide, prepare or supervise. The senior executive of each newsroom may authorize reasonable exceptions (for example, to let a teacher work part time as a copy editor).
37. If local policies permit journalists to share in fees for re-use of certain content, a cap must be set on any payment for advertising or promotional re-use, to avoid the appearance of an incentive for favorable coverage. The journalist's share of such fees may not exceed $200 an article.
38. Staff members may normally accept those gifts or discounts available to the general public. Normally they are also free to take advantage of conventional corporate discounts that our company shares with all employees (for example, corporate car rental rates). Journalists may accept free museum admissions or other benefits that are offered to all employees as a result of the company's charitable activities. Overseas, our staff may accept museum admissions and similar modest benefits customarily extended to journalists nationally or regionally as an occupational class rather than as individuals.
39. Unless the special terms are offered by The New York Times Company or its subsidiaries or affiliates, staff members may not buy stock in initial public offerings through "friends and family" plans where any plausible appearance of conflict of interest exists. Staff members may not accept allocations from brokerage firms.
Steering Clear of Advice Roles
40. It is an inherent conflict for a journalist to perform public relations work, paid or unpaid. Staff members may not counsel individuals or organizations on how to deal successfully with the news media. They may not, for example, advise candidates for public office, write or edit annual reports, or contribute to the programs of sports teams.
41. They may, of course, explain the newsroom's normal workings and steer outsiders to the appropriate editor or reporter. They may offer basic advice to community or neighborhood institutions such as their child's school, a small museum, a local charity or their house of worship.
42. They should not take part in public relations workshops that charge admission or imply privileged access to the press, or participate in surveys asking their opinion of an organization's media relations or public image. But on occasion they may describe our procedures to public relations groups with the goal of improving the flow of pertinent information.
43. Staff members may not serve as ghostwriters or co-authors for people or groups who figure in coverage they are likely to provide, prepare or supervise. They may not undertake such assignments for organizations that espouse a cause.
44. Staff members may not engage in financial counseling (except through the articles they write). They may not manage money for others, offer investment advice, or help operate an investment company of any sort, with or without pay. They may, however, help family members with ordinary financial planning and serve as executors or administrators of estates of relatives and friends and as court-appointed conservators and guardians.
Entering Competitions and Contests
45. Staff members may not enter local, national or international competitions sponsored by individuals or groups who have a direct interest in the tenor of our coverage. They may not act as judges for these competitions or accept their awards. Common examples are contests sponsored by commercial, political or professional associations to judge coverage of their own affairs. Senior newsroom managers may make exceptions for competitions underwritten by corporate sponsors if those are broad in scope and independently judged by journalists or disinterested public figures.
46. Staff members may compete in competitions sponsored by groups whose members are all journalists or whose members demonstrably have no direct interest in the tenor of coverage of the field being judged. Staff members may act as judges for such competitions and accept their awards. For example, a staff member may enter a university-sponsored competition for coverage of foreign affairs but not accept an advocacy group's prize for environmental coverage.
47. Each newsroom's management should maintain a current list of competitions it has approved. Staff members who would like to enter others should consult the responsible news executive. A critical factor in approving a competition, whatever the sponsorship, is a record of arm's-length decisions, including a willingness to honor unfavorable reporting. Staff members who win unsought awards from groups that do not meet the criteria established here should decline, politely explaining our policy.
48. Normally staff members are free to accept honorary degrees, medals and other awards from colleges, universities and other educational institutions. Those who cover higher education or supervise that coverage should be sensitive to any appearance of coziness or favoritism. Those in any doubt should consult their newsroom management before accepting such an award.
Barring Collaboration and Testimonials
49. Staff members and others on assignment for us may not collaborate in ventures with individuals or organizations that are likely to figure in their coverage. Among other things, this prohibition applies to writing books, pamphlets, reports, scripts, scores or any other material and to making photographs or creating artwork of any sort.
50. Staff members may not offer endorsements or testimonials for books, films, television programs or any other programs, products or ventures. They may not accept endorsements or testimonials from anyone who is likely to figure in their coverage. Newsroom management may authorize rare exceptions (for instance, when a staff member has become expert in a field remote from his or her duties).
A4. Cautions on Public Speaking
51. Speaking before community audiences or educational groups can benefit our company by helping the public understand what we do. But before appearing before an outside group, we must be sure we are not likely to create an actual or apparent conflict of interest or undermine public trust in the impartiality of our journalism.
52. Staff members should be sensitive to the appearance of partiality when they address groups that might figure in their coverage, especially if the setting might suggest a close relationship to the sponsoring group. Before accepting such an invitation, a staff member must consult with newsroom management. Generally, for example, an editor who deals with political campaigns might comfortably address a library gathering but not appear before a civic group that endorses issues or candidates. An environmental reporter can appropriately speak to a horticultural society but not to conservation groups known for their efforts to influence public policy.
53. To avoid an appearance of undue closeness, staff members may not accept invitations to speak before a single company (for example, at a corporate executive retreat) or an industry assembly (such as organized baseball's winter meeting) unless newsroom management agrees that the appearance is useful and does not undermine our reputation for impartiality. In such a case, our company should pay any expenses; no speaker's fee should be accepted.
54. Staff members should not accept invitations from outside our company to speak where their function is to attract customers to an event primarily intended as profit-making.
Restricting Speaker's Fees
55. Where permitted by local policy, staff members who deliver speeches may accept fees, honorariums, expense reimbursement and free transportation, but only from educational or other nonprofit groups for which lobbying and political activity are not a major focus. A staff member must consult with newsroom management before accepting a substantial speaking fee. Threshold amounts will be determined by local management.
56. Any staff member who accepts fees, honorariums or expenses for speaking engagements must file an annual accounting with newsroom management. (In the case of the top newsroom executive, the accounting is filed with the chief executive of the business unit.) Each unit may set a threshold below which annual accounting is not required. Fees earned under our company's auspices need not be included.
57. A staff member who writes a book and wishes to promote it on personal time must make every effort to ensure that public appearances conform to the spirit of these guidelines and do not interfere with normal job responsibilities. If the staff member has doubts about an appearance, he or she must consult with newsroom management. Routine expenses and fees may be accepted for such promotional appearances. Speeches and other outside activities by staff members, paid or unpaid, should not imply that they carry the endorsement of our company or any of its units (unless they do). On each such occasion, the staff member should gracefully remind the audience that the views expressed are his or her own. Outside commitments should not interfere with the speaker's normal responsibilities. Thus no staff member should set an extensive speaking schedule without approval from newsroom management.
A5. Rules for Specialized Departments
58. No member of a sports staff in our company may gamble on any sports event, except for occasional recreational wagering in a legal setting.
59. Except for properly issued press passes for event coverage, members of the sports staff may not accept tickets, travel expenses, meals, gifts or any other benefit from teams or promoters. (At their discretion, unit newsroom managements may permit journalists to accept the light refreshments routinely offered in press boxes during games.)
60. Sports reporters assigned to cover games may not serve as scorers.
Entertainment and the Arts
61. Staff members covering entertainment and the arts have a special duty to guard against conflicts of interest, real or apparent. Arts coverage, whether national or local, can often make or break reputations and commercial success. In theater, movies, music, art, dance, publishing, fashion and restaurants, critics and reviewers have an obligation to exert our newsrooms' influence ethically and prudently.
62. Except in their published writing, reporters, reviewers, critics and their editors in the arts may not help others to develop, market or promote artistic, literary or other creative ventures. They may not introduce artists to agents, publishers, producers or galleries; chefs to restaurant owners; or designers to clothing manufacturers. They should refrain from unpublished commentary, even informal, on works in progress. They may not offer ideas or proposals to people who figure in their coverage or make investments in productions in their field. (Food writers and editors may not invest in restaurants.) They may not serve on advisory boards, awards juries or other panels organized by people who figure in coverage they provide, prepare or supervise. They may not accept awards from such panels.
63. An arts writer or editor who owns a work of exhibition quality (and thus has a financial stake in the artist's reputation) may arouse questions about the impartiality of critical judgments or editing decisions. Thus members of the feature staff who collect valuable art objects (paintings, photographs, sculpture, crafts and the like) must annually submit a list of their acquisitions and sales to newsroom management. If the top news executive falls under this provision, the list should be provided to the chief executive of the business unit.
64. Our company recognizes that its staffs include talented members who write books, music and plays; create sculpture and paintings; and give recitals. It also recognizes that a writer requires a publisher, a playwright a production company, an artist a gallery. Such relationships, however, can give rise to the fact or perception of favoritism. Staff members who enter into such arrangements must disclose them to newsroom management, and when appropriate the staff members may be disqualified from covering those with whom they have dealings.
65. No staff member of our company who prepares a travel article or broadcast — whether on assignment or freelance, and whether for us or for others – may accept free or discounted services or preferential treatment from any element of the travel industry. This rule covers hotels, resorts, restaurants, tour operators, airlines, railways, cruise lines, rental car companies and tourist attractions. This prohibition does not rule out routinely awarded frequent-flier points.
66. Editors or producers who accept travel coverage from nonstaff contributors have an obligation to guard against real or perceived conflicts of interest. They should exercise care in assigning or editing freelancers who have accepted free services while working for other news organizations; such a reputation can embarrass us. We do not give travel assignments to anyone who represents travel suppliers or who works for a government tourist office or as a publicist of any sort. A newsroom manager may make rare exceptions for special purposes – for example, to assign a writer widely recognized as an expert in a particular culture. In such a case, the journalist's connections must be disclosed in the published or broadcast coverage.
67. Writers of travel articles must conceal their identity as journalists during the reporting, so that they will experience the same conditions as an ordinary consumer. If the affiliation becomes known, the writer must discuss with a newsroom manager whether the assignment can be salvaged. In special cases, the affiliation may be disclosed – for example, when a permit is required to enter a closed area.
68. No journalist may report for us about any travel service or product offered by a family member or close friend.
A6. Obligations to Our Company
69. The good name of our company and of our business unit or publication does not belong to any of us. No one has a right to exploit it for private purposes.
70. Staff members may not use their company identification cards for purposes not connected with their work. ID cards may not be used to obtain special treatment or advantage from governmental, commercial or other organizations.
71. Staff members may not use company stationery, business cards, forms or other materials for any purpose except official business.
Speaking for the Company
72. Staff members must not disclose confidential information about the operations, policies or plans of our company or any of its divisions.
73. Senior news executives may authorize other staff members to comment publicly on policies or plans within the staff members' own areas of responsibility and expertise. If staff members are approached by outsiders or other media to discuss editorial content or policy more widely, our company policy requires that the caller be referred to the Corporate Communications department. Similarly, any inquiry addressed to a journalist about the company's advertising or other business activities should be referred to Corporate Communications.
74. Staff members are free to discuss their own activities in public, provided their comments do not create an impression that they lack journalistic impartiality or speak for the company.
75. Any staff member may respond openly and honestly to a reasonable inquiry from a reader about the staff member's work. If a reader asks for a correction, that request must be passed promptly to a supervisor. If the request threatens legal action or appears to be from a lawyer, the complaint should be promptly referred to the legal department through a responsible newsroom manager.
Returning Borrowed Equipment
76. Staff members who borrow equipment, vehicles or other goods for evaluation or review must return them as soon as possible. Similarly, items borrowed to be photographed, such as fashion apparel or home furnishings, should be returned promptly.
77. Automobile reviewers should carry out their testing expeditiously and return the vehicle promptly. Any period longer than two or three days must be approved by a responsible newsroom manager. A reasonable amount of personal use is permissible if that use contributes to the review.
78. Staff members may keep for their own collections – but may not sell or copy — books, recordings, tapes, compact discs and computer programs sent to them for review. Such submissions are considered press releases. But no one may request extra copies of review materials for personal use. Local management may impose a ceiling on the value of review copies that journalists may retain. If not retained by the reviewer, recorded or digital media, such as tapes or disks, must be destroyed or returned to the provider; they may not be given away or left where they could be carried off for illicit copying.
79. Photographers, camera operators, picture editors, film editors, art directors, lab personnel and technology editors and reporters may not accept gifts of equipment, programs or materials from manufacturers or vendors. They may not endorse equipment, programs or materials, or offer advice on product design. (This guideline is not meant to restrict our technical staff from working with vendors to improve our systems or equipment.)
A7. Advertisers and the Business Side
80. Our company and our local units treat advertisers as fairly and openly as they treat our audiences and news sources. The relationship between the company and advertisers rests on the understanding that news and advertising are separate – that those who deal with either one have distinct obligations and interests, and each group respects the other's professional responsibilities.
81. Journalists should maintain their independence by avoiding discussions of advertising needs, goals and problems except where those are directly related to the business of the newsroom. The news and advertising departments may properly confer on the layout and configuration of a newspaper (though not on specific content) or the timing of special sections, and on the timing and placement of commercials or Web advertising. The departments may also work together in designing new print, broadcast or Web offerings to make sure that the result is viable both journalistically and economically.
82. Advertising and "advertorials" (paid text or paid broadcast content) must not resemble news content. To the maximum extent permitted by local resources, advertorials should be prepared and produced by the business departments, outside the newsroom.
83. When authorized by top newsroom management, members of the news staff may take part in interdepartmental committees on problems that affect several departments, including news. As far as possible, the news representatives should leave advertising issues to colleagues from the business side.
84. From time to time, when authorized by top news executives, journalists may take part in events organized by the company for marketing or promotion or investor presentations. But they should confine their role to discussion of our journalism and avoid the appearance or reality of making a sales presentation.
85. No one in our news departments (except when authorized by top news executives) may exchange information with the advertising department or with advertisers about the timing or content of advertising, the timing or content of news coverage or the assignment of staff or freelance news people.
B. On Our Own Time
B1. Participation in Public Life
86. The people of our company are family members and responsible citizens as well as journalists. Nothing in this policy is intended to abridge their right to live private lives – to educate their children, to worship and to take part in community affairs. But like other dedicated professionals, we knowingly accept disciplines – in our case, with the goal of ethical and impartial journalism.
87. As noted in Paragraph 7, some of these requirements apply to all newsroom and editorial page employees, journalists and support staff alike. No newsroom or editorial employee may do anything that damages our reputation for strict neutrality in reporting on politics and government. In particular, no one may wear campaign buttons or display any other sign of political partisanship while on the job while working for our company inside or outside the office. For all other purposes, "staff members" in this section refers only to those who prepare or accept news content, as defined in Paragraph 5.
88. While the provisions of this document apply principally to journalists and some apply more widely to newsroom staffs (as explained in Paragraphs 5 through 8), the company recognizes that the activities of publishers and of their counterparts in broadcast and online operations – those senior executives to whom news and editorial department heads directly report – can also affect the appearance and reality of neutrality in reporting on politics and government. For that reason, Paragraphs 89 through 94 below will apply additionally to those executives.
Voting, Campaigns and Public Issues
89. Journalists do not take part in politics. While staff members are entitled to vote and to register in party primaries, they must do nothing that might raise questions about their professional neutrality or that of our news operations. In particular, they may not campaign for, demonstrate for, or endorse candidates, ballot causes or efforts to enact legislation. They may not wear campaign buttons or themselves display any other insignia of partisan politics.
90. Staff members may not themselves give money to any political candidate or election cause or raise money for one. Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributions, any political giving by a staff member would risk feeding a false impression that we are taking sides.
91. No staff member may seek public office anywhere. Seeking or serving in public office violates the professional detachment expected of a journalist. Active participation by one of our staff can sow a suspicion of favoritism in political coverage.
92. Staff members may not march or rally in support of public causes or movements or sign advertisements or petitions taking a position on public issues. They may not lend their names to campaigns, benefit dinners or similar events if doing so might reasonably raise doubts about their ability or their newsroom's ability to remain neutral in covering the news. Neighbors and other outsiders commonly see us as representatives of our institution.
93. Staff members may appear from time to time on local or national radio and television programs devoted to public affairs, but they should avoid expressing views that go beyond the news and analysis that could properly appear under their regular bylines. Op-Ed columnists and editorial writers enjoy more leeway than others in speaking publicly, because their business is expressing opinions. They should nevertheless choose carefully the forums in which they appear and protect the impartiality of our journalism.
94. A staff member with doubts about a proposed political activity should consult a responsible manager. These guidelines protect the heart of our mission as journalists. Where the conflict with our impartiality seems minimal, top news executives may consider matters case by case, but they should be exceedingly cautious before permitting an exception.
Serving the Community
95. Journalists should stand apart from institutions that make news. Staff members may not serve on government boards or commissions, paid or unpaid. They may not join boards of trustees, advisory committees or similar groups except those serving journalistic organizations or otherwise promoting journalism education. Depending on circumstances, newsroom heads may permit staff members to serve on a board of trustees or visitors for a school, college or university, especially one with a family connection. Upon request, newsroom heads may also authorize a staff member to appear before a local school board to advocate decisions that may directly affect the journalist's children, but only if the issue falls outside the staff member's coverage responsibilities.
96. Our company respects community citizenship. Normally the restriction on joining trustee boards or advisory committees will not apply to local or neighborhood organizations that are unlikely to generate news of broader interest and those that do not generally seek to shape public policy. These typically include houses of worship, community charities, civic clubs, local libraries, fine arts groups, hobby groups, youth athletic leagues, country clubs and alumni groups. But news is unpredictable. Even neighborhood institutions sometimes find themselves in the spotlight. In that event, a staff member with ties to the institution must stand aside from any controversy and not take part in the coverage. In no case may a staff member's affiliation with our company be used to further the goals of such a nonprofit or volunteer organization.
97. Staff members may not solicit funds for social, political, religious or other philanthropic causes. Soliciting can create an expectation of a favor in return. Within reason staff members may help the groups described in Paragraph 96 with relatively modest fund-raising. They should never solicit anyone with whom they or their newsroom has professional dealings or invoke the name of our company or any of its units.
B2. Avoiding Conflicts Over Family
98. In a day when most families balance two careers, the legitimate activities of household members and other relatives can sometimes create journalistic conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts. These can arise in civic or political life, professional work and financial activity. A spouse's or companion's campaign for public office would obviously create the appearance of conflict for a political reporter or television producer involved in election coverage. A brother or a daughter in a high-profile job on Wall Street might produce the appearance of conflict for a business reporter or editor.
99. Our company has no wish to intrude upon family members who are not its employees. Nothing in this document prohibits a spouse, companion or other relative of a staff member from taking part in any political, financial, commercial, religious or civic activity. Where restrictions are necessary, they fall on the company employee alone. But any attempt to conceal a staff member's activity by using a relative's name (or any other alias) would constitute a violation.
100. Staff members must be sensitive that direct political activity by their spouses, family or household members, such as running for office or managing a campaign – even while proper – may well create conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts. Even limited participation, like giving money or ringing doorbells, may stir suspicions of political bias if it becomes conspicuous. Staff members and their families should be wary of ambiguity. A bumper sticker on the family car or a campaign sign on the lawn may be misread as the journalist's, no manner who in the household actually placed it. When a spouse or companion makes a campaign contribution, it is wise to avoid writing the check on a joint account.
101. To avoid conflicts, staff members may not furnish, prepare or supervise news content about relatives, spouses or others with whom they have close personal relationships. For the same reasons, staff members should not recruit or directly supervise family members or close friends. Some exceptions are permissible – in a foreign bureau, for instance, where a married couple form a team, or in a small news department, with the approval of top newsroom management.
102. The company and its units depend on staff members to disclose potential problems in a timely fashion, with an eye to working together to head off embarrassment to all concerned. Any staff member who sees a potential for a conflict of interest in the activities of spouse, relatives or friends must discuss the situation with newsroom management. In many or even most cases, disclosure will suffice. But if newsroom management considers the problem serious, the staff member may have to withdraw from certain coverage. Sometimes an assignment may have to be modified or a beat changed.
B3. Protections Against Financial Conflicts
103. Every member of the company must be vigilant against any appearance of abusing nonpublic information for financial gain. That requirement applies to all departments.
104. No staff member may own stock or have any other financial interest, including a board membership, in a company, enterprise or industry about which she or he regularly furnishes, prepares or supervises coverage. This restriction extends beyond the business beat. A book editor may not invest in a publishing house, a health writer in a pharmaceutical company or a Pentagon reporter in a mutual fund specializing in defense stocks. "Stock," as used here, means not just individual issues but also futures, options, rights, and speculative debt, as well as "sector" mutual funds (those focused on one industry).
105. In any region or locality where one company or industry is dominant, no news staff member likely to influence coverage of that business may own its shares. That description applies to top newsroom managers who are broadly responsible for coverage (including editorial-page editors); the head of each news or editorial department should decide to which rank-and-file journalists and middle-level editors it properly applies.
106. Staff members may not buy or sell securities or make other investments in anticipation of coming news coverage. Before trading, they must wait for a reasonable period, to give the public time to absorb the news. (Our legal department can advise on the timing.) This restriction does not apply to spot news reports that first appear on news agency wires or originate outside our organization.
107. Staff members in each of our newsrooms should be asked, when hired, to affirm that they have no investments that would violate Paragraph 104 with respect to their proposed assignment. If a new staff member is unable to give that assurance, she or he must either dispose of the conflicting investment or accept an assignment where no such conflict exists. Similarly staff members should be asked, when hired, to affirm that to the best of their knowledge no household member or close relative has financial holdings that might reasonably raise doubts about the staff member's impartiality in the proposed assignment. Here, too, the answer could require recusal or an alternative assignment.
108. From time to time, management may ask staff members in any news or editorial department to affirm that they have no investments in violation of Paragraph 104. Such a request might be expected, for example, when a staff member is about to begin a new assignment or work on a particularly sensitive article. Similarly the journalist may be asked to affirm that to the best of his or her knowledge no household member or close relative has financial holdings that might reasonably raise doubts about the journalist's impartiality. If such conditions arise, the staff member must alert newsroom management.
109. If a journalist in any medium is assigned to provide or prepare coverage outside his or her own beat, about a company or industry in which she or he owns stock, the journalist must discuss the investment with the assigning editor or producer before beginning the work. Similarly, editors or producers assigned to extensive news coverage about companies or industries in which they have investments must advise their supervisors of potential conflicts before proceeding. In many instances it will be permissible for the work to go on, but a journalist who works on such an assignment may not buy or sell stock in the company or industry until two weeks after publication or broadcast.
Avoiding Market Conflicts
110. Journalists who regularly cover business and financial news may not play the market: that is, they may not conduct in-and-out trading, speculate in options or futures or sell securities short. Any of these actions could create an appearance of exploiting information not available to the public. Staff members who regularly cover business aspects of technology or other subjects are also subject to this rule.
111. Each newsroom is responsible for giving the public complete confidence that editors' choices are not biased by their personal finances. Depending on the editors' duties and on the volume, visibility and influence of each newsroom's business coverage, this assurance can be accomplished through periodic recusal, disclosure or an outright ban on owning stocks. Editors who regularly assign or supervise business or financial coverage would be well advised to avoid owning stocks in individual companies or sectors.
112. To avoid an appearance of conflict, business editors and their superiors in each news operation must affirm annually to their unit's chief financial officer that they have no financial holdings in violation of this set of rules. This requirement applies to editorial-page editors as well.
113. A staff member who owns stock and moves into an assignment where such holdings are not permitted must sell the stock. Each unit should devise a reasonable transition plan.
114. Whenever these rules require the sale of stockholdings, a staff member can satisfy the requirement by putting the holdings into a blind trust or the equivalent.
115. Though this document imposes some necessary limits on freedom to invest, it leaves a broad range of personal finance opportunities open to our journalists. Any staff member is free to own diversified mutual funds, money market funds and other diversified investments outside the staff member's day-to-day control. Any member may also own treasury bills, investment-grade municipal bonds, debt securities other than speculative bonds, and securities issued by The New York Times Company. And rank-and-file staff members are free to own stocks unrelated to their assignment.
B4. Freelance Writing and Broadcast Appearances
116. With approval of senior newsroom managers, staff members may accept freelance assignments that do not directly compete with our own offerings. Normally, work for competitors will not be permitted. In rare instances, permission may be granted when supervisory editors are not interested in the article or project offered by a staff member. Staff members are encouraged to offer their freelance work to their own news unit before trying to place it elsewhere.
117. Also with approval, staff members may participate in radio, television or online interviews or discussions, local or national, that deal with articles they have written or subjects that figure in coverage they provide, prepare or supervise. Such occasional appearances must not imply that the journalist speaks for our organization (unless that is officially the case). Staff members should ensure that the use of their names and their company affiliation, in materials promoting the appearances, is consistent with the newspaper's impartiality.
118. The senior executive of each news operation in the company, in consultation with that operation's top business manager, should maintain a list of the present and likely competitors in its journalistic arena. These might include any newspaper, magazine, television venture, online service or other medium, regardless of form, that has a similar editorial focus, either for a general audience or with particular segments of ours. If the competitive status of a freelance outlet is unclear, the staff member should consult with newsroom management.
119. Staff members may not appear on broadcasts that compete directly with our company's own offerings on television or online. Otherwise they may make occasional broadcast or online appearances as outlined elsewhere in this document. But they must seek management's approval before accepting full-fledged assignments for reporting, anchoring, editing or production from any outside broadcast venture, even one that sells programming to us, buys it from us or makes it in partnership with us.
Governing Freelance Work
120. Staff members must ensure that their freelance work does not interfere with their normal responsibilities and that it is consistent with the policies and guidelines of this document and any standards adopted locally by our newsrooms.
121. Before accepting a freelance assignment, a staff member should make sure that the tone and content of the outlet are consistent with the standards of the local news department and our company. A staff member should place nothing elsewhere that implies sponsorship or endorsement by our company or its units.
122. In a radio, television, telephonic or online appearance, or any other public forum, we should avoid strident, theatrical vehicles that emphasize punditry or reckless opinionmongering. Our contributions should be marked by thoughtful and retrospective analysis. Generally a staff member should not say anything on the air or online that goes beyond the news and analysis that could properly appear under his or her regular byline.
123. Because outside work unavoidably reflects on our company, staff members who accept freelance assignments or make broadcast or online appearances should adhere to these guidelines in carrying out that work. For example, they may not accept compensation, expenses, discounts, gifts or other inducements from a news source. Similarly, any staff member who establishes a personal site on the Web must insure that his or her online conduct conforms to these guidelines.
124. Frequency matters. Freelance work, whether in print or in electronic media, can create a conflict of interest if it is pursued with such regularity that it interferes with normal assignments or compromises the integrity or independence of the news report. Freelancing can also create a conflict if it identifies a staff member as closely with another publication, program or Web site as with his or her regular job. Writing under a pseudonym does not alter the obligation to comply with this provision.
125. A regular contribution to an outside enterprise may be permissible if it does not flow from the journalist's regular responsibilities or interfere with them, and if it does not involve content owed to our company and its audiences. Examples of acceptable affiliations might be a city editor who writes a monthly column on fishing or a news photographer who has a modest studio business. Staff members considering such continuing ventures should confer with newsroom management.
B5. Web Pages and Web Logs
126. Web pages and Web logs (the online personal journals known as blogs) present imaginative opportunities for personal expression and exciting new journalism. When created by our staff or published on our Web sites, they also require cautions, magnified by the Web's unlimited reach.
127. Personal journals that appear on our official Web sites are subject to the newsroom's standards of fairness, taste and legal propriety. Nothing may be published under the name of our company or any of our units unless it has gone through an editing or moderating process.
128. If a staff member publishes a personal Web page or blog on a site outside our company's control, the staff member has a duty to make sure that the content is purely that: personal. Staff members who write blogs should generally avoid topics they cover professionally; failure to do so would invite a confusion of roles. No personal Web activity should imply the participation or endorsement of the Times Company or any of its units. No one may post text, audio or video created for a Times Company unit without obtaining appropriate permission.
129. Given the ease of Web searching, even a private journal by a staff member is likely to become associated in the audience's mind with the company's reputation. Thus blogs and Web pages created outside our facilities must nevertheless be temperate in tone, reflecting taste, decency and respect for the dignity and privacy of others. In such a forum, our staff members may chronicle their daily lives and may be irreverent, but should not defame or humiliate others. Their prose may be highly informal, even daring, but not shrill or intolerant. They may include photos or video but not offensive images. They may incorporate reflections on journalism, but they should not divulge private or confidential information obtained through their inside access to our newsroom or our Company.
130. Bloggers may write lively commentary on their preferences in food, music, sports or other avocations, but as journalists they must avoid taking stands on divisive public issues. A staff member's Web page that was outspoken on the abortion issue would violate our policy in exactly the same way as participation in a march or rally on the subject. A blog that takes a political stand is as far out of bounds as a letter to the editor supporting or opposing a candidate. The definition of a divisive public issue will vary from one community to another; in case of doubt, staff members should consult local newsroom management.
131. A staff member's private Web page or blog must be independently produced. It should be free of advertising or sponsorship support from individuals or organizations whose coverage the staff member is likely to provide, prepare or supervise during working hours. Care should be taken in linking to any subject matter that would be off limits on the Web page itself.
B6. Books, and Rights to Our Materials
132. Any staff member intending to write a nonfiction book based on material that derives from his or her assignment or beat must notify newsroom management in advance. If the plan is to reproduce content created for any of our media, the Times Company owns that material outright. It may not be reproduced elsewhere without the prior written permission of the company. And it cannot be rewritten, updated or otherwise altered and then republished without the company's prior written permission. If a staff member is approached by someone seeking rights to Times Company material, the inquiry must be forwarded promptly to newsroom management.
133. Staff members who plan outside writing or other outside creative work must never permit an impression that they might benefit financially from the outcome of news events. Thus a staff member may not negotiate about rights to an article or story idea before the article has appeared. Staff members involved in covering a running story may not negotiate over creative works of any sort based on that coverage until the news has played out.
134. At no time may a staff member turn over notes, interviews, documents, outtakes or other working materials to any third party, including agents, producers, studios or outside production agencies, or share those materials with them unless legally compelled to do so. In case of such a request, the Times Company's legal department will provide assistance (consistent with collective bargaining agreements). As a matter of policy, the Times Company will not give commercial producers or publishers access to working materials any more than it would turn them over to government prosecutors for use in court.
135. Staff members offered consulting agreements in television or film by agents, producers, studios or others must consult a responsible newsroom manager before accepting. No staff member may serve as a consultant to a film or program that he or she knows in advance is tendentious or clearly distorts the underlying facts. In no case should a consulting role be described in a way that invokes our company or its local units, or implies our endorsement or participation.
C. Outside Contributors
136. Our audience applies exacting standards to all of our journalism. It does not normally distinguish between the work of staff members and that of outside freelancers. Thus as far as possible, freelance contributors to the Times Company's journalism, while not its employees, should accept the same ethical standards as staff members as a condition of their assignments for us. If they violate these standards, they should be denied further assignments.
137. Before being given an assignment, freelance contributors must sign a contract with the Times Company or one of its units. Such a contract obliges them to take care to avoid conflicts of interests or the appearance of conflict. Specifically, in connection with their work for us, freelancers will not accept free transportation, free lodging, gifts, junkets, commissions or assignments from current or potential news sources. Independent broadcast producers, similarly, must comply with our ethical standards during their preparation of any news production that will bear the name of the Times Company or one of its units.
138. Assigning editors and producers who deal with nonstaff contributors should be aware that a freelancer's previous involvements and professional behavior can prove an embarrassment. They should make every effort to insure that a freelancer has no history or ties that would raise a real or apparent conflict of interest on a particular assignment.
139. The concise provisions of our freelance contracts cannot cover every circumstance that might arise. Assigning editors and producers should ensure that contributors are aware of this set of rules and to the greatest extent possible honor its provisions while on assignment for us. Any disagreement over whether a specific provision applies to outside contributors should be resolved before the assignment proceeds.
© 2008 The New York Times Company