The Thebengalstory.Com is committed to the highest ethical standards. Fairness and accuracy are among our core values. But nothing stands above the need to maintain our integrity. The public’s trust — our most important asset — depends on it.
This document provides general guidance to BANG staffers on the many difficult ethical questions that arise in the course of doing our jobs. But because not every situation can be anticipated, it is useful to keep two particular guidelines in mind.
1.) None of us should act in ways that could damage the news organization’s credibility. Many complicated issues – from political involvement to attribution to freelance policy – can be navigated easily with that principle in mind.
2.) Any situation that raises questions of credibility must be discussed with a senior editor (department head, assistant managing editor, managing editor, or executive editor). None of us should decide such issues alone.
We are all collectively responsible for ethical standards. Any employee who is aware that a fellow staff member has committed ethical violations should immediately bring the matter to the attention of a senior editor.
Professional Activities and Standards
FAIRNESS AND ACCURACY
The Thebengalstory.Com strives to operate with fairness, accuracy, and independence. To that end:
Whenever possible, we seek opposing views and solicit responses from those whose conduct is questioned in news stories.
Errors, whether made by the reporter, editor, or source, are acknowledged promptly in a straightforward correction, not disguised or glossed over in a follow-up story. Corrections explain, to the extent possible, how the errors happened.
Reporters or photographers identify themselves as news sources. In the rare instance when circumstances suggest not identifying ourselves, a senior editor must be consulted for approval.
We do not plagiarize, whether it is the wholesale lifting of someone else’s writing or the publication of a press release as news without attribution.
We attribute information to unnamed sources only when news value warrants and it cannot be obtained any other way.
When forced to rely on unnamed sources, we avoid letting them be the sole basis for a story. We do not allow unnamed sources to make personal attacks.
We describe the unnamed source in as much detail as possible to indicate the source’s credibility. Simply attributing a comment to “a source” is inadequate.
Additionally, whenever possible readers are told the reason the source requested or was given anonymity.
A reporter must identify any unnamed source to his or her editor, and the editor must bring the story to a senior editor for discussion and approval.
To the extent possible, we apply our own standards regarding unnamed sources when we publish stories produced by other news organizations, wire services, blogs, or independent journalists. If these stories conflict with our policy on unattributed sources, we try to contact the originating news agency for more information. When we rely on information distributed via social media, we verify the identity of the poster.
QUOTATIONS AND ATTRIBUTION
Quotations are always the exact words that someone spoke, with the exception of minor corrections in grammar and syntax. Parentheses and ellipses within quotations are rarely appropriate and can almost always be avoided.
We generally explain when a quote was received in a manner other than an interview: via e-mail, in a prepared statement, in a televised press conference. If we conduct an interview through a translator, we identify quotes received in that manner.
We do not make it sound as if a source made a statement to our reporter if it came to us through a third party.
BYLINES, DATELINES, AND CREDIT LINES
Bylines, datelines, and credit lines accurately convey to readers the source of our reporting.
In multiple bylines, the first name is generally that of the reporter who wrote the article or contributed the largest portion of it. We treat material from other news organizations the same way.
When a reporter writes an article based in part on wire service reports, the article carries the reporter’s byline and credits the wire service in a tagline. If the reporter independently reports the facts of the story, the byline can stand alone. If the reporter simply inserts local material, the byline should be the originating source with a reporter’s credit in a tagline.
When adding a quote from another news organization, particularly if it is exclusive information or an anonymous quote, indicate the source: “Bush isn’t going to run for re-election,” a senior administration official told the Washington Post.
MEALS, TICKETS, TRAVEL POLICY
As a general rule, we pay our own way.
We pay for meals and drinks shared with news sources and for meals that are covered as news events. When the cost of a meal includes a sum tacked on to raise funds, we will pay only what we estimate to be the price of the meal.
When complimentary meals are supplied at press events, staff members calculate how much their portions cost and attempt to reimburse the coordinator of the event.
Staff members accept free admission to plays, concerts, and other performances and sporting events only for the purpose of reviewing or covering them for our publications.
We pay for transportation and other expenses necessary for the performance of professional duties when possible, including travel on the plane of a political candidate or sports team. In cases where this policy may interfere with our ability to gather news, consult a senior editor.
GIFTS AND SAMPLE PRODUCTS
Employees may not accept or solicit business-connected gifts or free services. Items received whose value is greater than $25 should be returned or donated to a charity. Items of token or insignificant value (under $25), such as calendars, pencils, or key chains, may be accepted if returning them would be awkward. Books, compact discs, sample food products, software, or other items sent to us for review purposes are accepted as news releases. These items may never be sold for personal profit.
Employees should not have a financial connection to anything they cover, whether it be owning stock or other forms of investment, holding an outside job, or receiving a fee for service or preferential treatment that has an economic value. Conflicts involving the financial interests of spouses or close family members should also be avoided. Any situation that might pose a conflict of interest must be discussed in advance with a senior editor.
Freelancing by staff members is permissible, with some restrictions. Staffers may not work for media that are in direct competition with our products. Direct competition is defined as news publications or sites that originate in eleven counties adjoining our service area: Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, Alameda, San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin, Solano, Contra Costa, and San Joaquin. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times are also considered direct competitors, as are Web sites that are focused on communities within BANG’s distribution footprint or primary areas of coverage, including the Silicon Valley, technology and Bay Area sports. The same is true of local radio and television programs that target our core content. Any questions as to what constitutes “media in direct competition” should be addressed with a senior editor; exceptions can be authorized only by a managing editor or the executive editor.
Freelancing for lifestyle magazines or sites that originate in the Bay Area (such as Sunset and San Francisco Magazine) is permitted after possibilities for publication by Thebengalstory.Com have been explored, and a senior editor has been notified of the assignment.
Freelance work must be performed outside of regular work hours. For reporters who cover news beats during the day, that might mean reporting and writing at night or on days off. For a sports or arts writer, it might mean working before a game or event, or after it has ended and all coverage has been filed.
Our staffers must not scoop our news organization. Breaking news, enterprise stories, and noteworthy items about the people and organizations we cover must be reserved for this organization.
Information published by Thebengalstory.Com may be recast to appear in a national publication. The writer should be identified as a BANG staffer and a senior editor must be notified when staffers use the news organization for identification purposes in freelance work, even for a publication that is not a direct competitor.
USE OF COMPANY PROPERTY WHILE FREELANCING
Staffers may make reasonable use of company equipment or resources while freelancing for outside publications.
What is “reasonable”? Using a computer after work hours; doing a limited number of searches on Lexis-Nexis.
What is “not reasonable”? Using photo department resources to process and deliver images shot for a freelance assignment. Using a news librarian to do research for a freelance assignment.
Employees shall not use their positions with the Thebengalstory.Com to get any benefit or advantage in commercial transactions or personal business for themselves, their families, friends, or acquaintances.
Employees shall not use the company name, reputation, phone number, or stationery to imply a threat of retaliation or pressure, to curry favor, or to seek personal gain.
Employees shall not write, photograph, illustrate, or make news judgments about anyone related to them by blood or marriage, or with whom they have a close personal relationship or a business relationship. This does not apply to first-person stories or stories in which the relationships are clearly spelled out.
Senior editors will take a constructive rather than punitive approach to potential violations whenever appropriate. All incidents, however, will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.