NYK DAILY ETHICS POLICY
Our power must be used responsibly. Our notebooks and cameras are tickets into people’s lives, sacred worlds and complex institutions.
Our job is to intensely scrutinize the activities of others as watchdogs that challenge authority and give voice to the voiceless. Our own actions should withstand equally intense scrutiny. We should be transparent.
Transparency is won through accuracy, compassion, intellectual honesty and an introspective mission to convey complete, contextual views of our world. When we are transparent, we conduct our professional lives as if all our colleagues and our readers are watching over our shoulders.
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 communal 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.
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.
NYK Daily 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 NYK Daily.”
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, “NYK Daily will protect you. But if you lie to me, that promise of confidentiality is void.”
At its core, The NYK Daily’s ethics policy attempts to eliminate conflicts of interest and even the appearance of conflicts of interest. The engine for that policy is honesty, full disclosure and willingness to discuss issues that arise.
NYK Daily recognizes that staff members are held to a high standard, and it also recognizes that the same standard cannot govern the lives of spouses, loved ones, close friends or associates.
- Staff members should not write about, photograph, illustrate or make news judgments about family members, friends or close associates. Columns or a writer’s story being told in the first person would be an obvious exception.
- Staff members should notify a department head about friendships or relationships that could be a conflict of interest. The intent is not to limit an employee’s personal life but to resolve potential conflicts.
- When in doubt – and whenever situations arise – consult with a department head.
Honoraria and Speaking Engagements
NYK Daily encourages staff members to make public appearances, but please follow these guidelines:
- Senior editors should be consulted before speaking engagements connected to your role as a Post employee are accepted; this includes television and radio appearances. When staff members are regulars on news interview or discussion shows, or are regularly called upon by media outlets, case-by-case approval is not necessary once the supervisor has given the initial approval.
- Staff members should not divulge information that would place NYK Daily at a competitive disadvantage. In other words, don’t scoop the paper.
- Staff members must be labeled as Post employees when appearances are connected to your role as a NYK Daily employee. News reporters should adhere to the same impartiality as in print, while a columnist or editorial writer can express opinions.
- Staff members should not accept fees from trade-lobbying associations, industry groups, agencies or government entities covered by NYK Daily. Staff members may accept payment from universities and other nonprofit organizations unless the employee covers these organizations.
- Avoid organizations that would pose conflicts of interest. Employees may speak to groups they cover if they explain the work that they do or present analysis.
- Opinion page writers are allowed to speak to groups they write about to explain either NYK Daily’s position or their own.
No freelance work may be done for media in direct competition with NYK Daily. Employees must disclose all freelance work to a senior editor in advance so that it can be determined if the work is perceived by management to be in direct competition with NYK Daily. A guiding principle: No paid or unpaid freelance work should scoop NYK Daily.
Book Contracts and other projects
NYK Daily employees should not enter into any projects – including web-site projects, books, and scripts for television and film – that place them in a business relationship with anyone or any entity they cover.
Projects about something or someone employees have covered in the past may be acceptable, but should be discussed in advance with the Managing Editor/News or the Editor to identify potential conflicts.
If the subject matter involves NYK Daily employee’s work assignment at the newspaper, “hoarding” information obtained while working for NYK Daily – in other words, saving it for the book – is not allowed.
There are times when more restrictive attribution standards in the newspaper and even the passage of time might enable an author to impart information and tell stories that were not in NYK Daily.
All book deals, web or other media projects must be discussed in advance with the Managing Editor/News or the Editor. Without management permission, no employee shall engage in a project that exploits his or her connection with NYK Daily
Finally, if book or script deals involve a subject completely outside the author’s NYK Daily assignment, whether fiction or nonfiction, the authors are understood to be representing themselves – and not the newspaper – in personal appearances or media interviews tied to the project.
The purpose of this ethics policy is to protect the credibility of NYK Daily. Questions about the policy or its application to a particular circumstance should be discussed with a supervisor. Disclosure and discussion are fundamental to newsroom ethics.
Employee discipline or discharge under the Code of Ethics shall be for just cause.