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TFT Ethics Code

Telling the truth

  • Be honest, accurate, truthful, and fair. Do not distort or fabricate facts, imagery, sound, or data.
  • Provide an 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 Your Journalism

  • Our journalists should not express opinions at all and should work to ensure that stories are neutral, not reflecting a bias toward any position. Exceptions are made for journalists whose jobs specifically involve expressing opinions, such as editorial writers, columnists, commentators, and cartoonists.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 disclose community and political involvements, particularly those involving topics they might cover, both in general statements we will publish on our website and in stories relating to their involvements.
  • 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.

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.

Confidential 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.
  • 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 snoops, 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 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.

Hostage Situations

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

Interviewing

  • Our organization never pays for interviews.
  • Our organization will provide interview subjects with a general idea of our questions in advance.
  • When reporting on an interview, we do not require our staff to state the type of interview (i.e., whether it was in person, by telephone, video, Skype, or email.)

Sources: Reliability and Attribution

  • We report things that have clearly been established as fact at the top of the story and put the attribution in later.

Accuracy

  • We should not publish rumors or other information we have not verified.

Balance and Fairness

  • 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 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, make clear that we were unable to get some comment, and update our story as needed.

Online Commenting

  • 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 permit comments on all articles.

Quotations

  • 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 all sources.
  • We will allow separate phrases of a quote separated by an ellipsis. (“I will go to war … but only if necessary,” the president said.)
  • We will allow separate phrases of a quote separated by attribution. (“I will go to war,” the president said. “But only if necessary.”)

Withholding Names

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

Financial Interests

  • 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.

Community Activities

  • We will provide factual coverage in a neutral voice despite our organization’s involvement in the issues we cover. We will disclose our affiliation for transparency reasons, but the affiliation should not be evident from a promotional voice or content.

Gifts, Free Travel, and Other Perks

  • Our journalists must always pay their own way, including admission to events we are covering or reviewing.
  • 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

  • We must always attribute all sources by name.

Political Activities by Staff

  • Our journalists should disclose community and political involvements, particularly those involving topics they might cover, both in general statements we will publish on our website and in stories relating to their involvement.

Social Networks

  • Our journalists are free to express opinions on social media.

Awards and Contests

  • 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

  • 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 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 do not allow any freelancing by full-time employees, as we believe it will inevitably compromise our integrity or open us up to ethical challenges.
  • We allow part-time employees to perform freelance work, but they must notify their direct managers.

Handling and protection of freelancers and “fixers”

  • 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 update a story in our archives, including the headline, if the story would damage someone’s reputation and is outdated.

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 consider our computer processes to be proprietary. We take full responsibility for our content, including automatically produced content; for editorial and competitive reasons, we do not feel a need to publicize our entire process.

Diversity

  • We will seek diverse pools of candidates for all jobs, but will always seek to hire the most qualified candidate.

Hate Speech

  • We report on hate speech and actions but include original offensive expressions only when specifically necessary for audience understanding of the case.

Mental Health and Suicide

  • We will cover individual events of suicide as news stories if they involve prominent figures or public means.
  • We will include the method used in suicide when it is important for audience understanding but not specific details (e.g., noting that a victim shot himself but not covering the type of weapon).

Naming suspects

  • We will name criminal suspects if we have their identifications confirmed by sources we trust.

Obscenities

  • We will replace obscenities, vulgarities, and slurs with a descriptor (e.g. “an anti-gay slur”).
  • We will replace obscenities, vulgarities, and slurs with something that implies the word rather than stating it directly (e.g. “f—”).
  • We will apply the same standards on obscenities, vulgarities, and slurs to reader comments on stories that are applied to the story itself.

Privacy

  • We view everything on social media and the Internet as fair game for journalists, and everyone knows it, even private individuals. We reserve the right to publish whatever we find online or from public sources.

Race and Gender

  • We will seek out people in the groups we cover to gain perspective on our coverage and terminology.

Sensational Material

  • We will run sensitive material with stories with notes of warning.

Audio

  • We will fully identify person-in-the-street-type speakers in audio cuts unless there is a compelling reason not to.
  • Our journalists may mix sound from different sources as long as it gives a true picture of what happened (even if it was not all recorded at the same time).

Data Journalism

  • We will never pay for data, as it may be tainted by financial motives.

Interactives

  • We will structure our interactives so there is only one way in, to give all users a consistent experience.

Photo and Video

  • We do not need to label a photo or video if it is clearly posed (e.g. an award-winner holding up a trophy).
  • We will verify photos or videos from social media before using them.

User-Generated Content

  • We consider UGC an extension of our own journalism. We don’t run such material unless we’re sure it’s authentic.

Virtual Reality Journalism

  • If a VR production is designed to spread a certain political or social point of view, this should be disclosed at the beginning of the piece.

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 funding sources only if they are financing specific topics or reporting.

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 advertisements for certain types of products.
  • We may accept payment from advertisers to provide stories on a general subject, but they will have no involvement in the content produced.
  • We have specific, consistent definitions of terms like “Advertisement,” “Sponsored Content” and “Message from …” and disclose them to our readers.
  • 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 make it clear when tweets or posts on our social media accounts are linked to advertiser-prepared material.
  • We disclose whether an advertiser or industry provides a substantial share of our revenue.
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