> Latest News, Blogs and Events (tap to expand)

Sign In    Join SPJ    Donate


Advertise with SPJ
— ADVERTISEMENT —
Advertise with SPJ
2


— ADVERTISEMENT —
— ADVERTISEMENT —


Stay in Touch
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
RSS


SPJ Code of Ethics
English | PDF version
Arabic [PDF]
Chinese [PDF]
Croatian [PDF]
French
German [PDF]
Greek [PDF]
Hungarian [PDF]
Macedonian [PDF]
Persian
Portuguese
Slovene
Spanish

Other Codes of Ethics


Codes of Ethics History
Coded Controversy [Quill, April 2010]
1926 Ethics Code [PDF]
1973 Ethics Code [PDF]


Ethics
Ethics Home
SPJ Code of Ethics
News/Articles
Journalism Ethics Book
Case Studies
Committee Position Papers
Ethics Answers
Ethics Hotline
Resources
Ethics Committee

Quill: Stories About Journalism Ethics
– 10 lessons in journalism ethics
– Journalism’s complicated relationship with transparency
– Sinclair’s ‘teachable moment’ raises even more questions

Ethics Committee
This committee's purpose is to encourage the use of the Society's Code of Ethics, which promotes the highest professional standards for journalists of all disciplines. Public concerns are often answered by this committee. It also acts as a spotter for reporting trends in the nation, accumulating case studies of jobs well done under trying circumstances.

Ethics Committee chair

Lynn Walsh
Project Manager
Trusting News Project
E-mail
@LWalsh
Bio (click to expand) Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been working in investigative journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. Currently she leads the KNSD investigative team at the NBC TV station in San Diego, California, where she is the Investigative Executive Producer.

Most recently, she was working as data producer and investigative reporter for the E.W. Scripps National Desk producing stories for the 30+ Scripps news organizations across the country. Before moving to the national desk, she worked as the Investigative Producer at WPTV, NewsChannel 5, the Scripps owned TV station in West Palm Beach, Florida. She has won state and local awards as well as multiple Emmy’s for her stories. She loves holding the powerful accountable and spends more time than she would like fighting for access to public information.

Her passion lies in telling multimedia stories that deliver hard hitting facts across multiple platforms. She describes herself as a "data-viz nerd" who is obsessed with new online tools to share information on the web and mobile applications.

She is a contributor to the Radio Television Digital News Association blog and serves as Secretary-Treasurer for SPJ and is a member of SPJ’s FOI, Generation J and Ethics committees.

Lynn is always interested in new projects surrounding FOI, public information access, mobile reporting tools, social media and interactive journalism. She is a proud Bobcat Alumna and graduated from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.


SPJ Ethics
Committee Members


Lauren Bartlett
E-mail

David Cohn

Elizabeth Donald
E-mail

Mike Farrell
E-mail

Carole Feldman

Paul Fletcher
E-mail

Fred Brown
E-mail

Chris Roberts

Alex Veeneman
E-mail

Home > Ethics > SPJ Code of Ethics > Other Codes of Ethics: Code provisions by subject

Other Codes of Ethics
Code provisions by subject

What follows are excerpts from codes of ethics that have been collected by the American Society of News Editors and by the Society of Professional Journalists from sources available to the public online. These lists appear after each chapter in Journalism Ethics: A Casebook of Professional Conduct for News Media, both the print and the online versions. They include both employers’ codes of ethics and associations’ aspirational codes and provide further guidance to the subjects covered in that chapter.

General principles
Truth and accuracy
Using deception
Conflicts of interest
Minimizing harm
Diversity
Photographs, video and other images
Source-reporter relationships
Use of social media
Accountability and transparency


General principles

In the 21stcentury ... news is transmitted in more ways than ever before — in print, on the air and on the Web, with words, images, graphics, sound and video. But always and in all media, we insist on the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior when we gather and deliver the news.

– The Associated Press


The Washington Post is pledged to an aggressive, responsible and fair pursuit of the truth without fear of any special interest, and with favor to none.

Washington Post reporters and editors are pledged to approach every assignment with the fairness of open minds and without prior judgment. The search for opposing views must be routine. Comment from persons accused or challenged in stories must be included. The motives of those who press their views upon us must routinely be examined, and it must be recognized that those motives can be noble or ignoble, obvious or ulterior.

We fully recognize that the power we have inherited as the dominant morning newspaper in the capital of the free world carries with it special responsibilities:

– to listen to the voiceless
– to avoid any and all acts of arrogance
– to face the public politely and candidly

– The Washington Post


If all the philosophy of ethical behavior could be boiled down to a few words, they could be these: behave as though everything you did would be reported on the front page of tomorrow’s paper.

That means, of course, that we as journalists and citizens should hold ourselves to the same high standards of truth, sensitivity and fairness which we expect from public officials on whom we report.

– Tacoma Morning News Tribune, Washington


We believe that the Internet is the most powerful communications medium to arise since the dawn of television. As digital delivery systems become the primary source of news for a growing segment of the world’s population, it presents complex challenges and opportunities for journalists as well as the news audience.

The unique permeability of digital publications allows for the linking and joining of information resources of all kinds as intimately as if they were published by a single organization. Responsible journalism through this medium means that the distinction between news and other information must always be clear, so that individuals can readily distinguish independent editorial information from paid promotional information and other non-news.

– Online News Association


We believe that it is the duty of journalists to serve the truth. As practitioners of the press freedom that is essential to democracy, we believe that journalists have a higher duty than others to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest in their professional and private lives.

– Asbury Park Press, New Jersey


These guidelines are intended to serve in a variety of situations. They apply to everyone working for the Free Press newsroom — fulltime and part-time staff members, and freelancers on assignment. They obviously cannot envision all circumstances. These are not legal standards. Other news organizations may view some matters differently. Those affected by our coverage may differ with us over what is “fair” or “accurate.” Occasions will arise where news decisions must be made that will be at variance with these guidelines; nevertheless, they represent we ourselves strive for. Whenever doubt exists on a question of ethics or taste or sensitivity, please discuss that doubt with a supervising editor.

– Detroit Free Press


Like most institutions, the press is under attack. We are being harassed by government officials and judges. Our motives and methods are challenged. Our fairness is questioned. Our credibility with the public is undermined.

In this climate, it is more important than ever that we act fairly and responsibly in reporting the news, that we reject any conduct — any conflict of interest or special favor — which might lessen public confidence in our integrity.

Professional tradition and lively individual consciences are the best defenders of journalistic ethics. But many issues, equivocal or morally ambivalent, are difficult to decide in concrete terms. Because this is so, it seems advisable to have specific guidelines for The News.

– The New York Daily News


The good news organization is fair, accurate, responsible, independent and decent. Truth is its guiding principle.

– Associated Press Media Editors


The mission of ProPublica is to practice and promote investigative journalism in the public interest. All of the values stated here, and the rules set out here, are intended to contribute to that mission. Much of the language below draws on similar policies in place at distinguished American news organizations, including Dow Jones & Company, the Associated Press, the Washington Post and Time Inc. We do this because, while our entity is new, and our business model somewhat innovative, our ethics are neither. They reflect what we and others have learned over many years. At the same time, however, this Code is not immutable. Most of it consists of guidelines; exceptional circumstances may require exceptions to these rules. We expect to continue to learn, and as we do so, to revise this document in light of further insight and experience.

– ProPublica


Inform objectively! Edit out subjective bias.

Comment editorially to inform and guide.

Campaign for the desirable — help eliminate the undesirable. Play the role of a good citizen.

Serve as friendly counselor, information bureau and champion of the readers’ rights. Try to respond to a reader’s responsible doable requests.

Be courteous to the public. It is good public relations.

– The Phoenix Republic


Thou shalt not:

– Make up sources or quotes. This includes “composite” sources.
– Deliberately distort the truth.
– Take bribes. This means accepting cash in any amount, trips or substantial gifts in exchange for doing our jobs. The IRS gift standard ($25 value) is the outside limit on what would be considered a “substantial gift.”
– Plagiarize from sources outside the newspaper. If you have any doubt, attribute or discuss it with your editor.
– Alter the content of news photos through technological or other means.Photo-illustrations are acceptable, but should be clearly labeled.
– Use our standing with the newspaper for personal financial gain or special treatment.
– Pay sources for news stories.
– Stage or re-create news events for photographers.
– Physically or verbally abuse a source, reader or colleague.

– Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon


Beneath these guidelines rests the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you.

Our news judgments should be influenced by intellectual honesty; by compassion for individuals; by the consequences of publication; and by readers’ need to know. There are occasions when an exercise of self-restraint will be in the public interest, when significant harm can be reasonably anticipated as a result of publication, with no balancing public benefit.

That weighing of benefit against potential harm — particularly to an individual who is thrust into the light of publicity not by choice — should be a constant exercise in the application of news judgment. We should approach it as a green-light question — is there sufficient reason to publish this information? — rather than a red light — is there sufficient reason not to? And we should fall back on that Golden Rule

The need to publish immediately is likely to come into conflict with our consideration of other ethical obligations. Surely information of public interest loses its value to our readers with the passage of time. Still, even under the pressure of deadline we must apply reasonable judgment, weighing the good that will be achieved with speed against the harm that could be inflicted by compromising other values.

– Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia


Managers, by virtue of their positions of authority, must be ethical role models for all employees. An important part of a manager’s leadership responsibility is to exhibit the highest standards of integrity in all dealings with employees, customers, and the world at large. Managers must avoid even implicit or unspoken approval of any actions that may be damaging to the reputation of Dow Jones, and must always exercise sound business judgment in the performance of their duties.

– Dow Jones & Company (publishers of the Wall Street Journal


An ethics policy should be a living document. The committee that crafted these guidelines anticipated that the Mercury News, on occasion, must revisit the important ethical issus of the day to ensure its ethics policy does not become obsolete or, worse, ignored. Therefore, these are broad outlines; the newspaper will establish a fair method of dealing with ethical questions.

– San Jose Mercury News, California


We will seek solutions as well as expose problems and wrongdoing.

– Gannet Newspaper Division


Our goal is to begin and end each day with a primary obligation to the public’s right to know.

With every ethical scar, we threaten a delicate relationship with readers. Ethical breaches violate hard-earned trust and shatter our credibility.

To properly understand and reflect the community, we must live thoroughly and wholeheartedly in it. The constant tension of demanding a better society, while still living in it, is an obligation of a passionate and compassionate journalist. We should be independent, without being detached.

Ethics is the constant process of examining and drawing these lines. It is a continual effort, and we should hold each other accountable in the protection of our values. These values must come through a discussion with our conscience, our colleagues and our leaders, both for the public interest and our own professional education.

– The Denver Post


The explosion of new technologies is changing the marketing and advertising landscape both domestically and globally. New media, new ideas, new challenges, new cultural opportunities are swirling around the industry and impacting the way it does business.

The one constant is transparency, and the need to conduct ourselves, our businesses, and our relationships with consumers in a fair, honest, and forthright manner.

This is especially true in today’s often hostile environment, with revelations of wrongdoing in particular industries and government programs resulting in an erosion of public confidence and trust in all our institutions.

It is particularly fitting in such times that we remind ourselves of the ethical behavior that should always guide our personal and business conduct.

The eight Principles and Practices presented here are the foundation on which the Institute for Advertising Ethics (IAE) was created. They are based on the premise that all forms of communications, including advertising, should always do what is right for consumers, which in turn is right for business as well. For while we are in an age of unparalleled change, this overriding truth never changes.

– American Advertising Federation


The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is committed to ethical practices. The level of public trust PRSA members seek, as we serve the public good, means we have taken on a special obligation to operate ethically.

The value of member representation depends upon the ethical conduct of everyone affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America. Each of us sets an example for each other — as well as other professionals — by our pursuit of excellence with powerful standards of performance, professionalism, and ethical conduct

– PRSA Code of Ethics

[ Back to Top ]


Truth and accuracy

Accuracy always comes first. It’s better to be late than wrong. Before pushing the button, think how you would withstand a challenge or a denial.

– Reuters Handbook of Journalism


We strive to be fair, accurate, responsible, independent and sensitive to the feelings of our readers. We respect individual rights to privacy. We strive for balance. If we represent a point of view, we want it to be the public interest.

– Asbury Park Press, New Jersey


Question continually the premise of the stories and adjust accordingly.

– Gannett Newspaper Division


Facts should be presented honestly, fully and fairly. This applies to news stories, columns, editorials, headlines, graphics, illustrations, captions, photographs, layouts and any other editorial component. Writers, editors, photographers and artists should always strive to inform readers accurately and represent situations fairly. We will not knowingly place any person in a false light, such as racial or ethnic stereotyping.

– The Arizona Republic, Phoenix


A fair-minded reader of Times news coverage should not be able to discern the private opinions of those who contributed to that coverage, or to infer that the organization is promoting any agenda. A crucial goal of our news and feature reporting — apart from editorials, columns, criticism, blog posts and other content that is expressly opinionated — is to be nonideological. This is a tall order. It requires us to recognize our own biases and stand apart from them, including in social settings and in our own statements made on social media. It also requires us to examine the ideological environment in which we work, given that the biases of our sources, our colleagues and our communities can distort our sense of objectivity.

– The Los Angeles Times


Our preference, when time and distance permit, is to do our own reporting and verify another organization’s story; in that case, we need not attribute the facts. But even then, as a matter of courtesy and candor, we credit an exclusive to the organization that first broke the news. Attribution to another publication, though, cannot serve as license to print rumors that would not meet the test of The Times’s 0wn reporting standards. Rumors must satisfy The Times’s standard of newsworthiness, taste and plausibility before publication, even when attributed. And when the need arises to attribute, that is a good cue to consult with the department head about whether publication is warranted at all.

– The New York Times


“Fair” means that we present all important views on a subject. This range of views may be encompassed in a single story on a controversial topic, or it may play out over a body of coverage or series of commentaries. But at all times the commitment to presenting all important views must be conscious and affirmative, and it must be timely if it is being accomplished over the course of more than one story. We also assure that every possible effort is made to reach an individual (or a spokesperson for an entity) that is the subject of criticism, unfavorable allegations or other negative assertions in a story in order to allow them to respond to those assertions.

– KUOW/Puget Sound Public Radio


Look for good things to write of as well as bad. Life is not a dirge.

– The Phoenix Republic


We do not write or edit stories primarily for the purpose of winning awards. We avoid blatantly commercial journalism contests and others that reflect unfavorably on the newspaper or the profession.

We recognize that it is not unusual for corporate officers of a newspaper to be involved in civic activities. However, that involvement should never color the news coverage of those activities, and staff members should be no less vigilant in their coverage.

– Asbury Park Press, New Jersey


As we seek out the other voices that will give our coverage balance and fairness, we should also take care that our quest for “the other side” does not create imbalance. Too frequently a marginal dissenter or heckler finds prominent play in a story where the vast majority of the activity was focused elsewhere. The result is neither fair nor accurate. Of course, history has heard many lonely “crackpots” who turned out to be right, but we have an obligation to ask for some demonstration of factual basis or expertise before we necessarily buy their arguments or even given them the weight that appearance in print can impart.

– Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia


[W]e always strive to identify all the sources of our information, shielding them with anonymity only when they insist upon it and when they provide vital information — not opinion or speculation; when there is no other way to obtain that information; and when we know the source is knowledgeable and reliable...

We must explain in the story why the source requested anonymity. And, when it’s relevant, we must describe the source’s motive for disclosing the information...

These are the AP’s definitions:

On the record. The information can be used with no caveats, quoting the source by name.

Off the record. The information cannot be used for publication.

Background. The information can be published but only under conditions negotiated with the source. Generally, the sources do not want their names published but will agree to a description of their position. AP reporters should object vigorously when a source wants to brief a group of reporters on background and try to persuade the source to put the briefing on the record. These background briefings have become routing in many venues, especially with government officials.

Deep background. The information can be used but without retribution. The source does not want to be identified in any way, even on condition of anonymity.

In general, information obtained under any of these circumstances can be pursued with other sources to be placed on the record.

– The Associated Press


We strive to identify all the sources of our information, shielding them with anonymity only when they insist upon it and when they provide vital information — not opinion or speculation; when there is no other way to obtain that information; and when we know the source is knowledgeable and reliable. To the extent that we can, we identify in our stories any important bias such a source may have. If the story hinges on documents, as opposed to interviews, we describe how the documents were obtained, or at leas to the extent possible. We do not say that a person declined comment when he or she is already quoted anonymously.

– ProPublica


The Washington Post is pledged to disclose the source of all information when at all possible. When we agree to protect a source’s identity, that identity will not be made known to anyone outside The Post.

Before any information is accepted without full attribution, reporters must make every reasonable effort to get it on the record. If that in turn is not possible, reporters should request an on-the-record reason for concealing the source’s identity and should include the reason in the story.

In any case, some kind of identification is almost always possible — by department or by position, for example — and should be reported.

No pseudonyms are to be used.

However, The Washington Post will not knowingly disclose the identities of U.S. intelligence agents, except under highly unusual standards which must be weighed by the senior editors.

– The Washington Post


Be wary of going “off the record.” News makers who go “off the record” can maneuver you into the position of not being able to report or pursue what they have told you. What good is information if we cannot publish it? In the vast majority of cases, a hard-nosed attitude against going off the record prods the news maker to go ahead and say what he wanted to say anyway, or it at least leaves you free to seek the information without restriction elsewhere.

– The Journal News, White Plains, New York


“He said” means the journalist got the quote from the source — in person, at a press conference, or on the phone. “He said in a statement” or “in a report” means the quote came from a written statement or press release, or from a document such as an analyst’s report. “He said in an e-mail interview” means exactly that. If the quote comes from another news outlet, the journalist must credit it: “President Smith told the Associated Press.”

– BusinessWeek


Reporters and editors should discuss general conditions under which promises of confidentiality can be made. Reporters should not make a pledge or promise of confidentiality they are not empowered to honor and enforce, and editors should honor promises properly made by reporters. Reporters and editors should respect the confidentiality of our newsgathering and internal editing processes in conversations with sources and readers.

Sources are not paid for news, either in cash for tips or interviews, or in promises of future coverage or other favors.

– The Arizona Republic, Phoenix


Candidates/Elections — Do NOT run stories in which candidates say they are going to file a complaint or charges. Wait until the complaint or charge is actually filed. Do not print charges against a candidate in stories that appear in the Sunday or Monday papers before the Tuesday Election. No political stories are carried in an Election Day paper.

– St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch, Minnesota


– Describe an unnamed source’s identity as fully as possible (without revealing that identity) to help readers evaluate the credibility of what the source has said or provided.
– Do not make promises you do not intend to fulfil or may not be able to fulfill.
– Do not threaten sources.

...All sources should be informed that the newspaper will not honor confidentiality if the sources have lied or misled the newspaper.

– Gannett Newspaper Division


On some stories, editors might ask reporters to discuss with confidential sources what the source’s reaction would be if a court orders the newspaper and/or the reporter to divulge its source of information. The source’s willingness to be publicly identified and attest to the information he or she provided might determine whether certain sensitive information is published.

An agreement to protect a source’s identity creates an agreement with both the reporter and The Post. The agreement should be based on the understanding that the source is honest. We should tell the source that if he/she is dishonest with us, the promise of identity protection will be negated. In other words, “The Post will protect you. But if you lie to me, that promise of confidentiality is void.”

– The Denver Post


Since the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment does not extend to journalists the absolute right to protect the confidentiality of news sources, reporters on their own cannot guarantee sources confidentiality in a published story. If a demand is made after publication for the source’s identification, a court may compel us to reveal the source. In circumstances where the demand for absolute confidentiality is made a condition for obtaining the story, that situation needs to be discussed with a supervising editor before a commitment is made. Trust works both ways — the editor must be able to trust the reporter fully, and vice versa.

– Detroit Free Press


The grant of anonymity should be a last resort.

– KUOW/Puget Sound Public Radio


We report in environments — Hollywood and Washington, to name two — where anonymity is routinely sought and casually granted. We stand against that practice and seek to minimize it. We are committed to informing readers as completely as possible; the use of anonymous sources compromises this important value.

These standards are not intended to discourage reporters from cultivating sources who are wary of publicity. Such informants can be invaluable. But the information they provide can often be verified with sources willing to be named, from documents or both. We should make every effort to obtain such verification. Relying on unnamed sources should be a last resort...

– The Los Angeles Times


The news organization should guard against inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortion through emphasis, omission or technological manipulation.

It should acknowledge substantive errors and correct them promptly and prominently.

– Associated Press Media Editors


Much of popular journalism today comes with a political or ideological slant: it aims to win people to a point of view, not necessarily to an understanding of the facts. CNN does not try to appeal to a specific point of view or political constituency. To the contrary, the reporters, producers, editors and writers at CNN aim for comprehensive journalism. In their news coverage, they strive to present the whole story, fairly and completely, so that readers and viewers may come to their own conclusions. And in their presentation of opinion and analysis, they strive to represent a range of viewpoints.

– Time Warner Inc. (CNN)


On this newspaper, the separation of news columns from the editorial and opposite-editorial pages is solemn and complete. This separation is intended to serve the reader, who is entitled to the facts in the news columns and to opinions on the editorial and “op-ed” pages. But nothing in this separation of functions is intended to eliminate from the news columns honest in-depth reporting, or analysis or commentary when plainly labeled.

– The Washington Post


Plagiarism is one of journalism’s unforgivable sins — and, at this newspaper, a dismissible offense. Material taken from other newspapers and other media must be attributed.

– Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota


It is unacceptable to hedge an unverified or unverifiable assertion with words such as “arguably” or “perhaps.” Our job is to report what is true, not what might be.

– The Los Angeles Times


– Preserve the integrity of the process of communication.
– Be honest and accurate in all communications.
– Act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the practitioner is responsible.
– Preserve the free flow of unprejudiced information when giving or receiving gifts by ensuring that gifts are nominal, legal, and infrequent

– PRSA Code of Ethics


Advertising, public relations, marketing communications, news, and editorial all share a common objective of truth and high ethical standards in serving the public.

– American Advertising Federation

[ Back to Top ]


Using deception

[W]e don’t misidentify or misrepresent ourselves to get a story. When we seek an interview, we identify ourselves as AP journalists.

– The Associated Press


No staffer will represent himself or herself as anything other than a Dallas Morning News reporter, editor, photographer, artist, columnist or other occupation. If for security or other reasons you must avoid identification, you must inform your editor as soon as possible. The managing editor and editor must also be informed.

– The Dallas Morning News


Fictional Devices. No reader should find cause to suspect that the paper would knowingly alter facts. For that reason, The Times refrains outright from assigned fictional names, ages, places or dates, and it strictly limits the use of other concealment devices.

Masquerading. Times reporters do not actively misrepresent their identity to get a story. We may sometimes remain silent on our identity and allow assumptions to be made — to observe an institution’s dealings with the public, for example, or the behavior of people at a rally or police officers in a bar near the station house. But a sustained, systematic deception, even a passive one — taking a job, for example, to observe a business from the inside — may be employed only after consultation between a department head and masthead editors. (Obviously, specific exceptions exist for restaurant reviewing and similar assignments.)

– The New York Times


KUOW journalists do not record phone calls without permission. KUOW journalists do not use hidden microphones, recorders or cameras.

– KUOW/Puget Sound Public Radio


Except in rare and justifiable instances, we do not tape anyone without that person’s knowledge. To do otherwise violates a general policy of treating people as we would want to be treated. An exception may be made only if we are convinced the recording is necessary to protect us in a legal action or for some other compelling reason, and if other approaches won’t work. Such circumstances require a managing editor’s approval in advance.

– Detroit Free Press


In an era when the press’ role in society is under intense public scrutiny, it is essential that each staffer goes the extra step to assure that his or her identity, affiliation and purpose are explained to those from whom information is sought. This is especially true in dealing with members of the public who might not have had prior exposure to the news-gathering process.

This goes beyond the ethical question of whether reporters ought to pose as something else. That should not be an ethical question: in fact, we should be honest in describing our role at all times.

This has to do with stressing what to us is basic: identifying ourselves as reporters and naming the newspapers we work for.

We want to avoid the allegation that we somehow cloak the fact we seek information which we intend to provide for public consumption.

– Spokane Spokesman-Review and Chronicle, Washington


Nothing in our news report — words, photos, graphics, sound or video — may be fabricated. We don’t use pseudonyms, composite characters or fictional names, ages, places or dates. We don’t stage or re-enact events for the camera or microphone, and we don’t use sound effects or substitute video or audio from one event to another. We do not “cheat” sound by adding audio to embellish or fabricate an event. A senior editor must be consulted prior to the introduction of any neutral sound (ambient sound that does not affect the editorial meaning but corrects a technical fault).

– The Associated Press

[ Back to Top ]


Conflicts of interest

PRINCIPLE 3: Advertisers should clearly distinguish advertising, public relations and corporate communications from news and editorial content and entertainment, both online and offline...

If consumers are unaware the “news” or “entertainment” they are viewing actually is advertising, they are being misled and treated unethically.

– American Advertising Federation


– Act in the best interests of the client or employer, even subordinating the member’s personal interests.
– Avoid actions and circumstances that may appear to compromise good business judgment or create a conflict between personal and professional interests.
– Disclose promptly any existing or potential conflict of interest to affected clients or organizations.
– Encourage clients and customers to determine if a conflict exists after notifying all affected parties.

– PRSA Code of Ethics


Free airfare or lodging as part of studio, travel or other junkets may not be accepted by employees. Freelance materials resulting from such freebies should not be purchased by the newspaper.

– The Arizona Republic, Phoenix


Gifts, favors, free travel or lodging, special treatment or privileges can compromise the integrity and diminish the credibility of food editors and writers as well as their employers. Such offers should be avoided.

Similarly, food editors and writers should not use their positions to win favors for themselves or for others.

– Newspaper Food Editors and Writers Association


Meals, transportation and other expenses associated with news gathering will be paid for by The Herald. No transportation, entertainment, food or drink will be accepted. If it is impractical to refuse an item of little or no value, such as a cup of coffee, it can be accepted.

– Bellingham (Washington) Herald


In declining tickets, gifts and other favors, Ledger-Inquirer staff members should avoid rudeness and self-righteousness. We should express our appreciation and politely decline, explaining that the policy is as much in the would-be giver’s interests as our own.

– Columbus (Ohio) Ledger-Inquirer


Food journalists should not flaunt their titles in hopes of securing favors for themselves, their friends or their relatives. Favors could include restaurant reservations; desirable tables; party invitations or free food and drink.

Food journalists should refuse samples of food, drink or any other product which they don’t intend to evaluate for publication.

– Association of Food Journalists


Products (books, recordings, videotapes, software and product samples) should not be sold for personal gain. After review, they should be sent to the appropriate public library, given to charitable organizations or sold by the company for charitable purposes. Products such as computer equipment should be borrowed for review and then returned or disposed of as charitable giving.

– The Dallas Morning News


Staff members should accept no gifts of value from news sources. For example, a bottle of wine or a box of candy should be returned to the donor with an explanation that it is a violation of Grand Forks Herald policy to accept gifts. Gifts of insignificant value, such as a calendar or a pencil, may be accepted if it would be awkward to return them. Offers of free food and drinks should be politely refused. It may be necessary to accept such offers to avoid being rude or obnoxious, but they should be rare exceptions.

We must remember that many of the kindnesses offered to the Herald and its employees are tendered on the basis of friendship or courtesy and without any self-serving motive. It’s important that we avoid appearing rude or narrowly self-righteous in living within the spirit of this policy. We should never assume a stance of outraged innocence. Instead, we should express our appreciation and politely decline, explaining the importance of our policy.

– Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota


Staff members are prohibited from accepting gifts or from giving gifts to new sources, potential news sources or those who seek to influence coverage. Exceptions can be made when reporting in countries and cultures in which refusing to accept or provide a modest gift would give offense. When in doubt about the appropriateness of a gift, ask a supervising editor.

– The Los Angeles Times


Attendance by news staffers at a party conducted solely for members of the media by news sources is discouraged but not prohibited. For example, there is a good deal of news value in attending political party press functions in Pierre but little news value in attending Bell Telephone’s annual Christmas press party in Sioux Falls.

– Sioux Falls Argus Leader, South Dakota


Our news staff does not advise or work for politicians or political organizations. We encourage good citizenship by exercising our right to vote in referenda, primaries and general elections, but we do not engage in partisan activity beyond that.

– Asbury Park Press, New Jersey


Articles of opinion and analysis shall be clearly identified as such. The publisher’s opinions shall be confined to the editorial page except under extraordinary circumstances. Advertisements shall be clearly discernible from editorial copy.

– The Orange County Register, California


AP employees must avoid behavior or activities — political, social or financial — that create a conflict of interest or compromise our ability to report the news fairly and accurately, uninfluenced by any person or action...

We do not accept free tickets to sports, entertainment or other events for anything other than coverage purposes. If we obtain tickets for a member or subscriber as a courtesy, they must be paid for, and the member should reimburse the AP...

Employees frequently appear on radio and TV news programs as panelists asking questions of newsmakers; such appearances are encouraged.

However, there is potential for conflict if staffers are asked to give their opinion on issues or personalities of the day. Advance discussion and clearance from a staffer’s supervisor are required.

Employees must inform a news manager before accepting honoraria and/or reimbursement of expenses for giving speeches or participating in seminars at colleges and universities or at other educational events if such appearances makes use of AP’s name or the employee represents himself or herself as an AP employee. No fees should be accepted from governmental bodies; trade, lobbying or special interest groups; businesses, or labor groups, or any group that would pose a conflict of interest...

Editorial employees are expected to be scrupulous in avoiding any political activity, whether they cover politics regularly or not. They may not run for political office or accept political appointment; nor may they perform public relations work for politicians or their groups. Under no circumstances should they donate money to political organizations or political campaigns. They should use great discretion in joining or making contributions to other organizations that may take political stands.

– The Associated Press


Press parking passes and free parking spaces should be used by Post staffers only during the coverage of breaking news, to facilitate deadline reporting and writing, or to gain access to news sites or crime scenes. They are not to be used for all-day free parking.

In general, Post staffers should avoid other forms of free press parking. ... Exceptions are allowed for the coverage of sports events, where parking often is included with press credential and where close proximity to a stadium or arena is an assist for photographers hauling heavy equipment and offers safety and security advantages for staffers leaving arenas late at night.

– The Denver Post


Arts organizations commonly provide critics’ press passes in pairs. Because a critic’s appreciation of a performance or work of art is enriched by viewing and discussing it with someone else, a critic may accept the additional pass for a colleague, spouse, companion or friend with an editor’s approval.

– The Los Angeles Times


The Inquirer expects to pay for meals served to staff members in press boxes. The sports department should arrange to reimburse professional teams or university athletic departments for these meals.

– The Philadelphia Inquirer


Staff members required to attend events where press box facilities are not provided should purchase tickets and be reimbursed by the Free Press. Photographers and reporters assigned to cover sports or political events may use such facilities as review seats, press boxes, press galleries or press rooms which are necessary to cover the event. Access to press boxes or press galleries may be granted to other staff members when the access is necessary to developing information or skills.

– Detroit Free Press


The Times, like many other news organizations, does not allow its sportswriters to participate in voting for baseball’s Hall of Fame, college football’s Heisman Trophy and national rankings in college sports, among other areas. Participation in these polls creates possibilities for conflicts of interest. Similar issues arise in the arts when journalists are invited to vote for awards and prizes in film, literature and other fields.

– The Los Angeles Times


... [W]e recognize that our involvement as citizens may sometimes compromise or inhibit our professional responsibilities, and we judge each situation with that in mind. We are particularly conscious of the necessity to avoid personal involvement on either side of an issue about which we would be writing or editing stories for the newspapers... So we do not prepare publicity or serve on publicity committees for any groups, and we request that all businesses and organizations go through normal newspaper channels in seeking news coverage.

– Columbus (Ohio) Ledger-Inquirer


Journalists have no place on the playing fields of politics.

– The New York Times


Employees may not run for public office or be appointed to any public boards or commission if such service will create a conflict of interest or is exploitation of the employee’s connection to The Denver Post.

It is not the newspaper’s intention to attempt to control private lives, but an employee’s involvement in an organization or activity could comprise the individual’s professional credibility and the newspaper’s.

Therefore, newsroom employees should notify a supervisor of any such potential conflicts so that appropriate assignments or disclosure can be made, if necessary.

– The Denver Post


Staff members are not prevented from signing initiative or referendum petitions for state, county or city ballot propositions. But they must recognize that such petitions are public documents and that signing petitions could be interpreted as taking a position on a political issue. As with other potential conflicts of interest, staff members who sign petitions must disclose that fact to their supervisor.

– Tacoma Morning News Tribune, Washington


Political activity. Staff members are encouraged, even urged, to exercise their franchise as citizens to discuss matters of public interest and to register and vote in referendums, primaries and general elections. But because the profession requires stringent efforts against partiality and perceived bias, staff members should not be involved in any political activity beyond that.

– The Philadelphia Inquirer


Reporters should not comment editorially on stories they are covering and should not write about events in which they’re personally involved. Each of us should avoid public involvement in, and expression of opinion about, controversial issues. The editorial page and opinion columns are the places for such expressions. Each of us should be wary of expressing opinions in casual conversation or elsewhere that may then be cited by others as a basis for charging news slanting.

To avoid any appearance of partisanship in any public issue, campaign bumpers and bumper stickers should not be displayed nor should public advertisements or petitions be signed.

– The News Journal, Newcastle, Delaware


As Reuters journalists, we never identify with any side in an issue, a conflict or a dispute. Our text and visual stories need to reflect all sides, not just one. This leads to better journalism because it requires us to stop at each stage of newsgathering and ask ourselves “What do I know?” and “What do I need to know?” ...

We must also be on guard against bias in our choice of words. Words like “claimed” or “according to” can suggest we doubt what is being said. Words like “fears” or “hopes” might suggest we are taking sides. Verbs like rebut or refute (which means to disprove) or like fail (as in failed to comment) can imply an editorial judgment and are best avoided. Thinking about language can only improve our writing and our journalism.

– Reuters Handbook of Journalism


You may not march in special-interest or political demonstration, speak out at public meetings, make monetary contributions to political candidates, PACs or special-interest groups, or engage in other activities in support of a cause or group that would raise questions about the newspaper’s impartiality.

– The Journal News, White Plains, New York


Do not use the name of the DMN, the paper’s stationery or your business cards for personal use (for example, when complaining about poor service at a store). This newspaper’s name must not be used directly or by implication in your personal activities.

– The Dallas Morning News


As one of the major institutions in the area, The Gazette cannot operate in isolation from the community it serves. Executives on the business side of the paper will, from time to time, be members or directors of appropriate community groups.

– The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa


We do not argue or correct at a public meeting except to challenge a public body’s apparent violation of the Freedom of Information law or an attempt to close a courtroom to the public.

– The News-Times, Danbury, Connecticut


Adhering to the principles outline in the [Voice of America] Charter, VOA reporters and broadcasters must strive for accuracy and objectivity in all their work. They do not speak for the U.S. government. They accept no treatment or assistance from U.S. government officials or agencies that is more favorable or less favorable than that granted to staff of private sector news agencies. Furthermore, VOA professionals, careful to preserve the integrity of their organization, strive for excellence and avoid imbalance or bias in their broadcasts.

– Voice of America Journalistic Code

[ Back to Top ]


Minimizing harm

Reporters should use special care when interviewing people who don’t regularly deal with the press. The rules that govern conversations with politicians and public relations people don’t necessarily apply when you’re interviewing a victim’s neighbor or a parent angry about school boundaries. A reporter might not — should not — hesitate to embarrass a politician for uttering something truly brainless on the record. A plain, ordinary citizen in those circumstances can be granted some leeway and extra courtesy.

– Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia


Be certain that any contacts related to a death are handled with care and sensitivity. We seek the cause of death for news obituaries, but that information can be withheld if the family requests it and our editors approve. Discuss with your editor whether we should report suicides, which we would do normally only if it involves a public figure or public suicide.

– The Dallas Morning News


Those who are unaccustomed to dealing with the press deserve special consideration. You may need to tell them if they are being interviewed on the record, or when a conversation is being taped on the telephone.

– The Journal News, White Plains, New York


Dealing with minors (generally defined as anyone under the age of 18) always invokes legal issues. An interview of a minor about a sensitive subject requires a KUOW journalist to secure permission from the minor’s parent or legal guardian... Examples of sensitive subjects include cheating, sexual activity, involvement in gangs or crime, difficult family relationships, probation violation, out-of-wedlock pregnancy or parenthood, victims’ sexual abuse and similar topics that could have legal ramifications or lead to embarrassment. An interview of a minor in a special custodial situation, such as foster care, juvenile detention, or holding facilities for illegal immigrants, requires the consent of the person who has custody of the minor. Utah also requires the consent of both the custodian of the juvenile facility and the minor’s parent.

An interview on a non-sensitive topic (normal childhood activities, sports, books, movies, trips to the zoo, baseball and the like) does not require consent. Generally, however, any interview on school premises will require the consent of the school authorities. If a minor is a witness to a crime, the KUOW journalist must weigh carefully whether we are exposing the minor to physical risk by identifying him or her by name as a potential witness, and whether there is potential for the minor to be accused as a participant.

Situations like school shootings require special care when interviewing visibly distressed minors who may have witnessed horrific scenes. Witnesses such as teachers or students over 18 are preferable interviewees. If continued interviewing substantially increases the distress of a minor who is a witness, the KUOW journalist should carefully balance the importance and quality of the information being obtained with the interviewee’s emotional state and decide whether respect for the witness requires the interview to be ended. The KUOW journalist must also discuss with the editor whether that interview should be aired.

– KUOW/Puget Sound Public Radio


The newspaper should also respect the reasonable privacy of private figures. Although politicians, government officials and other major community leaders have thrust themselves into the public limelight and in so doing subject themselves to a higher level of public scrutiny, they may also be entitled to keep some aspects of their private lives private. The fact that a politician runs for office does not automatically make that person’s life an open book.

– Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia


In covering allegations of sex crimes, The Times generally does not identify the accusers or potential victims. Exceptions may be made in cases in which they have voluntarily revealed their identities.

– The Los Angeles Times


In sex crimes involving children molested by a relative or neighbor, identification of a suspect can amount to identification of the victim. We should carefully weigh the value of complete identification of the suspect or publication of the circumstances of the case against that potential collateral identification of the victim. Such collateral identification is best avoided, if possible.

– Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia


Quoting in dialect or using a non-standard spelling will be done only rarely, must be in good taste and must serve an important journalistic purpose. Grammatical errors, when they are not important to the news or when they would make the speaker look foolish or take on undue importance, are to be avoided.

– Detroit Free Press


It is not our job to make people look good by cleaning up inelegant turns of phrase, nor is it our job to expose them to ridicule by running such quotes. In most cases, this dilemma can be resolved by paraphrase and reported speech. Where it cannot, reporters should consult a more senior journalist to discuss whether the quote can be run verbatim. Correcting a grammatical error in a quote may be valid, but rewording an entire phrase is not. When translating quotes from one language into another, we should do so in an idiomatic way rather than with pedantic literalness. Care must be taken to ensure that the tone of the translation is equivalent to the tone of the original. Beware of translating quotes in newspaper pickups back into the original language of the source. If a French politician gives an interview to an American newspaper, it is almost certain that the translation back into French will be wrong and in some cases the quote could be very different. In such cases, the fewer quotes and the more reported speech, the better.

– Reuters Handbook of Journalism


If our role as watchdog sometimes requires us to be firm, aggressive and insistent, we should never behave with arrogance or narrow self-righteousness. Our legitimate striving for detachment should never make us callous or indifferent to fear, anxiety, grief or suffering. Just as good journalists strive for balance in their stories, they should complement a healthy skepticism with courtesy and compassion.

– Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota


Don’t constantly dwell on the “bad” in a community or organization when there is also a “good” side to be told. Only finding fault is as bad as boosterism. Be aware of the trend of coverage and seek balance when appropriate.

– The Journal News, White Plains, New York


PRINCIPLE 5: Advertisers should treat consumers fairly based on the nature of the audience to whom the ads are directed and the nature of the product or service advertised.

PRINCIPLE 6: Advertisers should never compromise consumers’ personal privacy in marketing communications, and their choices as to whether to participate in providing their information should be transparent and easily made.

– American Advertising Federation

[ Back to Top ]


Diversity

Diverse faces and voices should be woven into the everyday fabric of the newspaper, but, unless relevant, we don’t identify someone’s race or ethnicity in a story.

This is particularly important in coverage of crime. We will report suspect descriptions when the information is detailed enough to be useful to people who want to protect themselves or help police find the suspect. We will avoid descriptions that give only the person’s race and gender. Describing a suspect as an Asian male in his teens is not enough to distinguish him from plenty of other people in this town. But it may be enough when you can also report height, weight and a clothing description. When in doubt, consult with the editor or managing editor.

– Lincoln Journal Star, Nebraska


The race of a speaker in a debate over lunch prices probably is not relevant. The race of a speaker in a debate over busing might be. Similarly, race makes no difference most of the time when neighbors protest a smelly sewer plant — but it’s a major element if a black group thinks an all-white city commission ignored its protests because of racism.

– Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia


Women and men should not be treated differently. Physical description and familial connections of a woman are appropriate only if a man would be described comparably in similar circumstance. We generally avoid terms that specific gender: e.g., police officer rather than policeman, although such uses as actor/actress and waiter/waitress are acceptable. Phrases that suggest there is something unusual about the gender of someone holding a job (woman lawyer, male nurse) should be avoided. When referring to members of a group, a construction correctly using THERE is generally preferable to one requiring HIS or HER.

– Detroit Free Press


It is our job to reflect the community. Each day’s newspaper creates a snapshot of the Tampa Bay area. The snapshot shouldn’t overlook minority members. Nor, in an attempt to feature aspects of race, ethnicity or religion should we overstate the differences among us, while ignoring our common ground.

We must not lose the nuances of individuality by casting a community through a high-contrast filter.

Diverse voice should be woven into the everyday fabric of the newspaper.

– Tampa Bay Tribune


Use care when identifying transgendered people and use the pronoun that suits the gender they now claim as their identity. For example, a man who dresses as a woman but who has not had a sex-change operation still may prefer to be called a woman. In that instance, we would use the pronouns “she” or “her.” San Antonio Express-News


We do not identify race or ethnic background unless the information is relevant. It may be so:

– In stories involving politics, social action, social conditions, achievement and other matters where race can be a distinguishing factor.
– Where usage has sanctioned the description: black leader, Irish tenor, Polish wedding.
– In reporting an incident that cannot be satisfactorily explained without reference to race. However, the mere fact that an incident involves people of different races does not, of itself, mean that racial tags should be used. And when racial identification is used, the races of all involved should be mentioned.

We do not mention a person’s race in describing criminal suspects or fugitives unless the rest of the description is detailed enough to be meaningful. Sketchy descriptions are often meaningless and may apply to large numbers of innocent people.

– The Roanoke Times, Virginia


The race of a person in the news won’t be reported unless it is clearly relevant to the story or is part of a detailed physical description. If a strong case cannot be made for mentioning race, it should be omitted.

Racially and ethnically derogatory terms are to be treated as obscenities; such a term should be spelled as an initial followed by hyphens, and be used only in quoted material, when it is essential to a story, and with approval of a managing editor.

– Detroit Free Press


Reuters recognizes, values and encourages a diverse employment mix. In addition to gender and ethnic origin, the company considers a wide range of backgrounds in terms of experience and knowledge as part of its recruitment and employee development policies. While politics has no place in our newsrooms, diversity does. We welcome the varying perspectives, insights and considerations that diversity of gender, ethnicity, religious, sexual orientation, upbringing, age, marital or parental status, customs and culture bring to the debate about the news we gather. Diversity enriches what we do and there is a place for everyone in the discussion and the exchange of ideas that lead to the best journalism.

– Reuters Handbook of Journalism

[ Back to Top ]


Photographs, video and other images

We do not ask people to pose for photos unless we are making a portrait and then we clearly state that in the caption. We explain in the caption the circumstances under which photographs are made. If someone is asked to pose for photographs by third parties and that is reflected in AP-produced images, we say so in the caption. Such wording would be: “XXX poses for photos.”

... AP photos must always tell the truth. We do not alter or digitally manipulate the content of a photograph in any way.

– The Associated Press


General Policy — Do NOT run photos of the governor, mayor, etc. signing proclamations, receiving plaques, looking at a check or piece of paper, etc. Avoid posed news photos of politicians immediately prior to elections.

– St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch, Minnesota


It is insufficient simply to label video or a photograph as “handout.” We should clearly identify the source — for example “Greenpeace Video” or “U.S. Army Photo”. Similarly, it is essential for transparency that material we did not gather ourselves is clearly attributed in stories to the source, including when that source is a rival organization. Failure to do so may open us to charges of plagiarism.

– Reuters Handbook of Journalism


News photographs must not be altered. Photographs that electronically obscure the face of a victim or undercover police officer are exceptions, but the alteration should be clearly explained in the caption.

– The Arizona Republic, Phoenix

[ Back to Top ]


Source-reporter relationships

When money is paid for information, serious questions can be raised about the credibility of that information and the motives of the buyer and seller. We generally avoid paying for information. Exceptions must be approved in advance by a managing editor.

– Detroit Free Press


It is not the newspaper’s role to promote; rather it is its role to report news. Sponsored projects — be they a small or large advertiser, charity or foundation — should be given the same consideration as other news stories or news releases and should not be promoted beyond their legitimate news value. When in doubt, see the executive editor or managing editor.

– Sioux Falls Argus Leader, South Dakota


Be wary of friendships or romances with sources, particularly public officials or figures. Employees have a right to a life outside the office, but can never totally disassociate themselves from being journalists. Our readers have every right to expect that we make decisions independently of personal relationships. In some cases, reassignment may be necessary to avoid real or perceived conflicts.

– Lincoln Journal Star, Nebraska


The Times does not enter into nondisclosure agreements or make deals in exchange for access. When negotiating with Hollywood publicists, for instance, we do not make promises regarding publication, placement, or angle of approach. That such deals are commonplace among entertain media does not make them acceptable at The Times.

It is permissible to discuss, in general terms, the scope and direction of the coverage we have in mind. It should be clear, however, that the ultimate placement and angle are for reporters and editors to decide.

– The Los Angeles Times


If an editorial employee has a close relative or friend working in a political campaign or on a ballot initiative, the employee should refrain from covering or making news judgments about that campaign or ballot proposal and disclose the relative’s or friend’s involvement to a senior editor.

– The Denver Post


Nepotism is contrary to The Gazette’s equal opportunity policy and inconsistent with sound managerial practices. Therefore, it is the policy of The Gazette not to hire any relative of a Gazette employee if the employee would participate in the decision to hire the relative or could, directly or indirectly, participate in decisions affecting any of the relative’s terms and conditions of employment...

Certain staffers — columnists, for example, or those doing first-person pieces — may write about their families without its being a conflict of interest.

– The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa


When information about crime is obtained by the Register, a decision to give that information to authorities will be made in light of the purpose of the reporting and the crime involved. There will be circumstances when such notification is not necessary — for example, when reporting of misconduct by public officials would be frustrated by reporting that investigation. On the other hand, information that a potential crime endangers the person or property of an individual or individuals must be reported promptly to the appropriate public officials. The decision about reporting a crime must be made in consultation with an associate’s supervisor and generally will involve the editor, except in circumstances involving an immediate danger to life or property. In that instance, the authorities should be notified immediately.

– The Orange County Register, California


– An embargo means we have agreed to hold certain information for release at a predetermined time and date. Embargoes are a fact of life. We respect customary embargoes and those to which we or one of our wire services is a party.
– We consider an embargo lifted at any point the news becomes public, whether by other announcement or by another news organization breaking the embargo.
– We reserve the right to make our own decision about respecting an embargo that is unilaterally handed to us. Those that have been traditionally honored (such as release dates on press releases from public agencies with which we routinely do business) should be honored, unless we give advance notice to the contrary.
– Only senior editors (department heads or above), or their designees, may negotiate or agree to embargoes. Our posture should be to avoid embarrassment when possible.

– The Journal News, White Plains, New York


Assist law enforcement authorities only when there is a clear and compelling public interest at stake — and only with approval of the editor or managing editor. Never let cooperation get in the way of holding officials accountable and telling the truth. Take care when cooperating with government and other institutions on public journalism projects. Often, these efforts are worthwhile and in the readers’ interests. But they can also compromise our independence.

– Lincoln Journal Star, Nebraska

[ Back to Top ]


Use of social media

Anyone who works for the AP must be mindful that opinions they express may damage the AP’s reputation as an unbiased source of news. They must refrain from declaring their views on contentious public issues in any public forum, whether in Web logs, chat rooms, letters to the editor, petitions, bumper stickers or lapel buttons, and must not take part in demonstrations in support of causes or movements.

– The Associated Press


Many Denver Post reporters and columnists already blog. Blogs allow readers to connect with us on a more personal level, and they help us in building an online audience. We encourage blogging, but we also realize it presents many of the same ethical issues inherent in traditional newspaper journalism, as well as some new issues. The Denver Post’s ethics policy provides ample guidance as we provide different kinds of content via the internet. The policy’s requirements of accuracy, fairness, independence and disclosure will continue to guide everything we do, including blogging...

Nothing may be published under the Denver Post name, or on its internet sites, unless it has gone through an editing and/or approval process. While blogs are more often written in an informal and personal style, everything that is posted to a blog must be factual and fair. Maliciously and inaccurately attacking private citizens or public officials is prohibited, and any criticism of public officials needs to meet the same standards of fairness as in print...

A staff member who writes a personal blog or who writes for a non-Denver Post internet site should generally avoid writing about topics, institutions or organizations they cover for The Denver Post. This helps to prevent any confusion between professional and personal activities. No personal blog should imply the endorsement of The Denver Post and no Denver Post photograph, video, text or audio may be used on a personal blog without permission from The Denver Post.

Staff members who post comments on internet chat sites, web pages or the blogs of others should use their names and avoid using pseudonyms. We do not publish stories anonymously in the paper, and we should not blog or post online anonymously.

– The Denver Post


– Social networking sites are a legitimate and useful way for 21stcentury journalists to expand and maintain their list of contacts.
– Employees should feel free to join and to utilize these sites. However, as with all other rules and guidelines set forth in this ethics and practices policy, maintain your independence, remain free of obligations to news sources, newsmakers and people on your social network and always act with discretion and integrity.

– San Antonio Express-News


The Internet’s unique characteristics do not lower the standards by which we evaluate, gather and disseminate information.

Material gathered online should be verified.

Material disseminated online should be solidly confirmed.

The ability to change information around the clock does not lessen the need for accuracy.

– Tampa Bay Tribune


Internet communications. Inquirer journalists should mention their Inquirer affiliation only in communications relating to their Inquirer duties. Freelance contributors may mention The Inquirer only when pursuing an Inquirer assignment, and they should make their freelance status clear.

Everyone should keep in mind that the Internet is a public forum. Therefor, people mentioning their Inquirer affiliation should be very careful not to express opinions that would compromise their impartiality in covering the news.

– The Philadelphia Inquirer


All written communications, including email, must be carefully written, keeping in mind that they may have to be disclosed in litigation or will otherwise become public.

– Hearst Newspapers


All our standards for accuracy, sourcing, taste and avoidance of conflict of interest apply to work posted on The Roanoke Times Online.

However, the digital medium gives us space to post the complete text of something in the news, a court decision, speech or manifesto, for instance. These are posted as resource materials, not news stories, and will be presented verbatim.

But before we post any document on our Web site, it must first be read in its entirety by an appropriate staff member. If there are occasional objectional words in the document, it should be left unchanged, but a note about the offensive language should be posted at the top. If a document contains a great deal of potentially offensive language, it should not be posted without the approval of a senior editor, and a note should be posted at the top.

– The Roanoke Times, Virginia


Make certain any electronic communication is genuine and verify all material gathered online unless it is known to be from a credible source. Material disseminated online should be solidly confirmed and all normal standard for fairness apply. Before we post any document on our Web site, it must first be read in its entirety by an appropriate staff member.

– Lincoln Journal Star, Nebraska


Journalists may not work for people or organizations they cover or who are regular subjects of Times coverage. Blogs and social media have created potential quandaries for staff members who want to express themselves through those channels. No matter how careful staff members might be to distinguish their personal work from their professional affiliation with The Times, outsiders are likely to see them as intertwined.

As a result, any staff member who seeks to create a personal blog must clear it with a supervisor; approval will be granted only if the propose blog meets The Times’ journalistic standards. When approval is granted, staff members should take care not to write anything in their blogs that would not be acceptable in Times publications. Staff members should observe the same principle when contributing to blogs other than their own or to social media.

– The Los Angeles Times


Recently, the National Advertising Division (NAD), the industry’s self-regulatory arm, and the Electronic Retailing Self Regulation Program (ERSP) have taken a number of self-regulatory actions when a company is either sponsoring a site or paying for product review by bloggers without a clear, conspicuous and meaningful disclosure of that fact.

The Federal Trade Commission, the chief federal regulator of advertising, has also amended its Endorsement and Testimonial Guides to require bloggers to disclose when they are paid by a company, and when they work for the company whose product is being blogged, also when they are given the product free of charge.

– American Advertising Federation

[ Back to Top ]


Accountability and transparency

PRINCIPLE 4: Advertisers should clearly disclose all material conditions, such as payment or receipt of a free product, affecting endorsements in social and traditional channels, as well as the identity of endorsers, all in the interest of full disclosure and transparency.

PRINCIPLE 8: Advertisers and their agencies, and online and offline media, should discuss privately potential ethical concerns, and members of the team creating ads should be given permission to express internally their ethical concerns.

– American Advertising Federation


– Be honest and accurate in all communications.
– Act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the member is responsible.
– Investigate the truthfulness and accuracy of information released on behalf of those represented.
– Reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented.
– Disclose financial interest (such as stock ownership) in a client’s organization.
– Avoid deceptive practices.

– PRSA Code of Ethics


All staffers are encouraged to cooperate with and become familiar with operations in circulation, production, advertising and other departments of The Dallas Morning News. Any advertiser request for stories or photos should be routed through the managing editor’s office to avoid any appearance or perception of pressure on this staff. However, any person inside or outside of The Dallas Moring News is encouraged to offer story or photo ideas to the news department, and they should be received courteously.

– The Dallas Morning News


If there is a mistake or an injustice, do not cover it up or ignore the situation. Failure to correct it or report promptly to the next higher supervisory level may result in disciplinary action, including termination.

– Deseret News, Salt Lake City


To be trusted in the community, we have to be seen as decent, caring and courteous people. That means listening, acknowledging when we’re wrong and taking action to correct our mistakes. ...

We do not, under any circumstances, expect staffers to tolerate abusive language or behavior from readers or sources. If a caller’s language becomes abusive, politely tell him or her that you want to hear him out but that you can’t listen to such language. If the language persists, politely ask him to call back when he’s calmer, tell him you are going to hang us, and say “goodbye” as you do so. Never end a call unannounced, slam a receiver down or use profanity or obscenity in any telephone conversation, no matter what the provocation. Get out of the conversation or situation, and inform your supervisor immediately as to what has happened.

– The Roanoke Times, Virginia


The Register will not give favored treatment in news to anyone. It will report matters regarding itself or its personnel with the same vigor and candor as it would other institutions or individuals.

– The Orange County Register, California


We want a dialogue with our readers; they, too, have a stake in this newspaper. It shall be the policy of our editors and staff members to encourage the maximum amount of public participating in bringing all points of view before our readers.

– The Honolulu Advertiser


Dow Jones takes this code of conduct very seriously. All employees of Dow Jones are responsible for compliance with all aspects of this code. All new employees shall be required to read this code at the outset of their employment and to attest in writing that they have done so. In addition, all Dow Jones employees shall be required each year to provide a written attestation that they have read and abided by this code during the previous calendar year.

The matters addressed by this code are sufficiently important that any lapse in judgment within the areas covered here may be considered serious enough to warrant discipline up to and including dismissal.

– Dow Jones & Company (publishers of the Wall Street Journal)


For the sake of accuracy, there is nothing wrong with reading back a quote to the individual who said it to make sure you have it straight.

Reading back an entire story or the gist of it to a source is perilous and ordinarily should be avoided. Any exceptions should be discussed in advance with a supervising editor and should be done only to ensure accuracy. In such cases, reporters should make clear to the source in advance that, whatever the objections, the newspaper will have ultimate control over the final wording and publication.

– The Journal News, White Plains, New York


Allowing a source or a subject to see a proposed story before publication in the newspaper is a relatively rare practice among journalists. There is no intrinsic journalistic reason for that reluctance. In fact, pre-publication review of stories or parts of stories should be considered a helpful and useful part of the newsgathering process.

There is no obligation on the part of the reporter or the newspaper at any time to allow a pre-publication review. At the same time, the idea should not be rejected out of hand.

– Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia


Stories should not be shown to sources or people outside the newsroom prior to publication.

However, it is sometimes acceptable to allow a source to review portions of stories for purposes of accuracy. For example, an engineer might be sought to review a technically descriptive passage in an environmental story that details how sewer piping allows toxic chemicals to flow into public waters.

Such exceptions should be approved beforehand by the Managing Editor/News.

– The Denver Post


Because these Principles embody the highest standards of professional conduct, the Gannett Newspaper Division is committed to their adherence. They have been putting in writing specifically so that members of ever Gannett Newspaper Division newsroom know what the Division stands for and what is expected of them. The public will know, too.

– Gannett Newspaper Division


The guidelines also are intended to inform the public of the standards by which The Journal Gazette gathers and publishes information. Under this principle, the public has a right to expect a newspaper to remain free from influences, and the appearance of influences, that might affect what is reported. The guidelines represent a pledge by The Journal Gazette and its staff to maintain and cultivate public confidence.

– The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, Indiana


No employee or director who in good faith reports a violation of this Code will suffer harassment, retaliation or adverse employment consequences. An employee who retaliates against someone who has reported a violation in good faith is subject to discipline up to an including dismissal.

– ProPublica


The Times expects its editorial staff to behave with dignity and professionalism. We do nothing while gathering the news that we would be ashamed to see in print or on television. We do not let the behavior of the pack set standards for us.

– The Los Angeles Times


In the end, the simplest rule of thumb for ethical decision-making is this: Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to explain on the front page of the paper.

– Lincoln Journal Star, Nebraska

[ Back to Top ]


SPJ Code of Ethics
English | PDF version
Arabic [PDF]
Chinese [PDF]
Croatian [PDF]
French
German [PDF]
Greek [PDF]
Hungarian [PDF]
Macedonian [PDF]
Persian
Portuguese
Slovene
Spanish

Other Codes of Ethics


Codes of Ethics History
Coded Controversy [Quill, April 2010]
1926 Ethics Code [PDF]
1973 Ethics Code [PDF]


Ethics
Ethics Home
SPJ Code of Ethics
News/Articles
Journalism Ethics Book
Case Studies
Committee Position Papers
Ethics Answers
Ethics Hotline
Resources
Ethics Committee

Quill: Stories About Journalism Ethics
– 10 lessons in journalism ethics
– Journalism’s complicated relationship with transparency
– Sinclair’s ‘teachable moment’ raises even more questions

Ethics Committee
This committee's purpose is to encourage the use of the Society's Code of Ethics, which promotes the highest professional standards for journalists of all disciplines. Public concerns are often answered by this committee. It also acts as a spotter for reporting trends in the nation, accumulating case studies of jobs well done under trying circumstances.

Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn RSS

Copyright © 1996-2018 Society of Professional Journalists. All Rights Reserved.

Legal | Policies

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center
3909 N. Meridian St., Suite 200
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317-927-8000

Contact SPJ Headquarters
Employment Opportunities
Advertise with SPJ