Ethics & Standards
In the last decade, we’ve witnessed both the decline of local news and the rapid rise of misinformation online. Millions of Americans are already living without dedicated reporting to shine a light on what is happening in their own communities and even more are exposed daily to misinformation falsely disguised as “news.”
At Courier Newsroom, we believe the responsibility to provide fair and accurate journalism falls on every member of our newsroom. It’s up to us to earn the trust of our readers and viewers by always striving for the truth and providing transparent, credible information across all our channels. All staff should adhere to the guidelines below, including writers, editors, social editors, photographers, video producers, designers, and illustrators, among all other content producers.
We strive for accuracy, but everyone gets something wrong sometimes. If an inaccuracy is published, we should always tell the audience that an error has been corrected through a note at the bottom of the article or post, titled “Correction.” Typos do not require a correction unless the error changed the context of the story.
If crucial context is missing from a story, and we add clarification after publishing, we must alert our audience through a note at the bottom of the article or post, titled “Clarification.”
In the extreme case that the entirety of the story is harmful or inaccurate, we should include an “Editor’s Note,” which is reviewed and vetted by editorial leadership, explaining to the audience why the post should not have been published.
Removal of Posts
Even if a story contains inaccuracies, we do not unpublish or remove posts as though they never existed. Instead, corrections and clarifications are made to the story, which at times may require further reporting or explanation. The only exception to this rule is when information in a story poses a threat to someone’s physical wellbeing.
Sources & Attribution
We should never publish statements out of context or without proper attribution. We do not alter statements, except for some light grammatical or spelling errors that would otherwise detract from the story.
Quotes given in another language should be translated accurately, and we should note when a translator is used.
We should always reach out for comment when reporting something that hasn’t been reported yet, and especially if there is a negative allegation against them. We should give sources a reasonable amount of time to respond for comment. If we are unable to reach them, we should explain in the story how we attempted to do so.
When we are building on reporting created by other sources, we do our best to attribute this reporting to the original publisher of the story whenever possible and appropriate.
We want to be as transparent as possible with our audience about who our sources are, and therefore we avoid using anonymous sources when possible. If an anonymous source is used, the editor of the story must be aware of who the source is. Any claims or allegations made by an anonymous source must be corroborated. Likewise, leaked documents must also be thoroughly fact-checked and claims corroborated.
All stories published or produced by Courier Newsroom should be thoroughly fact-checked before publication. This includes personal essays and op-eds. We should corroborate claims made by all of our sources, and for previously unreported claims or allegations, we typically require multiple sources for corroboration.
All stories are subject to one or more editors who, along with the reporter, are responsible for fact-checking their work. The number of editors on any one story varies given the complexity and sensitivity of the story. Editors are also responsible for verifying that the headline accompanying the story is fair and correct.
We should never stage scenes or events. We observe and tell how an event actually happened. For photography, we should never ask a subject to pose for a photo unless they are posing for a portrait.
We should never knowingly publish false information and present it as factual. We should never intentionally omit important or relevant facts from a story.
Integrity & Conflicts of Interest
We never pay for sources or access. We do not accept gifts, tickets, or discounts provided by a person or organization we may report on. Exceptions are made for gifts or trinkets of nominal value ($25 or less).
Staff members may not accept anything that could be considered payment for coverage. We should always disclose if a writer has any self-interest in the story they are writing, or if they may appear to.
Our coverage is not determined by our funders, some of whom have specific interests that may or may not align with ours. We also prohibit funders from reaching out to reporters in attempts to influence coverage.
We may never commit illegal acts while reporting or encourage any subject to commit an illegal act.
Plagiarism is never allowed. When aggregating stories or reporting on events that have been previously reported, we also do not permit patch writing, which entails taking another author’s original work, changing some of the words or phrasing, and publishing without proper attribution.
When we aggregate or publish our own stories across media properties within Courier Newsroom, we should always include the byline of the original author and the original property that published the story.