Ethical Code

Fundamentals

Telling the truth

  • Be honest, accurate, truthful and fair. Do not distort or fabricate facts, imagery, sound or data.
  • Provide accurate context for all reporting.
  • Seek out diverse voices that can contribute important perspectives on the subject you’re writing.
  • Ensure that sources are reliable. To the maximum extent possible, make clear to your audience who and what your sources are, what motivations your sources may have and any conditions people have set for giving you information. When unsure of information, leave it out or make clear it has not been corroborated.
  • Correct errors quickly, completely and visibly. Make it easy for your audience to bring errors to your attention.
  • If a report includes criticism of people or organizations, give them the opportunity to respond.
  • Clearly distinguish fact from opinion in all content.

Conflicts of interest

  • Avoid any conflict of interest that undermines your ability to report fairly. Disclose to your audience any unavoidable conflicts or other situational factors that may validly affect their judgment of your credibility.
  • Do not allow people to make you dishonestly skew your reporting. Do not offer to skew your reporting under any circumstances.
  • Do not allow the interests of advertisers or others funding your work to affect the integrity of your journalism.

Community

  • Respect your audience and those you write about. Consider how your work and its permanence may affect the subjects of your reporting, your community and ­­ since the Internet knows no boundaries ­­ the larger world.

Professional Conduct

  • Don’t plagiarize or violate copyrights.
  • Keep promises to sources, readers and the community.
  • If you belong to a news organization, give all staff expectations, support and tools to maintain ethical standards.

 

Nature of Our Journalism

  • Our reporters may express personal opinions in their own accounts on social networks.
  • Our journalists, salespeople and executives work to ensure that advertisers, sponsors and contributors have no influence over editorial content.
  • If a family member’s political involvement would call into question the integrity of a journalist’s coverage, the journalist should avoid coverage of that issue or campaign. If avoiding such a family conflict is impossible, the family member’s involvement should be disclosed in related coverage.
  • Our journalists should avoid community involvement in areas that they cover. Journalists should tell their supervisors about their community involvement. When they have to cover an area where they have a personal involvement, we should consider assigning another journalist. If a conflict can’t be avoided, coverage should disclose the conflict.
  • We encourage involvement in the community, politics and the issues we cover, but we disclose these involvements in our coverage.
  • Despite our organization’s involvement in the issues we cover, we should provide factual coverage in a neutral voice. We should disclose our affiliation for transparency reasons, but the affiliation should not be evident from a promotional voice or content.

 

Bombs and Other Threats

  • We will consult with local officials to determine whether a bomb threat is credible before we publish a story, but we will reserve the right to publish regardless of what officials say.
  •  We will not send bomb threats, or threats of violence against health and property.

 

Concealing Identity

  • We permit undercover reporting only when we feel a story is important enough to justify doing so, and we have exhausted all other reasonable methods.
  • Permission must be granted by the Editor in Chief

 

Confidential Sources

  • Only the Editor in Chief may grant confidentiality.
  • We use confidential sources sparingly to provide important information that cannot be obtained through on-the-record sources. Reporters should disclose the identity of unnamed sources to at least one editor.
  • We will disclose to readers or viewers the reasons for granting confidentiality, such as fear for the source’s safety or job, when we use unnamed sources.
  • We publish information from confidential sources that we consider reliable, but do not publish the opinions of unnamed sources.
  • We do not attend “background briefings” where officials try to spoon-feed information to the media without speaking for the record.
  • We are more open to granting confidentiality to sources we approach for interviews than to sources approaching us with tips or with dirt about political opponents or business rivals.
  • We recognize that many sources cannot talk to us freely. We grant confidentiality if we think the source has a good reason. We will use information and quotes from unnamed sources we consider reliable.
  • We always assume that government, administration, law enforcement, or hackers might access our regular communication channels when we grant confidentiality to a source. We should use technology such as encryption software or “burner” cell phones to protect confidentiality.

 

Children: Coverage, Images and Interviews

  • We avoid including any identifying information of children connected to a crime as perpetrators, victims or witnesses.
  • We refrain from featuring photos of children who are connected to a crime as perpetrators, victims or witnesses.
  • We identify children who are charged with a crime only if the child is being tried in adult court for felony.
  • We do not require parental permission to photograph or interview children in breaking news situations.
  • We will ask parental permission to photograph children in situations that are not breaking news.
  • We consider granting confidentiality if we’re covering a story about a sensitive issue that could cause a child to be stereotyped, judged unfairly or put in harm’s way, even if the child doesn’t request it.

 

Accuracy

  • Our staff members should take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of information that we publish and keep records of our sources.
  • We should not publish rumors or other information we have not verified.
  • If we are unsure of the accuracy of information, we should cite our sources, word stories carefully to avoid spreading false rumors, acknowledge what we don’t know and ask the community’s help in confirming or correcting our information.
  • When needed, reporters may read stories to expert sources before publication to ensure accuracy. The reporters must make it clear to expert sources that this is only a fact-checking call, not an opportunity to change the writing or approach to the story.
  • When needed, reporters may read the source’s own quotes before publication to them to ensure accuracy. The reporters must make it clear to sources that this is only a fact-checking call, not an opportunity to change the writing or approach to the story.

 

Balance and Fairness

  • To ensure fairness, we believe in covering not only the most powerful voices on an issue, but also those who are underrepresented or unheard.
  • We will refrain from presenting multiple points of view if one perspective on an issue has been credibly established as fact. In other words, we will avoid “false balance” (e.g. climate change).
  • In breaking news situations, we will attempt to gather comments from key sides of an issue; if comments are not immediately available, we will publish or air the story without them, while making clear that we were unable to get some comment, and we will update our story as needed.

 

Online Commenting

  • We believe that public commentary is worthwhile, and we do not edit or change online comments in any fashion.
  • We have a system that permits individuals to “flag” comments for potential problems, and we review those “flagged” comments in a systematic and timely fashion.
  • We do not permit anonymous comments at all.
  • We will not allow any hate speech.
  • We permit comments on all articles.
  • We allow pseudonyms for commenting as long as a user has registered an account with us.
  • We will never access and review the identity of a registered commenter.

 

Quotations

  • We will use only full and complete quotes or paraphrase unless otherwise mentioned in this ethics code.
  • We will clean up random utterances such as pauses, “um” or “you know” unless they materially alter the meaning.
  • We will correct grammatical errors by sources unless they are people in positions of power (e.g., elected officials or public figures).

 

Withholding Names

  • Unless we have a compelling reason to withhold a name, we will publish names of people involved in the stories we cover.
  • In breaking news stories, we do not publish the names of the deceased until authorities have notified their families and released the names.
  • We withhold the names of mass killers to deny them the attention they appear to seek. Other than names, we cover other details of these crimes based on their newsworthiness.
  • In covering active police or military operations, we will withhold such details as location or tactics planned, until after the operation, to avoid endangering police, troops or civilians who could be affected.
  • We will consider potential harm to sources facing intolerance in their societies before naming them in stories.
  • We do not publish names of sexual assault survivors in stories covering their sexual assault unless they request for their names to be published.
  • We will not publish the names of the dead until an obituary has been published

 

 Financial Interests

  • Our journalists may not own interests in entities they cover regularly.
  • Our journalists should immediately disclose to a supervisor any interests they have in a company they are asked to cover. Supervisors should consider putting another journalist on the story.
  • Our journalists must disclose their financial interests to their supervisors.
  • Our journalists may invest in equity index-related products and publicly available diversified mutual funds or commodity pools, but should disclose them if they happen to cover a particular fund in which they have an interest.

 

Community Activities

  • While our journalists are encouraged to be active members of their communities, our journalists should avoid reporting in areas or entities of the communities that they are involved in.
  • Journalists should tell their supervisors about their community involvements in stories that they are reporting on, including when a story suddenly arises that may present a conflict. When they have to cover an area where they have a personal involvement, we should consider assigning another journalist. If a conflict can’t be avoided, coverage should disclose the conflict.
  • We will provide factual coverage in a neutral voice on issues where our organization is involved. We will disclose our affiliation or involvement for transparency reasons. We will not use a promotional voice or promotional content.

 

Gifts, Free Travel and Other Perks

  • Our journalists should accept no gifts from current subjects or potential subjects of our coverage. If gifts sent to journalists cannot be returned, we should donate them to charity.
  • Our journalists who travel internationally should use good judgment to determine if upholding our gift policy would be culturally insensitive. If a journalist accepts a gift that normally would violate our ethics, we should disclose the gift and/or donate it to charity.
  • Our journalists may accept a small gift in cases where people are being kind and clearly not trying to influence us. Our gift policy does not require us to be rude; sometimes there’s a common-sense need to accept a small gift.

 

Personal Ethics of Staff

  • Our journalists are encouraged to follow their own personal ethics in their work and daily lives.
  • Our organization’s policy prevails if personal ethics codes and organizational policy conflict in work spaces, on work projects, or with co-workers.

 

Plagiarism and Attribution

  • We believe a link to a digital source is sometimes sufficient attribution; we need not always name the source in the text if the information is routine.
  • When we are using someone else’s exact words, we should use quotation marks and attribution.
  • We should always cite news releases if they are our sources, and should quote them if using their exact words.
  • When we use substantial material from our archives or from an author’s previous work in a current story, we should note that the material has been published before.
  • Even when taking basic facts from another source–“World War II ended in Allied victories over Germany and Japan”– we should vary the wording from the phrasing used in source materials.

 

Political Activities by Staff

  • Our journalists may engage in political activities, such as participating in campaigns, so long as they do not cover stories relating to the area of their political activity. In any case, our journalists may not run for office.
  • Our journalists should disclose community and political involvements, particularly those involving topics they might cover in stories relating to their involvement.
  • Our journalists should be aware of personal biases that can skew their reporting, even if journalists conduct no public activity indicating a political bias. They will consider publishing personal ethics statements, or making colleagues aware of their beliefs to help backstop the objectivity of their work.
  • Our journalists should avoid coverage of an issue or campaign if a family member’s political involvement would call into question the integrity of a journalist’s coverage. If avoiding such a family conflict is impossible, we will disclose the family member’s involvement in related coverage.

 

Awards and Contests

  • We will accept monetary awards only from journalistic organizations.
  • We will accept awards from organizations if we feel such awards will not skew our reporting.
  • We will assess the nature of the contest and make a decision consistent with our overall contest principles if we win a contest we did not enter.

 

Censorship

  • We will refuse any attempt to censor our material, accepting delay as the price for putting out exactly what we want.
  • In military situations, we will be respectful of requests related to security and respect for troops, but reserve the right to make our own decisions.

 

Corrections

  • If a mistake is made in an official social media post, we will delete the original post and publish a corrected version with an indication that the new post is a correction.
  • We will show all changes that have been made to online stories if they involve corrections or rephrasing to fix unclear material.
  • We will post all corrections in a single corrections area in our printed newspaper.

 

Handling and Protection of Freelancers and “Fixers”

  • We will publicly credit the work of freelancers, fixers and translators unless doing so poses risk of harm, such as threatening a person’s safety.
  • We will pay reasonable fees to freelancers, fixers and translators for their services but not for contributing as sources on a story.

 

Removing Archived Work

  • We will never remove material from our archives.
  • We will update a story in our archives, including the headline, if the story would damage someone’s reputation and is outdated.
  • We will consider exceptions to our policy in extreme cases, such as abuse or danger to someone’s personal safety.
  • We will delete inaccurate social media posts but acknowledge the deletions in subsequent posts.

 

Reporting On Your Organization

  • We will follow the same process we use for covering any other organization when our organization has done something newsworthy. We will assign a reporter, and let that reporter contact sources within our organization. The story will then be edited like any other; senior executives should not see the story before it is published or broadcast.

 

Robot Journalism

  • We will publish a statement with all automatically produced stories, explaining that they are the work of robot journalism.
  • We will identify for the reader the source of data for automatically produced stories and the people or company providing the story-writing automation.

 

Diversity

  • We encourage staffers to seek diverse sources, both in specific stories and in routine beat coverage.
  • As our policies are updated, we will publish and maintain a more comprehensive statement on our active and continued efforts to be diverse in our coverage and newsroom.

 

Hate Speech

  • We report on hate speech and actions but include original offensive expressions only when specifically necessary for audience understanding of the case.
  • We consider the perspectives of those offended by hateful expression when making publication decisions.
  • We consider the climate for free expression when making publication decisions.

 

Mental Health and Suicide

  • We will cover mental health and suicide as broad public health issues and as consistently as we cover other health matters.
  • We will use the phrases “died by suicide” and avoid the phrases “committed suicide” and “took his or her own life and “killed himself or herself””
  • We will not describe a suicide attempt as “successful” or “unsuccessful.”
  • We will not detail specific means nor general methods of suicide unless closely related to a current and urgent contextual situation on campus.
  • We will not use sensational headlines on stories about suicide.
  • We will not use graphic images on stories about suicide.
  • We will include contact information for resources for people in mental health crises. (e.g. “The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States is available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.)

 

Obscenities

  • We will use obscenities, vulgarities or slurs only in direct quotations and only if the quote is essential to the story.
  • We will replace obscenities, vulgarities and slurs with a descriptor or other mark that implies the word (e.g. “an anti-gay slur” or “f—” or “f–k”).
  • We will apply the same standards on obscenities, vulgarities and slurs to reader comments on stories that are applied to the story itself.
  • This policy applies when not at odds with our policy on hate speech. In all cases the hate speech policy abrogates this policy.

 

Privacy

  • We consider the standard for publishing material about private individuals who are thrust into the public eye as higher than that for public individuals.
  • We do not believe that everything celebrities and public officials say and do should be made public, even though they cede a great deal of privacy when they enter the public eye. We analyze cases on an individual basis, taking into account the news value of the public figure’s action.
  • We reserve the right to publish material that we have voluntarily withheld if we determine in the future that the material has valid public interest or if we feel that the party requesting that the material be withheld has deceived us as to their motives.
  • We believe interviewing bystanders of traumatic events is voyeurism and unlikely to add relevant material to articles or programs. We generally will not conduct interviews “in the heat of the moment” because people under stress may not be aware of the consequences of talking to us.

 

Race and Gender

  • We will seek out people in the groups we cover to gain perspective on our coverage and terminology.
  • We will use racial, ethnic, gender and sexuality identifiers when specifically germane to a story but not otherwise. In these cases we will ask the subject of the identifiers what words they prefer to use to describe their identity.
  • We will identify transgender people by the gender they express publicly.
  • We ask all sources for their pronouns.

 

Sensational Material

  • We will run sensational material that might be offensive to specific members of the audience after internal debate has demonstrated a clear public interest in and value from the publication.
  • We will consider the differing impact of sensational material on differing segments of the population (e.g., effects on minors, vulnerable groups or victims of crime).
  • We will make publication decisions on material involving the local community differently from material involving distant communities.
  • We will refrain from running sensational material specifically or solely for the revenue purposes, such as increased digital traffic.
  • We will run stories with sensational material with notes of warning.
  • Just because material is sensational does not mean that this section abrogates any other section.

 

Audio

  • Audio cuts that we broadcast must be completely faithful to the original. Verbal stumbles by the speaker may not be edited out.
  • We do not consider it necessary to identify person-in-the-street speakers by name.
  • Our journalists may never combine sound from different sources in such a way as to create an audio scene that never happened.

 

Data Journalism

  • We will never pay for data, as it may be tainted by financial motives.
  • In collaborative projects, we insist that all parties are clear on shared ethics, values and roles.
  • We will put all data in relevant context.
  • We will make original data available for download when it is not covered by a usage agreement that bars such public posting. Any usage agreement will be disclosed publicly.
  • We will not use personally identifiable data without specific and valid news value to support disclosure.
  • We will secure data to the best extent possible to prevent hacking.
  • We will pay reasonable technical costs (copying, transmission, etc.) for providing data to us.

 

Interactives

  • We will ensure that non-interactive versions of the stories exist so that all users may access our news content.
  • Links among the parts of an interactive will be retained over time, including when the story is archived.
  • We will reconstruct or preview events through infographics or animations only if we are sure that every detail we show is correct.

 

Photo and Video

  • We will use drones to capture images in public areas only.
  • We will not ask subjects to pose or to re-enact an event.
  • We will refrain from intentionally becoming an active participant in a news story (e.g. taking part in a rescue operation or using our camera to influence a situation).
  • We will not manipulate images through Photoshop or other means unless it is to obscure or pixellate images. We will only obscure or pixellate when the intent is to protect the identify of someone in the image or to protect viewers from gory or graphic material.
  • We will refrain from doing re-enactments of news events.
  • When using generic photos, we will make sure they are clearly labeled as such.
  • If using music in video stories, we will be cognizant of the emotional effect the music may have, and avoid using music if the story is intended to have a neutral voice.
  • We will verify photos or videos from social media before using them.

 

User-Generated Content

  • User generated content is any submission to the newspaper not generated by Juniatian journalists.
  • We will guard against using UGC in situations that might be dangerous to the person who created it or to others in the images. We will stress to possible providers of UGC that they must not take risks to gather information or imagery.
  • We consider UGC an extension of our own journalism. We don’t run such material unless we’re sure it’s authentic. We expect UGC to follow our ethical code, and will accept submitted UGC accordingly.
  • We will not distribute UGC content unless we’re certain we have the rights to do so. The only exception might be an urgent situation where a rights-holder cannot be found.

 

Accepting Money

  • Our funder(s) will not be able to see our stories before publication.
  • Our funder(s) will have no say in topics to be covered or specific stories.
  • We will publicly disclose all funding sources.

 

Clickbait and Metrics

  • We are encouraged to write clever, creative headlines and social media posts that will entice readers to click on our stories, but headlines will not make promises that our stories don’t deliver.
  • We will accurately reflect the content of related stories in headlines and social media posts.
  • We will use metric considerations as one of a number of factors in determining what we cover and how we place stories.

 

News and Advertising

  • We do not allow advertisers to have a say in the selection or content of stories and photos.
  • We require news-like content produced by advertisers to be clearly identified as advertising.
  • We have specific, consistent definitions of terms like “Advertisement,” “Sponsored Content” and “Message from …”
  • We will require that items that look too much like news stories be accompanied by a clear statement that the article was prepared by the advertiser and did not involve our editorial staff.
  • We require content provided by advertisers to have a different color type or background, a different font or a separation from editorial content with a heavy line.
  • We make it clear when tweets or posts on our social media accounts are linked to advertiser-prepared material.
  • We disclose whether any one advertiser or industry provides a substantial share of our revenue.

 

UPDATED: Monday, March 2, 2020, 8:39 pm.

*All ethical codes are reviewed by The Juniatian Leadership Team.

*More ethical codes are currently under review.

The Student Newspaper of Juniata College
Ethical Code