General standards and practices for Hearst Newspapers
Hearst Newspapers Updated: Nov. 20, 2020 1 p.m.
Editor's note: This is the standards and practices policy that Times Union journalists are expected to follow.
A news organization’s credibility relies on a foundation of trust: trust that the newsroom will aggressively seek out the news and unapologetically relay it to the public; trust that it will report the news accurately, fairly and impartially; and trust that its journalists will conduct themselves professionally and ethically as they carry out the important charge of informing their communities.
Maintaining the trust of our readers is hard work, and requires zealous and scrupulous effort to perform our jobs with integrity and honesty, avoiding conflicts of interest – or the appearance of conflicts, whether personal or professional — that may call into question our credibility to report the news in a way that promotes the truth.
In an effort to offer guidance to newsroom staff on what is expected of you, we have established these general policies for the conduct of newsroom employees. While no set of guidelines can cover every conceivable issue, the very public nature of our work demands that we maintain these baseline editorial standards and practices. Your individual news organization may also have additional policies that build and expand on these standards and practices.
Our reputation for trustworthiness depends on each member of the newsroom living up to the same standards of professional conduct, and we expect each newsroom employee to be familiar with and follow these guidelines. Acting in a way that is inconsistent with these guidelines is a serious matter that may prompt disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
Thousands of journalists have helped build Hearst Newspapers’ reputation. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to maintain that reputation and retain the trust of our communities.
Honesty, fairness and accuracy are paramount. We strive to report the news as completely as possible, providing divergent viewpoints when it is appropriate and responsible to do so. When necessary, we will clarify how we know what we’ve reported as well as when facts may not be immediately clear.
Follow the law
Being a reporter is an important role in society, but it is not a license to break the law.
Staffers are expected to abide by the law in gathering information for publication. Take particular care to avoid trespassing on private property, even if invited onto it by law enforcement. Be conscious of whether the subject of an audio or visual recording has an expectation of privacy. For example, when a reporter is invited into an apartment complex by a resident, your permission to be on the property depends on your being with that resident; if you leave that resident and start knocking on other apartment doors on your own, you run the risk of a trespass claim. Similarly, legal protections may apply when a source chooses to share confidential information with a reporter, but those protections would not apply when a reporter coaxes a source to break the law, such as by sharing credentials necessary to access non-public information.
If your reporting is likely to involve a situation with legal implications, consult with your editors and legal counsel as early in the reporting process as possible.
At crime scenes, protests, marches and other events where law enforcement is engaged in crowd control, be respectful and, to the extent possible, follow the instructions of the authorities: do not act in a way that would give law enforcement a clear reason to detain or arrest you. To ensure that you have the support you need in potentially dangerous or difficult situations promptly call your editor and, if appropriate, legal counsel for help or advice.
Plagiarism and attribution
Plagiarism is one of the most serious lapses in ethical conduct among journalists, and it is one that undermines the individual reporter’s and the news organization’s credibility with readers and colleagues. It is unacceptable to use wording, quotes or other material from another publication or individual without proper and complete attribution. All language, research findings and images in our publications should be the original work of our staff or should be credited to an original source. Even if credit is given, if you use someone else’s actual phrasing, it should be marked as a quotation.
Stories that include material from wire services should credit the service when specific language or quotes are borrowed, or should use an attributing phrase such as "the Associated Press reported" in the body of the story and, if appropriate, at the end of the story. Similarly, material used from a press release or contained on a website should be attributed to the source. It may at times be appropriate to attribute the original source of a story if it was broken by another media source.
Previously reported material from your news organization can be used without attribution, but if a story relies heavily on such material, it should be attributed. You should not rely on the reporting of other news organizations, and, if such other reporting is referenced, it should be attributed and kept to a minimum.
Identification as a journalist
In all forms of newsgathering, representatives of the newsroom should not purposefully mislead subjects. As a practice, journalists should proactively identify themselves as such. Any decision to misrepresent oneself or to impersonate someone else can undermine our organization’s credibility. There may be limited reporting situations where anonymity or the use of a pseudonym is necessary, such as when food critics visit restaurants they are reviewing. Nevertheless, any decision to misrepresent oneself or use reportorial anonymity must be approved by the editorial leadership of your publication in advance, and, if appropriate, reviewed by legal counsel.
It is up to each journalist to check their work for accuracy and to immediately inform editors of needed corrections. Furthermore, when you spot or learn of errors elsewhere in our publications, you should promptly bring them to the attention of editors, who will determine whether corrections or clarifications are necessary. If you are told of a significant error by someone outside the newsroom, be careful not to make promises about corrections : collect the information, thank the person for telling us and say that we’ll check it out, notify the appropriate editors, who will either direct you to investigate the matter yourself or pass it on to someone else in the newsroom to look into it.
We also owe it to our readers to avoid printing falsehoods, even when they are uttered by the subjects of our reporting. In some circumstances, the fact that a false statement was made by a person or entity may be newsworthy and merit coverage. In such circumstances, your reporting should identify the falsity and explain evidence that refutes it.
The deliberate use of false information – including, but not limited to, false quotations or imaginary sources – is prohibited.
Transparency is essential to maintaining public trust, and when we make mistakes, we should correct them. But we must be careful not to act hastily in fixing our mistakes; errors and legal risks are often compounded by incomplete, inappropriate or rushed changes. Put the same care into checking the facts about a possible correction that you would for any reporting.
Factual errors or corrections of misleading statements that would warrant a correction in print should also be reflected online. Changes that substantially alter the balance and tone of the story should be made clear to the reader. In general, all corrections, clarifications or retractions must be approved by a senior editor and, when appropriate, by legal counsel; you must not publish corrections on your own.
Follow your publication’s style for the wording and placement of corrections and clarifications.
Removal of published material
In general, we do not remove published material from our websites unless there is a clear public safety issue that can be substantiated by court documents or police records. Any decision to remove information or an entire article from our websites must be approved by the editorial leadership. In rare cases, we may decide to add information to an online story.
We should consider carefully whether to use a booking/mug shot when alternative photos of an individual are available. Decisions on using mugshots to illustrate a story should be made with news value in mind, not page views.
Mugshots should not be used in photo galleries or stories about mass arrests, such as coverage of protests of police sweeps. Factors weighing against publication include the existence of other photos of an individual, which we should take steps to obtain if possible.
Extra care should be taken in considering whether to use booking photos in reporting on individuals who are arrested but not charged, reporting on minor criminal matters, and with incremental or procedural reporting on a criminal case.
Race, sexual orientation and gender
In general, we do not report the race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation of people unless such information is pertinent to the reporting and important to understanding the story. For example, in stories about immigration or race issues, a source’s ethnic or racial background may be relevant to a reader’s understanding of the issues involved.
If we decide to include an individual’s race in a story, the reporter should, whenever possible, verify the race with that person or a knowledgeable source. Never assume a person’s race based on appearance.
Similarly, journalists should take care to ascertain how a source identifies by gender or orientation, if relevant to the coverage. Gender descriptions, including preferred pronoun usage, should follow your news organization’s style. The editorial leadership must approve a decision to disclose the sexual orientation of any person who does not openly acknowledge it.
In crime stories or stories where officials use race or skin color to describe crime suspects, such information should generally only be published if it is accompanied by several other identifying traits that clearly identify a specific individual. At best, a racial description of a suspect, without more, does nothing to help the public, and, at worst, only satisfies prurient interests or racial stereotypes. If officials provide a vague description, push for more. As with other races, stories should not omit racial identification of white suspects when applicable.
As a general practice, police blotter roundups and briefs should not identify defendants or suspects by name. When deciding whether to name an individual in initial crime reporting, consider whether the story is one that we are likely to continue to follow. If we name an individual at the time of arrest or filing of criminal charges, we should also be responsible in following the matter and reporting relevant updates, particularly if we learn that charges are dropped or dismissed, or the individual is acquitted.
In general, do not name juvenile suspects (under the age of 18) in crime stories.
Exceptions may be made when a juvenile is charged as an adult in a criminal proceeding.
We should also be cautious about identifying minors who are the victims of crime, and, in general news stories, where we are unable to get consent from parents or guardians.
Offensive language, including profanity and insulting comment, should be published only when essential to a story. There may be times when it is appropriate to use profanity, vulgarity or slurs in a journalistic piece, such as when public officials use such language or where the language is central to the story. However, in general, you should refrain from using such language in your work and in your interactions with the public, including on social media, and should, in all cases, discuss using such language with a senior editor before publication.
In general, do not identify victims of sexual assault unless the person informs us that they want to be named. If a sexual assault victim files a civil lawsuit in the matter, under most circumstances it is acceptable to name plaintiff.
Treat suicides and attempted suicides with sensitivity.
Sourcing material for publication
Attributing facts to anonymous sources must be extremely rare and occur only when all other on-the-record options have been exhausted. The decision to use a confidential source can diminish the credibility of the story and the news organization, and, as appropriate, we should explain to readers why we are relying on anonymous sources. Editors should consult with legal counsel as appropriate.
Anonymity should be granted sparingly and only in cases where 1) the source has a reasonable basis to fear retaliation or other adverse consequences from speaking out; 2) the information the source will convey is significant; and 3) there is no other way to obtain it. Never allow a source to use the cloak of anonymity to disparage others or to express political opinions.
In some day-to-day reporting, it may not be necessary to establish ground rules before speaking with a source. Nevertheless, as a general practice, make it clear at the outset of any interview that you are a reporter and that whatever the source says to you may be quoted in a published news report. Depending on the source’s familiarity with the news media, it may be enough to use the term “on the record.”
Promises to sources
Under no circumstances should you promise confidentiality to a source without first consulting with your editor and, if appropriate, legal counsel. If you are unable to speak with an editor before speaking with a source, be clear that you will need to discuss the possibility of a confidentiality agreement with your editors. A promise not to identify a source can have serious legal implications, both for the reporter and the company, and could potentially expose the reporter to jail and the company to court-imposed fines. These risks can exist even if you do not publish a report based on the source’s information.
Your editor and, potentially, the Editor in Chief or Executive Producer may ask for the identity of the source, and you should alert the source of this before making any agreement regarding confidentiality. If, after discussion with your editors, a decision is made to protect the identity of a source, the source and journalist must discuss conditions under which the source will release the journalist from the agreement to protect his or her identity. A reporter who pledges to protect the identity of a source must not violate that pledge.
At all times, it is incumbent upon the journalist to be certain that the source understands the conditions of a conversation before any agreement is made regarding confidentiality. When establishing any limits on attribution with a source, avoid using boilerplate terms like “background” and “off the record”, and instead use clear language with the source (“Can I refer to you as a person involved in the investigation?”; “Can I identify you if I’m asked?”; “Can I identify you if I am subpoenaed?”; Can I identify you if I am facing a court order to reveal your identity and may go to jail?”).
Some additional caveats for writing about sources:
Do not refer to “sources” when you have just one source, whether confidential or on the record.
Avoid using the same source as both a confidential and a named source in the same story. Doing this can suggest or reveal the identity of the source.
Do not use broad references such as “sources close to” or “sources informed about” when more specific identifiers would better reflect the credibility of your sourcing.
Do not show, email or read story drafts to sources or otherwise give sources the impression that they have control over what will or won’t be published. You can – and should – review quotes you are not sure of and other facts in a story with your sources as part of your editing and fact-checking.
The laws regarding recording audio and/or video without consent vary from state to state, as do the circumstances in which consent might be implied or a person might have a reasonable expectation of privacy. As a general practice, even in “one-party-consent” states, it is safest to obtain clear consent from the subject of the recording at the beginning of an interview.
Surreptitious/hidden camera reporting can present significant legal risks; any decision to pursue and/or publish such reporting must be pre-approved by the editorial leadership of your publication and requires consultation between editors and legal counsel.
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT AND CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
It is imperative that journalists adhere to the principles of fair, truthful and accurate reporting of the day’s news, regardless of subject and no matter the platform. We will inform the public about important issues and events in a manner that is upfront, transparent and professional. In doing this work, we must avoid conflicts of interest, both real and perceived, that could affect our audience’s perception of the fairness, truth and accuracy of our news coverage. This does not mean we shy away from hard-hitting reporting, shining light on darkness, and challenging our readers with hard facts. But it does mean avoiding conflicts of interest and compensating for personal biases.
This is an ongoing exercise for all journalists, but a necessary one: Fair and honest reportage must involve an intelligent exchange of ideas and be based on indisputable facts, free of the journalist’s ideology or personal conviction. To that end, every newsroom employee, regardless of job function, must avoid real or perceived conflicts. Some conflicts will be clear and obvious, while others may be less so. Some can be handled through careful reporting and editing, while others cannot. In conducting yourself as a journalist, consider the four principles laid out in the Society for Professional Journalists code of ethics: Seek truth and report it; minimize harm; act independently; be accountable and transparent.
As journalists, our mission is to inform our communities by presenting the story — whatever the subject, and whatever our personal views about it — as fully, fairly and impartially as possible. That means understanding the difference between news and opinion, and being clear with our readers about which one we are offering them, regardless of the platform or method in which we communicate with them.
We use the tools of modern journalism — including collecting differing sides of the story, using competent sources, avoiding speculation as to the facts, and putting our work through rigorous editing — to check and counter our personal biases (including unconscious biases), with the goal of producing news coverage that the reader can accept as fair. And if we are doing our jobs well, we must not take shortcuts to get there: we should avoid the trope that being “objective” means simply getting two opposing views and presenting the truth as somewhere in the middle.
In non-opinion material, we should seek out relevant perspective from as many varied and detailed perspectives as the story warrants and go beyond the usual voices in our sourcing. We should actively strive to accurately and fairly reflect the diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, geography and political views that distinguish our communities, such that people in the community will see themselves represented in our coverage.
Avoiding and controlling for biases
Journalists should not use their platforms to air or publicize personal complaints against individuals, organizations or companies.
No journalist should be involved in the reporting or editing of a story in which they have a clear conflict, including involvement of close friends, relatives, spouses or domestic partners.
No newsroom employee may seek to obtain personal financial benefit from knowledge obtained in the course of their work. All employees must publicly disclose relevant financial interests to readers.
Editors and reporters should not hold investments in companies they cover. If a staff member with a financial interest in a company outside his or her regular beat is assigned a story concerning that company, he or she must disclose the matter to the assigning editor before undertaking the assignment and the assigning editor must obtain approval from the appropriate editors. Editors assigned to handle stories concerning companies or investments in which they have a personal stake must advise their supervisors of the potential conflict and obtain similar approval. If such approval is obtained, the conflict must be clearly disclosed in the article.
Inside information, personal financial benefit
No members of newsroom staff may seek financial or other paid or unpaid benefits for themselves or others by disclosing or acting upon any nonpublic information, including the timing of our publication of an article, acquired in the course of their employment.
Similarly, no staffer may seek to obtain personal financial benefit in connection with our coverage of particular products or businesses.
Staff members may not buy or sell any securities or otherwise make investments in anticipation of forthcoming articles we plan to publish. In instances where staff members become aware of nonpublic information concerning a company as a result of their employment with the company, the staff members may not trade on that information until the information has been disseminated to the general public.
Paying for information
Under no circumstances may staffers pay a source for information or access to information, either directly or indirectly. Purchasing a coffee or, within reason, a meal for a source as part of meeting a source or developing a source relationship is unlikely to run afoul of this prohibition. However, staffers should be cautious about cultivating personal relationships or the appearance of personal relationships with subjects of their coverage or sources. Such relationships can create concerns about the fairness and independence of our coverage.
Similarly, staffers must not accept payment or gifts in exchange for, or in response to, our coverage.
Social media use
Social media platforms offer powerful ways for us to communicate with our readers, and they provide an opportunity for us to expand the audience for our journalism and enhance our news organization’s reputation as an honest broker of the news.
But we must be conscious of the ways that posts on social media – often without context or editing – can undermine the hard work that we do to maintain our organization’s reputation for integrity and credibility. When we use social media to share personal opinions about the issues the newsroom covers, we can do harm to our shared reputation and call into question whether our reporting lives up to the ideals of our journalistic mission.
In our news publications, we clearly identify editorials, opinions and columns as expressions of a viewpoint; readers know what they are getting. This isn’t the case on social media, and experience suggests that the average news consumer has a harder time distinguishing fact from opinion on social media.
As journalists, our mission is to inform our communities by presenting the story – whatever the subject, and whatever our personal views about it – as fully, fairly and impartially as possible. That mission is impossible if we blur the lines between fact-based reporting and our opinions. Postings that express personal opinions that would never make it into a news story can lead the public to lose trust in us to report factually, fairly and honestly. This risk of losing public trust is perhaps all the greater when reporters share their opinions on hot topics and movements, which will often, and sometimes suddenly, take on politically charged dimensions.
It is essential that newsroom staffers understand that their use of social media is an extension of the journalism we publish and is subject to the same standards and practices. Staff members must keep in mind the impact that a social media posting that conflicts with these standards can have not just on the individual reporter’s reputation, but on the reputation of the entire organization.
Newsroom employees should avoid posting commentary that could be understood as expressing bias or favoritism about the important issues covered in our publications: if it wouldn’t make it into our publications, it shouldn’t be posted on social media. This applies to reporters just as much as it applies to columnists writing outside their coverage area. Exceptions may be made for opinion journalists who have been asked to cover specific topics, such as politics, and for discussion of free press issues.
Social media is not the appropriate venue for voicing complaints about the news organization or colleagues that could be resolved through appropriate internal channels. Such use of social media undermines our commitment to a safe, collaborative and respectful workplace. Similarly, newsroom staffers should not use social media to disparage our readers and those who engage with our journalism. Nor should staffers use social media (and the weight of the newsroom’s reputation) to settle scores, harass or threaten, or to voice discriminatory views. While it would be appropriate to use social media to promote reporting that is critical of the performance of public officials or the actions of a company, it is not appropriate to use social media to offer purely personal opinions about such matters.
While we do not make a practice of monitoring social media posting by our editorial staff, we do view your online conduct as an extension of your work in the newsroom and we expect you to use common sense in applying journalistic norms to your conduct online. When in doubt about whether a post is appropriate, consult your editor or other supervisors.
Mistakes happen, often unintentionally, and when they do, a supervisor has the right to ask you to clarify or take down an objectionable post. If you disagree with such a request, you may appeal it to a senior editor. Serious violations of these standards for the use of social media can result in disciplinary action, including termination.
Below is a summary of these expectations and some additional guidance to help you make appropriate choices in your use of social media:
Do speak conversationally. Your reasonable, informed voice can help engage readers with our journalism. Use your social media posting to encourage broad thinking and to draw interest and inspire engagement with our journalism.
Do share your work, and that of your colleagues, on all platforms. Use social media to promote our journalism and broaden the reach and audience of our publications.
Do share perspectives that can better inform the reader about the importance of issues. A reporter’s personal experience with racial profiling or sexual harassment, for example, might personalize an issue for the reader in a way that clarifies why the issue matters; but…
Do not inject your opinion on issues of importance that the news organization covers. This can be difficult to avoid when commenting on political or social issues, and can also be hard to temper when discussing matters with which you have a personal connection or experience or deeply held beliefs. When commenting on topical issues, apply the same journalistic standards you would in your reporting. In general, posting your personal opinions about a current political issue or about the performance of public officials will cross the line. In crafting a post, ask yourself whether this would make it past an editor for a news story, or if it feels more like a personal essay or opinion piece. If it falls in the latter categories, talk it through with an editor first.
Do zealously protect the reputation of the organization by being methodical in avoiding giving the public any reason to doubt our credibility as fair and honest brokers of the news. Avoid thinking of social media as a place to express your personal beliefs or as an exception to journalistic standards: it isn’t.
Do engage with readers, but do it with courtesy, civility and professionalism; if the conversation gets petty, extract yourself from it. Avoid language that could be seen as rude or disrespectful.
Do not use social media to settle personal scores, or to embarrass, harass or defame others. Such use of social media is both unethical and unprofessional. Don’t use social media to argue with colleagues.
Bear in mind that social media platforms, because they allow an individual to publish instantly and directly to a wide audience, are inherently risky. Never post in haste, on impulse or in anger. Think carefully before you post; when in doubt, talk it through with a colleague or supervisor first.
Activism, affiliations and memberships
Our work as journalists requires that we cover issues that are of fundamental importance to our communities, and often involves coverage of issues, people or organizations about which we, as individuals, have strong feelings. But, with the exception of content that is explicitly opinion, it is essential – especially when covering matters about which we feel strongly – that we avoid blurring the lines between personal views and fact-based reporting, and that we give our readers no reason to doubt our news organization’s collective integrity and fairness.
Editorial staff must avoid actions that would reasonably cause readers or sources to doubt our ability to provide balanced and fair journalism.
Staff members should avoid becoming associated with causes and organizations that create the appearance of a conflict of interest between those involvements and their duties as journalists. Many social movements are politically charged, and apolitical events and movements can quickly become controversial and political. Even local community organizations can become politicized. Registration with a political party, which is generally public information, may suggest bias in some reporting. And in states that caucus or where primary voting is limited to party members, your political affiliation or your support of a particular candidate for office may signal your political views and create a concern about your ability to cover politically charged matters fairly. You should be conscious of these potential conflicts as you make your decisions about how and whether you participate in the political process.
Generally, membership in and support of arts and charitable institutions; organizations that celebrate and promote a culture, ethnicity or identity; and support of sports teams and other non-political groups will not present conflicts that merit special attention. However, you should take care to consider whether such affiliations or support would affect your credibility in covering issues relevant to those institutions. You should also be sensitive to the politicization of any such organizations.
Every situation will present specific issues for you to consider, both individually and with your editors. For example, journalists with spouses, relatives and very close friends who are active in political campaigns or issues should disclose those activities to their editors and generally steer clear of covering those issues. Journalists who were involved with controversial issues prior to their employment with the company should avoid participation in the creation, editing or producing of content related to that issue unless it is clearly marked as opinion content.
Editorial employees may not:
Become members of or affiliates of any organization that seeks to advance a political cause. That holds true even if the organization focuses on an issue outside that journalist’s area of coverage. An arts or sports reporter, for example, may not become a member of a political group.
Participate in any political gathering, including caucuses and candidate fundraisers, or protest or in any online group where it would appear you endorse that group’s view.
Sign petitions, letters or allow their name to be included in any political campaign or cause.
Financially contribute to political causes or campaigns tied to political causes.
Make public endorsements of any sort related to political causes or campaigns, including the display of bumper stickers, posters or yard signs.
Volunteering Employees are encouraged to participate in their community; however, as with other organizations, movements or campaigns, serving on advisory boards or participating in community events could lead to potential conflicts of interest. In such cases, the employee and their manager should consider how participation would appear to our readers and other critics of our journalism. Participation in such events by an employee or family member could limit the employee’s ability to be involved in associated news coverage.
Use of the company’s name
Staffers may use the name of our publications and the company only for purposes directly connected to their employment. No staff member may use his or her employment to seek personal benefit. Benefits, gifts or favors provided solely because an employee is employed by the company should be declined.
Gifts, meals and amenities
Newsroom staff must not accept free gifts, services or preferential treatment. Offers from any business that wants to send gifts, including food or drink, for individuals or staff, should be declined. Perishable items should be donated to local organizations that feed the hungry.
For some aspects of our work – such as reviews of the arts, coverage of sporting events, and coverage of private or invitation-only news events – staffers must only accept such free access as part of their journalistic coverage of the event. But staffers may not accept free tickets for personal use, and must not use their position at the news organization to request choice or hard-to-get tickets.
Products, experiences or trips offered with the expectation that they will produce news coverage should be discussed with a senior editor. Those editors should consider the newsworthiness of such products, the real market cost, the commercial intent and whether readers will benefit from the coverage. When possible, designated critics should be employed to review products and experiences.
Products and Equipment for Coverage Consideration
If we can buy a product, we should do so. Sometimes, due to cost or availability, it may be necessary to borrow samples for a story, review or photo shoot. Staff members who borrow such goods should return the borrowed items as soon as possible.
When possible, products of more than nominal value that are submitted as samples should be returned or donated to charity. Be clear with companies about what the news organization does with unsolicited products. Editors should carefully consider the news value and critical benefit of writing about any unsolicited product or service.
We should not write about a product or service, nor publicize it on social media, simply because it was sent or offered to us. In the event that coverage may be warranted, consult with your editors on how to handle the product and how to disclose it to readers.
Journalism contests, unsolicited laurels and speaking events
Conflict of interest and the appearance of conflict of interest should be avoided when taking part in journalism contests, speaking engagements or receiving recognition from any entity. As a rule, we avoid involvement with any contest, speaking opportunity or unsolicited award from an entity promoting an agenda that might call our journalistic integrity into question. In general, staffers should seek approval for involvement in any endeavors of this type.
All staff members must seek and receive permission from the editorial leadership before accepting a per diem for participation or membership in an outside nonprofit organization. Taking money from any entity exposes the company to future scrutiny. Possible solutions might include politely declining the per diem or donating it to a charity or an organization that works to protect the First Amendment.
Without written permission from the editorial leadership of the newsroom, staff members may not work for any external editorial outlet or advertiser/commercial entity. All outside work, including jobs not associated with media, must be approved in advance and may not conflict or interfere with the staffer’s work for the news organization.
Any work done for the company is proprietary and may not be used for any other project without the prior permission of from your publication.
When there is a possible appearance of conflict
Editors may choose to consult with other editors within the company or a designated committee on any question related to an actual or potential conflict of interest. Any significant or potentially controversial community involvement — either by an editorial employee or someone closely connected to that employee — should be brought to the attention of the editorial leadership.
Advertorial and advertising content
Content produced by or on behalf of an advertiser should be clearly labeled and made to look distinct from news stories both in print and online. Online advertorials should include language indicating the content was “paid for” by a sponsor and be categorized under a label that says “from our advertisers” or similar.
Advertorials are commercial content and, as such, staff members should avoid participating in the creation of it for our publications, another company or another media outlet. Staff members may not make commercial endorsements or appear in advertisements for other companies without written permission from the editorial leadership of the newsroom.
Editorial employees have the right under the National Labor Relations Act to engage in protected concerted activity and no part of this policy should be read to impede that right. Protected activity includes, but is not limited to, labor organizing activity and discussions involving wages, benefits, or other terms and conditions of employment.
PHOTO AND VIDEO USE
Re-creating events for photo or video is not allowed. Photographers should note posed portraits as such when creating original captions. Emerging technologies should be used responsibly and not violate relevant laws, including the right to privacy. Visual elements should not be used if it would encourage or glorify illegal or unsafe behavior. As with all types of reportage, it is important to consider the state of the subject and the public value of the photography.
Archival photos or videos must be clearly labeled as such.
All photo and video captions should be clear and should accurately describe the situation depicted. Take particular care to avoid language in captions that is not present in the final edited version of a story, particularly when the story has gone through legal pre-publication review.
Photo illustrations must be labeled. Any work to alter a photograph or video — including blurring of offensive words or faces — must be discussed with a masthead-level editor prior to publication. Altered photos, regardless of how they were altered and by whom, should include caption information that explains the type and purpose of the alteration.
Live broadcasts cannot be edited to meet the news organization’s standards of taste, quality and respect for privacy, and may result in the inadvertent publication of violent or offensive images that, in the ordinary course, would not meet the news organization’s standards for publication. Nevertheless, there are circumstances where events warrant live broadcast. Except in extraordinary circumstances, tthe editorial leadership should be consulted in advance of any decision to publish live video.
Surreptitious/hidden camera reporting can present significant legal risks; any decision to pursue and/or publish such reporting must be pre-approved by the editorial leadership and requires consultation between editors and legal counsel.
The ability to use a drone does not allow you to invade the expectation of privacy of others. In other words, treat individuals’ privacy the same you would when dealing with individuals face-to-face. Drone pilots must follow FAA regulations and current laws. Regular consultations with editors and legal counsel for the current state of the law is essential.
The use of photographs without permission can expose the company to significant reputational, financial and legal risk. Photographs that are not created by our staffers must be attributed to the copyright holder, and permission to use the image should be obtained in advance of publication. When permission to use an image cannot be obtained, consult with legal counsel.