Journalistic Standards and Ethics

The trust of our readers is essential. We renew that trust every day by adhering to a set of journalistic principles to ensure fairness, independence and accuracy in our work:

Independence

  • We serve democracy and the public interest by reporting the truth. This sometimes conflicts with various public and private interests, including those of sources, governments, advertisers and, on occasion, with our duty and obligation to an employer.
  • Defending the public’s interest includes promoting the free flow of information, exposing crime or wrongdoing, protecting public health and safety, and preventing the public from being misled.
  • We do not give favoured treatment to advertisers and special interests. We resist their efforts to influence the news.
  • We pay our own way whenever possible. If another organization pays our expenses to an event that we are writing about we disclose this.
  • We do not accept the free or reduced-rate use of valuable goods or services offered because of our position. However, it may be appropriate to use a product for a short time to test or evaluate it. (A common exception is unsolicited books, music, food, or other new products sent for review.)
  • We do not report about subjects in which we have financial or other interests, and we do not use our positions to obtain business or other advantages not available to the general public.
  • We do not show our completed reports to sources – especially official sources – before they are published or broadcast, unless the practice is intended to verify facts. Doing so might invite prior restraint and challenge our independence as reporters.
  • We gather information with the intent of producing stories and images for public consumption. We generally do not share unpublished information – such as notes and audio tapes of interviews, documents, emails, digital files, photos and video – with those outside of the media organizations for which we work. However, sometimes such sharing may be necessary to check facts, gain the confidence of sources or solicit more information.
  • Columnists and commentators should be free to express their views, even when those views conflict with those of their organizations, as long as the content meets generally accepted journalistic standards for fairness and accuracy.

Accuracy

  • We seek documentation to support the reliability of sources and their stories, and we are careful to distinguish between assertions and fact.
  • When we use facts gathered by any other organization, we attribute them. This policy applies to material from newspapers, magazines, books and broadcasts.
  • If we borrow a story or even a paragraph from another source we either credit the source or rewrite it before publication or broadcast. Using another’s analysis or interpretation may constitute plagiarism, even if the words are rewritten, unless it is attributed.
  • When we make a mistake, whether in fact or in context, and regardless of the platform, we correct it promptly and in a transparent manner, acknowledging the nature of the error.
  • We generally do not “unpublish” or remove digital content, despite public requests, or “source remorse.” Rare exceptions generally involve matters of public safety, an egregious error or ethical violation, or legal restrictions such as publication bans.
  • The need for speed should never compromise accuracy, credibility or fairness. Online content should be reported and edited carefully, and when possible, subjected to full editing.
  • When we publish outside links, we make an effort to ensure the sites are credible.

Fairness

  • We respect the rights of people and organizations mentioned. However, there are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy, and the rights of all citizens to be informed about matters of public interest. Each situation should be judged in light of common sense, humanity and relevance.
  • We give people, companies or organizations that are publicly accused or criticized opportunity to respond before we publish those criticisms or accusations. We make a genuine and reasonable effort to contact them, and if they decline to comment, we say so.
  • We do not refer to a person’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, gender self-identification or physical ability unless it is pertinent to the story.
  • We do not allow our own biases to impede fair and accurate reporting.
  • We do not pay for information, although we may compensate those who provide material such as photos or videos. We sometimes also employ experts to provide professional expertise, and pay for embedded activities. We are careful to note any such payments in our stories.

Conflict of interest

  • As fair and impartial observers, we must be free to comment on the activities of any publicly elected body or special interest group. But we cannot do this without an apparent conflict of interest if we are active members of an organization we are covering, and that includes membership through social media.
  • We carefully consider our political activities and community involvements. If a contributor does choose to engage in outside political activity or espouse a particular political viewpoint, we publicly declare any real or potential conflicts.

Transparency

  • We normally identify sources of information. But we may use unnamed sources when there is a clear and pressing reason to protect anonymity, the material gained from the confidential source is of strong public interest, and there is no other reasonable way to obtain the information. When this happens, we explain the need for anonymity.
  • We independently corroborate facts if we get them from a source we do not name.
  • We openly tell our audiences when another organization pays our expenses, or conversely, when we have made payments for information.