WeAreMedia holds independence, fairness, accuracy, honesty and transparency as core values. WeAreMedia must tell the truth without any other agenda, and readers must be able to trust that they do. Any lapse in ethics by our journalists, or any reason readers have to doubt our motives, creates a mistrust that undermines our important mission.
As a news organization, we promise readers that our journalists always seek the truth earnestly and with integrity, independence, compassion and accountability. This code of ethics outlines specific ways that the journalists of WeAreMedia strive to keep that promise. If we ever stray from it, readers should call us out and demand that we make amends.
It is important to remember that journalists are human and carry with them their own life experiences. But our journalists will avoid as much as possible conflicts of interest and situations that raise doubts about their integrity. When these conflicts are unavoidable, our journalists must disclose them to their colleagues and to our readers — including in the text of stories, when appropriate. When in doubt, we are transparent.
When we make a mistake, we are humble, admit our error and correct it. While truth may be our business, the trust of our readers is our most valuable asset.
Headlines must accurately sum up the story they sit atop of. They can be punchy, funny, punny, intriguing or dramatic. But they must be true, as well. When there’s a doubt, our journalists should seek the input of their colleagues.
Just as our words must convey the truth, so must our images. So, photos and videos can be cropped, toned and otherwise edited in keeping with common journalistic standards. But photos and videos cannot be altered, added to or subtracted from in ways that create a scene that didn’t occur in real life. Care should also be taken when cropping or framing images not to ignore important context or give a false impression of an event. Photo illustrations and staged or posed images must be clearly labeled.
Quote marks are sacred little pieces of punctuation. What is placed inside them must be the exact words that someone spoke, to the best and most earnest of our journalists’ ability to record them.
When using ellipses, care is taken not to change the meaning of the quote.
This standard also applies when editing audio or video clips. While we may condense quotes for clarity, our journalists do not make edits that change the meaning of the quote.
Plagiarism is taking someone else’s words and presenting them as your own. This can be as little as stealing a unique phrase or sentence or as large as cutting-and-pasting whole paragraphs. It is a cardinal sin in journalism, and anyone who commits plagiarism at WeAreMedia is subject to serious punishment — including possible termination.
If any reader spots what they believe to be plagiarism in WeAreMedia, we ask that they contact us as soon as possible. Any staff member who receives a complaint of plagiarism must take that complaint to an editor immediately, and editors must investigate reports of plagiarism promptly.
The best way to tell people that we are sincere in our motives is to show them how we operate. We are committed to as much transparency as possible in all aspects of our newsgathering and business operations. Subsequent sections of this code will detail specific instances where transparency is especially desired. But, in general, we work every day to show people who we are. This includes regular publishing of notes from editors or behind-the-scenes pieces explaining how or why we tackled a particular story.
Conflicts of interest
There should never be a reason to suspect that we are using our journalism to benefit people close to us. Our journalists must refrain as much as possible from reporting on issues in which their immediate family members or close friends have a financial or advocacy interest. Our journalists are not allowed to report stories directly about organizations that employ their spouse or partner, their parents or their children.
Journalists must tell an editor of potential conflicts of interest, so that the editor can decide if it is appropriate for the journalist to cover certain issues.
If there’s a doubt, we talk it out among the staff.
If a conflict is unavoidable, the conflict should be disclosed within the text of a story along with an explanation for why the conflict did not influence the coverage of the story.
Our journalists are also encouraged to share details of their lives and backgrounds in their biographies on WeAreMedia’s website, so that readers can gain a better understanding of the interests and experiences that shape their coverage.
Use of media credentials
If our journalists receive media credentials that provide special access to events, they should only use them to do their job. They can have fun while working, but it is not acceptable for a journalist to use media credentials off-the-clock as a cheaper way to have a good time.
Reporters and editors should not accept gifts from the people they cover. Reporters should pay for tickets to entertainment events, such as a films or sports games. Reporters reviewing movies or concerts may apply for press credentials, but they may not accept free passes. Hilltop Views critics are reimbursed for meals, tickets and entry fees at the restaurants and events they cover.