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Ethics Policy

NEWS GATHERING: ACCURACY, FAIRNESS AND SOURCING


Nailing our stories can be as simple as phoning three people – or as grueling as spending months chiseling away the nonessential, the rumor, the red herrings.

Our aim is to deliver the facts with precision and context.

We believe in getting not only both sides, but “all” sides.

The best stories are multi-sourced. Facts are triple-checked. Issues are balanced with diverse views and sources.

They are, simply, as complete as possible.

Anonymous Sources

Rateweb expects the information in its pages to be accurately attributed. Anonymous sources are a last resort. In the public interest, however, anonymous sourcing can be a vital tool to exposing hidden truths while protecting those who may be harmed for reporting them.

The use of anonymous or confidential sources in a story must be approved by the Managing Editor/News or the Editor. Reporters must be able to characterize the source’s accessibility to the information and the source’s credibility, and will be expected to disclose the source’s identity to editors.

In granting confidentiality, the reporter must reach a clear understanding with the source, after consultation with an editor, about how the information and attribution will be presented in the story. Care should be taken when using terms with sources such as “off the record,” “not for attribution” and “background.” Different people can have different understandings of these terms. Reporters should be specific with sources, and they should clearly explain to editors how the source believes the information will be characterized.

Before an anonymous source is used, great weight should be given to whether the source’s information could or should be substantiated by other sources. We should ask ourselves whether the source’s information serves a personal agenda that overrides the greater public interest.

We should disclose to readers our sourcing techniques when writing stories without traditional styles of attribution.

When an anonymous source is used, a reason, if possible, should be cited in the story for protecting the source’s identity (fear of job loss, fear for safety, etc.).

Anonymous sourcing used in narrative projects must be based on interviews with multiple sources with direct knowledge of the details. This technique should be clearly explained in the story package, such as in an editor’s note.

Relationships with sources are sacred trusts. Care must be taken to avoid phrasing that could inadvertently identify a confidential source. Reporters should reach understandings with sources about who and how many people will have knowledge of confidential information. In some situations, it may be sufficient to inform a source that his or her identity will be “protected by Rateweb.”

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 Rateweb. 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, “Rateweb will protect you. But if you lie to me, that promise of confidentiality is void.”

Use of Quotes

The words of our sources and the people we cover must never be altered.

Quote marks are intended to bracket the true voices and exact words of people.

If a reporter or editor is concerned that ungrammatical or clumsily worded remarks may expose the source to embarrassment or ridicule, then they may agree to use another quote from that person conveying the same or a similar point, or they may agree to paraphrase the source.

Plagiarism and Originality

Plagiarism is the act of stealing work – whether it is writing, reporting or photography – and passing it off as one’s own.

Attribution is crucial. Proper credit is necessary if we can’t independently verify the information.

Acts of plagiarism or fabrication announce to the world that the writer did not have the honesty, skill, savvy or energy to do the work that someone else performed. Information, quotes and passages from another publication must be attributed.

All writing and reporting on Rateweb must be original or credited to the proper source.

Story Packaging

The presentation of bylines, taglines and datelines should accurately disclose authorship and the origin of reporting.

Bylines should convey who is largely responsible for the writing and reporting. The dateline should accurately reflect where most of the reporting originated and where the reporter physically gathered the information.

Editors should assign bylines using both quality and volume of work as criteria.

In some cases, taglines or bylines should indicate whether the lead writer compiled reporting that originated elsewhere.

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