Examiner Media Ethics Code

Journalism 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

  • We will respect our audience and those we write about. We’ll consider how our work and its permanence may impact the subjects of our reporting and our communities, especially given the nature of the Internet.

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 Your Journalism

  • We want our news coverage to be fact-based, without expression of opinions, but reporters are encouraged to provide commentary in related blog posts or columns, being transparent about their opinions.
  • Our reporters may express personal opinions in their own accounts on social networks.
  • We encourage our journalists to express opinions about journalism matters, advocating for freedom of information and joining the conversation within the profession about important issues.
  • Our journalists, salespeople and executives work to ensure that advertisers, sponsors and contributors have no influence over editorial 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.

Concealing Identity

  • We permit undercover reporting only when we feel a story is important enough to justify doing so.

Confidential Sources

  • 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 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.

Children: Coverage, Images and Interviews

  • We avoid identifying — by name or photo — children who are connected with a crime as perpetrators, victims or witnesses.
  • 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.
  • In most cases we avoid identifying — by name or photo — children who are connected with a crime as perpetrators, victims or witnesses but reserve the right to do so if there’s a compelling journalistic reason.

Hostage Situations

  • We will take authorities’ recommendations into account but use our own judgment.

Interviewing

  • Our organization never pays for interviews.
  • Our organization does not permit interview subjects to review their comments in advance of publication.

Sources: Reliability and Attribution

  • We may use sources with a conflict of interest in stories, but details that signal the conflict of interest should be included (e.g. a scientist who conducted a study about a drug’s effectiveness when the study was funded by the manufacturer).
  • We use links, if available, for source attribution in online stories.
  • We include source attribution in online stories themselves as well as links, if available, that provide additional information.
  • We report things that have clearly been established as fact at the top of the story and put the attribution in later.

Fact-Checking

  • Our journalists fact-check to independently verify all information before publication.
  • We should not publish rumors or other information we have not verified.
  • Reporters should fact-check their own work before submitting to an editor but should not preview any of the actual text of a story with sources.
  • Our staff members should take all possible reporting steps to ensure the accuracy of information that we publish and note our sources. We should not publish information we haven’t verified. If there’s room for debate, we should cite our sources, word stories carefully to avoid spreading false rumors, acknowledge the debate and ask the community’s help in confirming or clarifying information.
  • We use multiple sources to verify information in order to help ensure accuracy. We meet with sources in person and speak with them over the phone as often as possible. If a source makes a controversial charge, we aim to verify the information through documents or other independent research. Sources need to provide us with their first and last names and titles; we rarely use anonymous sources. We only use anonymous sources if doing so is the only way to tell an incredibly important story of great public interest.
  • In regards to comments from readers on our social media accounts, if we deem any posts as hate speech or inciting violence, or if we determine a comment is posted from a fake account, we will remove the content and ban the user. Also, we fact-check comments from users to verify accuracy. If assertions are missing important context, we will provide that context for our readers. 

Balance and Fairness

  • To ensure fairness, we believe in covering not only the most powerful voices on an issue, but also those who are not normally heard (e.g. in election coverage, mainstream and non-mainstream candidates).
  • We will be alert to situations where the most accessible spokesmen are at the extremes of issues, but most people are somewhere in the middle.
  • 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.”
  • In breaking news situations, we will seek comments from key sides of an issue and break the news once we have established the key facts.

Online Commenting

  • We do not permit anonymous comments at all.
  • We do not permit comments at all on our website.

Quotations

  • We will not alter quotes in any way.
  • We will allow separate phrases of a quote separated by ellipsis. (“I will go to war … but only if necessary,” the president said.)

Withholding Names

  • Unless we have a compelling reason to withhold a name, we always publish names of people involved in the stories we cover.

Financial Interests

  • 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

  • Our journalists should avoid community involvement in areas that they cover. Journalists should tell their supervisors about their community involvements, 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.

Gifts, Free Travel and Other Perks

  • Our journalists should accept no gifts from subjects or potential subjects of our coverage. If gifts sent to journalists cannot be returned, we should donate them to charity.
  • Our journalists may accept tickets or press passes to events we are covering or reviewing, but should not accept extra tickets for family or friends.
  • 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 Statements by Staff

  • Our journalists are encouraged to make personal ethics statements, which provide more information about themselves and their attitudes, even though they must follow our corporate values.

Plagiarism and Attribution

  • When we are using someone else’s exact words, we should use quotation marks and attribution.
  • Attribution should be as specific as possible, including the name of the author and publication or organization of the source we are quoting.

Political Activities by Staff

  • Our journalists should avoid political involvement such as running for or holding office, joining political parties, volunteering in campaigns, serving on community boards, donating to campaigns or displaying campaign materials on their property or persons.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Awards and Contests

  • We will accept awards only from journalistic organizations, with judges who are journalists.
  • We will accept awards from advocacy organizations, if we are transparent about favoring that point of view.
  • We will accept awards from corporations 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.

Corrections

  • If a mistake is made in a social media post, we will delete the original post and publish a corrected version with an indication that the new post is a correction.

Freelance Work by Employees

  • We prohibit full-time employees from doing freelance work for a competing media organization as defined by company managers or for a political organization, elected official, government agency, candidate for office, or a non-profit agency with a political agenda, such as an environmental group.

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.

Removing Archived Work

  • We will consider exceptions to our policy in extreme cases, such as abuse or danger to someone’s personal safety.

Reporting On Your Organization

  • We will assign an internal reporter to cover the story when our organization has done something newsworthy, but we will allow the story to be vetted by a high-level editor.

Diversity

  • We encourage staffers to seek diverse sources, both in specific stories and in routine beat coverage.

Hate Speech

  • We report on hate speech and actions and include original offensive expressions in most cases.
  • We consider the perspectives of those offended by hateful expression when making publication decisions.
  • We support local, national or international laws to combat hate speech.

Mental Health and Suicide

  • We will cover mental health and suicide as broad public health issues as consistently as we cover other health matters.
  • We will cover individual events of suicide as news stories if they involve prominent figures or public means.
  • We will not use sensational headlines on stories about suicide.

Naming suspects

  • We will name criminal suspects if we have their identifications confirmed by sources we trust.
  • We will not name juvenile suspects in criminal cases unless they are charged with serious violent crimes, such as armed robbery, aggravated sexual assault, attempted homicide or homicide.
  • If a criminal suspect is at large and believed to be dangerous, we will identify the suspect, including a photo or sketch.

Obscenities

  • We will use obscenities, vulgarities or slurs only in direct quotations and only if the quote is essential to the story.

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 will voluntarily withhold information we have gathered when requested if we deem the individual’s request to be valid, based on our news judgment and professional standards.
  • We reserve the right to publish material that we have voluntarily withheld if we determine that the material has valid public interest or if we feel that the requesting party has deceived us as to his or her motives.
  • We do not hold back from interviewing individuals in traumatic situations (i.e., accidents, terror incidents, etc.), because the public’s right to know outweighs private individual’s rights. Also, if a private individual in such situations talks to us, that’s the person’s decision.

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.
  • We will Identify transgender people by the gender they express publicly.

Sensational Material

  • We will run sensitive 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 sensitive material on differing segments of the population (e.g., effects on minors, vulnerable groups or victims of crime).
  • We will refrain from running sensitive material specifically or solely for the revenue purposes, such as increased digital traffic.

Audio

  • Audio cuts of newsmakers that we broadcast must be completely faithful to the original. Verbal stumbles by the speaker may not be edited out.
  • We will fully identify person-in-the-street-type speakers in audio cuts unless there is a compelling reason not to.
  • Our journalists may never combine sound from different sources in such a way as to create an audio scene that never happened.

Data Journalism

  • In collaborative projects, we insist that all parties are clear on shared ethics, values and roles.

Photo and Video

  • When documenting private or traumatic moments, we will not seek permission to shoot, but will be sensitive to subjects’ situation.

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 will accurately reflect the content of related stories in headlines and social media posts.

News and Advertising

  • We do not allow advertisers to have a say in the selection or content of stories and photos.
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