Endgame360 Reporting Ethics
This list of ethical guidelines and principles should help each team member complete their work responsibly, and in adherence with our core value of providing the reader with the best possible product we can. These specifics build on the Code of Ethics outlined by the Society of Professional Journalists, which we also abide by as a team.
Telling the Truth
- As an organization we are dedicated to being transparent, accurate, truthful, and fair. We will not distort or fabricate facts, imagery, sound or data.
- We provide accurate context for all reporting.
- We aim to seek out diverse voices that can contribute important perspectives on the subject we’re covering.
- We ensure that sources are reliable. We make clear to the audience who and what our sources are, what motivations our sources may have and any conditions people have set for giving us information. When we are unsure of information, we leave it out or make clear it has not been corroborated.
- We correct errors quickly, completely, and visibly. We make it easy for our readers to bring errors to our attention.
- If a report includes criticism of people or organizations, we give them the opportunity to comment.
- We aim to clearly distinguish fact from opinion in all content.
Conflicts of Interest
- We seek to avoid any conflict of interest that undermines our ability to report fairly. If unavoidable conflicts or other situational factors arise that may validly affect the reader’s judgment of our credibility, we disclose those in our reporting.
- We do not allow people to make us dishonestly skew our reporting. We do not offer to skew our reporting under any circumstances.
- We do not allow the interests of advertisers or others funding our work to affect the integrity of our journalism.
- We respect our audience and those we write about. We consider how our work and its permanence may affect the subjects of our reporting, our communities and, since the Internet knows no boundaries, the larger world.
- We will not tolerate using our platform or our writing to perpetuate harmful stereotypes about any group of people. This includes on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, profession, or any other group identifiers.
- We do not plagiarize or violate copyrights.
- We keep promises to sources, readers, and the community.
- We provide our team with the proper expectations, resources, and tools to maintain ethical standards.
- We use confidential sources sparingly to provide important information that cannot be obtained through on-the-record sources. Reporters should disclose the identity of unnamed sources to at least one editor.
- We will disclose to readers or viewers the reasons for granting confidentiality, such as fear for the source’s safety or job, when we use unnamed sources.
- We publish information from confidential sources that we consider reliable. We do not publish the opinions of unnamed sources unless we establish they are from credible sources.
- We do not attend “background briefings” where officials try to spoon-feed information to the media without speaking for the record.
Minors: Coverage, Images, and Interviews
- We identify minors who are associated with a crime as perpetrators, victims, or witnesses only if the minor’s identity is already widely known.
- Our journalists always obtain a parent’s permission before interviewing or photographing a minor.
- We do not publish a minor’s photo if the parents/guardians do not typically display their image in public (even if they’re celebrities), unless we receive permission from the parents.
- We consider granting confidentiality if we’re covering a story about a sensitive issue that could cause a minor to be stereotyped, judged unfairly or put in harm’s way, even if the minor doesn’t request it.
- Our organization never pays for interviews.
- Our organization never permits interview subjects to review or revise their comments.
- Typically, our organization will not provide a list of interview questions ahead of time. Our organization will provide interview subjects with lists of questions in advance only if the source can make a strong case for justifying the request, and if the writer attains the site manager’s approval.
- Articles and reports will state the method of interviewing (i.e., whether it was in person, by telephone, video, Skype or email) if doing so enhances the context of the interview and article.
Sources: Reliability and Attribution
- We refrain from quoting sources who have a conflict of interest relating to the story (e.g. a scientist who conducted a study about a drug’s effectiveness when the study was funded by the manufacturer). These sources may be used for background information, but their voices will not be included in stories.
- We disclose how sources in “ordinary people” stories were identified (e.g. through Twitter).
- We include source attribution in online stories themselves as well as links, if available, that provide additional information.
- Our team members take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of information that we publish and note our sources.
- We do not believe in publishing unsubstantiated rumors or other information we have not verified.
Balance and Fairness
- To ensure fairness, we believe in covering not only the most powerful voices on an issue, but also those who are not normally heard.
- We will be alert to situations where the most accessible spokespeople are at the extremes of issues, but most people are somewhere in the middle.
- We will refrain from presenting multiple points of view with equal weight 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.
- We do not permit comments on any of our articles.
- 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 sources unless they are people in positions of power (e.g., elected officials or public figures).
- We will refrain from taking quotes out of context.
- Unless we have a compelling reason to withhold a name, we always publish names of people involved in the stories we cover.
- In breaking news stories, we do not publish the names of dead people until authorities have notified their families and released the names, unless compelling circumstances justify publication as soon as we have verified the names. (Those compelling circumstances would be approved by site managers or above before publication.)
- We will be careful about identifying kidnap victims if the person may be in danger.
- We encourage our journalists to inform their supervisors about their community involvements if a story suddenly arises that may present a conflict. When they have to cover an area where they have a personal involvement, we will consider assigning another journalist. If a conflict can’t be avoided, coverage will disclose the conflict.
Gifts, Free Travel, and Other Perks
- We encourage journalists to avoid accepting gifts from subjects or potential subjects of our coverage. If gifts sent to journalists cannot be returned, they are encouraged to donate them to charity.
- Our journalists are welcome to accept tickets or press passes to events we are covering or reviewing but are encouraged to avoid accepting extra tickets for family or friends.
- Our journalists may accept free travel and other gifts if they are financially necessary, but we will disclose those gifts in our reporting.
- Our journalists are encouraged to disclose any gifts they receive to their supervisors and discuss whether something needs to be returned, disclosed, paid for, donated to charity or handled in some other way that protects our integrity.
Personal Ethics Statements by Team Members
- Our organization’s policy prevails if personal ethics codes and organizational policy conflict.
Plagiarism and Attribution
- We will always attribute all sources by name and, if the source is digital, by linking to the original source.
- When we are using someone else’s exact words, we will use quotation marks and attribution.
- Attribution should be as specific as possible, including the name of the publication or organization of the source we are quoting.
- We cite news releases if they are our sources, and will quote them if using their exact words.
- When we use substantial material from our archives or from an author’s previous work in a current story, we will note that the material has been published before.
- Even when taking basic facts from another source — “World War II ended in Allied victories over Germany and Japan” — we will vary the wording from the phrasing used in source materials.
Political Activities by Team Members
- We encourage our journalists to be involved in the community, politics, and the issues we cover, but we will disclose these involvements if they’re directly related to our coverage.
- Our journalists are encouraged to be aware of personal biases that can skew their reporting, even if journalists conduct no public activity indicating a political bias.
- Our journalists are free to express opinions on social media.
- If team members are using a social media profile for professional purposes, we encourage them to identify themselves as working for our organization.
Awards and Contests
- 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.
- 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.
- We will note all corrections within articles when the required changes materially alter the meaning or perception of the information presented.
- We will show all corrections in the place the incorrect material originally appeared (e.g., put corrections related to a story at the bottom of that same story).
Freelance Work by Employees
- We permit freelancing by our full-time team members.
Removing Archived Work
- We will note when the post was updated.
- We will correct any errors we learn of in our archived content.
- We will seek diverse pools of candidates for all jobs, but will always seek to hire the most qualified candidate.
- We encourage team members to seek diverse sources, both in specific stories and in routine beat coverage.
- We consider the perspectives of those offended by hateful expression when making publication decisions.
- We consider the climate for free expression when making publication decisions.
- We affirm local, national, and international laws to combat hate speech.
- We will not bring up a person’s disability unless it is relevant to the article.
- We will not use phrases like “suffers from” or “struggles with” when discussing a person’s experience with their disability.
- We will use people-first language when describing those with disabilities (i.e. “a person with bipolar disorder,” not “a bipolar person”)
- If a source uses a derogatory term in a direct quote to describe people with disabilities, we will ensure it is absolutely necessary to the article before including it. Otherwise, we will paraphrase and use a more acceptable term.
Mental Health and Suicide
- We will not bring up a person’s mental health history unless it is relevant to the article.
- We will cover disparate events of suicide as news stories if they involve prominent figures or public means.
- We will use the phrases “died by suicide” or “killed himself or herself” and avoid the phrases “committed suicide” and “took his or her own life.”
- We will not describe a suicide attempt as “successful” or “unsuccessful.”
- We will not detail specific means of suicide in news stories or obituaries.
- We will not use sensational headlines on stories about suicide.
- We will not use graphic images on stories about suicide. In every article related to mental health, we will avoid using photos that sensationalize the mentioned health topic.
- We will opt for everyday images of a person who dies by suicide (such as a school photo) instead of images of people grieving.
- We will include contact information for resources for people in mental health crises. (e.g., How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor at the free Crisis Text Line.)
- We will not include the method used in a suicide.
- We will avoid using terms like “insane” in any context, since they are demeaning and non-specific.
- We will avoid using information from non-authoritative sources to speak toward a person’s mental health. (For example, we will not include a neighbor’s statement saying the subject was “acting weird” or a police officer’s statement that they “are/were thought to have mental health issues,” since these are not confirmed by the subject or a doctor familiar with the person’s health history.)
- We will avoid using terms like “suffers from” or “struggles with” in the context of mental health.
- We will not name juvenile suspects in criminal cases unless they are charged with serious violent crimes, such as armed robbery, aggravated sexual assault, attempted homicide or homicide.
- We will only name criminal suspects who are arrested if they are a public figure typically covered by our sites. Otherwise, we will not name criminal suspects until charges have been filed.
- We will replace obscenities, and vulgarities with something that implies the word rather than stating it directly (e.g. “f*ck”).
- We will omit the direct quoting of slurs and instead use generalities that describe the comments made. For example, “…used a slur against the LGBTQ community,” or “…used a racist term for people of Chinese descent.”
- We respect peoples’ right to privacy and do not use content we discover online from private people without receiving their permission.
- We consider the standard for publishing material about private people who are thrust into the public eye as higher than that for public people.
- We do not believe that everything celebrities and public officials say and do should be made public, even though they cede a great deal of privacy when they enter the public eye. We analyze cases on an individual basis, taking into account the news value of the public figure’s action.
- We will voluntarily withhold information we have gathered when requested if we deem the person’s request to be valid, based on our news judgment and professional standards.
- We reserve the right to publish material that we have voluntarily withheld if we conclude that the material has valid public interest or if we believe that the requesting party has deceived us as to his or her motives.
- We use discretion when it comes to interviewing and publishing material from trauma victims or bystanders because we realize that to do so may cause additional harm to those people.
Race and Gender
- We will use racial, ethnic, gender and sexuality identifiers when specifically germane to a story but not otherwise.
- We will identify transgender people by the gender they express publicly.
- We will use plural references to avoid gender-specific pronouns when possible.
- We will run sensitive material when it reflects reality.
- We will consider the differing impact of sensitive material on differing segments of the population (e.g., effects on minors, vulnerable groups, or victims of crime).
- In projects with external partners, we insist that all parties are clear on shared ethics, values, and roles.
- We will put all data in relevant context.
- We will apply our rules on paying for news to paying for data.
Photo and Video
- When documenting private or traumatic moments, we will seek permission from subjects before shooting photos or video.
- We will use drones to capture images in public areas only.
- We will not ask subjects to pose or to re-enact an event.
- We will edit or manipulate images only if doing so doesn’t affect the news content of the image or the meaning viewers will make from it.
- We will obscure or pixelate images only when the intent is to protect the identity of someone in the image or to protect viewers from gory or graphic material.
- We will verify photos or videos from social media before using them.
- We will guard against using User-Generated Content (UGC) in situations that might be dangerous to the person who created it or to others in the images. We will stress to possible providers of UGC that they will not take risks to gather information or imagery.
- We consider UGC an extension of our own journalism. We don’t run such material unless we’re sure it’s authentic.
- We will not distribute UGC content unless we’re certain we have the rights to do so. The only exception might be an urgent situation where a rights-holder cannot be found.
Clickbait and Metrics
- We are encouraged to write clever, creative headlines and social media posts that will entice readers to engage with our content, but headlines will not make promises that our stories don’t deliver.
- We will accurately reflect the content of related stories in headlines and social media posts.
- We will use metric considerations as one of a number of factors in determining what we cover and how we place stories.
News and Advertising
- We do not allow advertisers to have a say in the selection or content of stories and photos.
- 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 team.
These ethical guidelines were created with guidance from the Online News Association’s Build Your Own Ethics Code (supported by the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation), a project designed to help news organizations and journalists create codes that reflect their journalistic principles.