We Are Not Special People; We Are Regular People With a Special Job
Because journalists subject people and institutions to intense and constant scrutiny, we must maintain the highest principles in our conduct. Our integrity is our most valuable asset. Without it, we lose the public trust invested in us by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
This Ogle County Newspapers Statement of Principles offers guidelines to help editors, reporters, photographers and other newsroom personnel to conduct themselves ethically. It is intended as an aid to common sense and individual conscience – not a substitute for them. Ogle County Newspapers associates are accountable for their actions in areas not covered specifically in this statement of principles.
Truth and Fairness Must Underscore What We Publish, How We Behave
• We are committed to the highest standards of truth and honesty; accuracy and fairness; accessibility, accountability and independence. We will diligently pursue truth in the public interest, without regard to special or personal interest.
• We will acknowledge errors of fact and correct them promptly.
• We will seek opposing views and pursue responses from those whose conduct is questioned in published articles and personal columns.
• We will clearly label editorials, analysis, commentary and opinion.
• We will never plagiarize.
• We will never knowingly mislead readers by publishing falsehood as unquestioned truth. That includes implying that a source made a statement to us when, in fact, that statement was obtained from a wire service or other source. Nor will we write about an event that we did not attend in such a way as to suggest we did attend.
• We will fully attribute Information to appropriate sources.
• We will specifically identify people by race, religion, sex or sexual orientation only when readers need that information to understand the context of a story or to aid authorities in the apprehension of criminal suspects.
• We will exercise caution in the use of "set-up" photographs. For the same reason a reporter may not invent quotes, photographers may not reconstruct scenes or events to make them appear as if they were spontaneous occurrences. Nor may they manipulate a photograph to distort its accuracy unless it is part of a prominently labeled illustration.
• We will never pretend to be someone we are not for the purpose of gathering news or information.
• We will clearly label as advertising any advertising that might be mistaken for news.
Personal Interest Cannot Interfere With Our Acting in the Public Interest
• We will not use our newspaper positions to gain benefit or advantage in commercial transactions or personal business for our families, our acquaintances or ourselves. For example, we will not use our influence as journalists to:
• Obtain information for purposes other than those of our newspapers.
• Expedite personal business with, or seek special consideration from, public officials, including law enforcement.
• Obtain information or free consideration not available to the general public – such as tickets, travel and memberships – for purposes unrelated to serving the public through our newspapers.
• We will exercise news judgment independent of personal relationships, connections, or activities of employees from any department of the newspaper.
• We will not use the company name, reputation, phone number, or stationery to threaten, to curry favor, or to seek personal benefit.
• We will neither seek nor hold government office and will avoid political activity, which includes contributing time or money, signing political petitions, and campaigning for a candidate or on behalf of a political issue. This is not intended to discourage exercising the right to vote.
• We may, as private citizens, support churches, schools, the arts, and other nonprofit organizations with our time and money, so long as that does not include writing or editing articles for the Ogle County Newspapers publications about those institutions or organizations. We may also do volunteer work for religious, cultural, civic, and social organizations, so long as that work is not concerned with efforts to influence newspaper coverage. Because those organizations might be subjects of news coverage or commentary, we will accept no appointment as directors of such organizations – or take positions that involve public relations or preparing press releases – without the written permission of the editor.
There is no intent to unduly restrict staff members' exercise of the rights and duties of citizenship. But the reputation of our newspapers is important to us all and could be compromised by our involvement in community activities and political campaigns. A full discussion of possible conflicts of interests is essential to avoiding public embarrassment.
Outside Work Must Not Conflict With Our Primary Job
We may free-lance for publications that are not in direct competition with the Ogle County Newspapers properties. We are primary employees of the newspapers for which we work, and these newspapers compete on a local and regional level. All free-lance assignments must be approved, in advance, by an appropriate supervisor. Under no circumstances will we use, for free-lance purposes, the unpublished stories, notes or other work in progress for the Ogle County Newspapers. Nor will we misrepresent ourselves as working for the newspaper while on a free-lance assignment.
TV and Radio Appearances Extend Our Brand as the Local News Leader
We may appear as invited guests on radio and TV broadcasts, but we will report, in advance, such appearances to our supervisors. While appearing on TV or radio, we should be identified as representatives of our newspapers. During such an appearance, we should meet the same high standard of fairness and impartiality as is expected in our jobs.
Personal Relationships Will Not Affect Our Editorial Judgment
No staff member should write, photograph, illustrate, or affect news judgments about anyone related by blood or by marriage, or about whom s/he has a personal relationship. This does not apply to first-person stories and personal columns, or stories and columns in which the relationships are clearly identified. Nor will relationships within the newspaper affect our news judgment
Confidential Sourcing Is Allowed Only in Special Circumstances
We will seek to disclose to readers the name of the source of all information we gather for publication. Such transparency is important to lend credibility to sources. When we agree to withhold the name, a source will not be made known to anyone outside the Ogle County Newspapers.
Before information is accepted for publication without full attribution, we must make every reasonable effort to get the source on the record. If that is not possible, we will seek the information from another source whom we can identify publicly. If we do withhold the name from publication, we will ask for an on-the-record reason for concealing the identity and will include that reason in the story in such a way that the source is not revealed.
Use of a confidential source must be approved by the editor, and the name of the source must be revealed to the editor.
Obscenities and Profanities Generally Should Be Avoided
With few exceptions, we will not print obscene or profane language. The editor must approve any such publication. Source and context will be considered. Obscenities and profanities offend many readers and often divert attention from a story. Casual vulgarities, such as sucks, screwed, damn or crap, will not appear in copy unless approved by the editor.
People With Whom We Deal Deserve Our Respect
We will seek to protect victims and witnesses of crime, especially when their lives or safety might be endangered by publication of their names or addresses. That includes victims of rape, child molestation, and sexual abuse, and those protected by a restraining order. Names of victims of such crimes might be published, but only if approved by the editor.
We consider consent to be implied if a photographer approaches a subject, indicates s/he is a Ogle County Newspapers photographer, and asks for names and other facts. We will comply when appropriate agencies (orphanages, mental health facilities, etc.) ask for written releases to photograph subjects on their grounds. We encourage obtaining parental consent when quoting or photographing children.
Violators Could Face Discipline
A knowing violation of this code will subject an employee to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
Sources include: CNHI, Dallas Morning News, Gannett, New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, Society of Professional Journalists, and Washington Post.