The Simmons Voice

The Voice’s Code of Ethics

Every news publication has their own code of ethics their reporters must adhere too. We are no different! Please read our code of ethics before submitting a piece of writing to make sure that it complies with our expectations.

This code of ethics was made with the help of the Online News Association’s “Build Your Own Ethics Code.”

Journalism Fundamentals

Telling the truth

  • Be honest, accurate, truthful and fair. Do not distort or fabricate facts, imagery, sound or data.
  • Provide accurate context for all reporting.
  • Seek out diverse voices that can contribute important perspectives on the subject you’re writing.
  • Ensure that sources are reliable. To the maximum extent possible, make clear to your audience who and what your sources are, what motivations your sources may have and any conditions people have set for giving you information. When unsure of information, leave it out or make clear it has not been corroborated.
  • Correct errors quickly, completely and visibly. Make it easy for your audience to bring errors to your attention.
  • If a report includes criticism of people or organizations, give them the opportunity to respond.
  • Clearly distinguish fact from opinion in all content.

Conflicts of interest

  • Avoid any conflict of interest that undermines your ability to report fairly. Disclose to your audience any unavoidable conflicts or other situational factors that may validly affect their judgment of your credibility.
  • Do not allow people to make you dishonestly skew your reporting. Do not offer to skew your reporting under any circumstances.
  • Do not allow the interests of advertisers or others funding your work to affect the integrity of your journalism.

Community

  • Respect your audience and those you write about. Consider how your work and its permanence may affect the subjects of your reporting, your community and ­­ since the Internet knows no boundaries ­­ the larger world.

Professional Conduct

  • Don’t plagiarize or violate copyrights.
  • Keep promises to sources, readers and the community.
  • If you belong to a news organization, give all staff expectations, support and tools to maintain ethical standards

Nature of Our Journalism

  • We want our news coverage to be fact-based, without expression of opinions, but reporters are encouraged to provide commentary in related blog posts or columns, being transparent about their opinions.
  • Our reporters may express personal opinions in their own accounts on social networks.
  • If a family member’s political involvement would call into question the integrity of a journalist’s coverage, the journalist should avoid coverage of that issue or campaign. If avoiding such a family conflict is impossible, the family member’s involvement should be disclosed in related coverage.
  • Our journalists should avoid community involvement in areas that they cover. Journalists should tell their supervisors about their community involvement. When they have to cover an area where they have a personal involvement, we should consider assigning another journalist. If a conflict can’t be avoided, coverage should disclose the conflict.
  • Our journalists may not serve publicity in roles for community organizations.
  • Despite our organization’s involvement in the issues we cover, we should provide factual coverage in a neutral voice. We should disclose our affiliation for transparency reasons, but the affiliation should not be evident from a promotional voice or content.

Concealing Identity

  • We have a blanket ban on undercover reporting in the belief that deception is never appropriate in news-gathering, and other ways can always be found to get the story.

Confidential Sources

  • 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.

Interviewing

  • Our organization never pays for interviews.
  • Our organization never provides interview subjects with lists of questions in advance, but in special circumstances will provide interview subjects with a general idea of our questions in advance.
  • Articles and reports must state the method of interviewing (i.e., whether it was in person, by telephone, video, Skype or email) regardless of the situation or context.

Sources: Reliability and Attribution

  • We may use sources with a conflict of interest in stories, but details that signal the conflict of interest should be included (e.g. a scientist who conducted a study about a drug’s effectiveness when the study was funded by the manufacturer).
  • We disclose how sources In “ordinary people” stories were identified (e.g. through Twitter).
  • We use links, if available, for source attribution in online stories.
  • We consistently include clear attributions throughout a story, even if something has been established as fact.

Accuracy

  • Our staff members must take responsibility for the accuracy of all information that we publish, using an accuracy checklist before publication.
  • We should not publish rumors or other information we have not verified.
  • If we are unsure of the accuracy of information, we should cite our sources, word stories carefully to avoid spreading false rumors, acknowledge what we don’t know and ask the community’s help in confirming or correcting our information.
  • Reporters may read parts of stories to sources in order to check facts or make sure they understand technical points and procedures. But they should not read full stories to sources before publication and should make clear to the sources that they are only checking facts, not providing an opportunity to change the writing or approach to the story.

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 (e.g. in election coverage, mainstream and non-mainstream candidates).
  • We will refrain from presenting multiple points of view 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.

Quotations

  • 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 all sources.
  • We will use only full and complete quotes or paraphrase. (“I will go to war, you know, that’s a decision that has to be considered, but only if necessary,” the president said.)
  • We will allow separate phrases of a quote separated by attribution. (“I will go to war,” the president said. “But only if necessary.”)

Withholding Names

  • Unless we have a compelling reason to withhold a name, we always publish names of people involved in the stories we cover.
  • We will consider potential harm to sources facing intolerance in their societies before naming them in stories.

Community Activities

  • We will provide factual coverage in a neutral voice despite our organization’s involvement in the issues we cover. We will disclose our affiliation for transparency reasons, but the affiliation should not be evident from a promotional voice or content.

Plagiarism and Attribution

  • We must 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 should use quotation marks and attribution.
  • We should always cite news releases if they are our sources, and should 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 should note that the material has been published before.

Social Networks

  • Our journalists are free to express opinions on social media, however, staff members should note in their social media profiles that retweets or shares are not endorsements.
  • Staff members should always identify themselves in social media profiles, and, if they are using the profile for professional purposes, they should identify themselves as working for our organization.
  • We should edit or delete inaccurate social media posts, so people who haven’t seen the corrections will not spread them on social media. We should note that we have edited or deleted inaccurate posts.
  • We should note who has retweeted, liked or otherwise shared inaccurate social media posts that we are correcting, and attempt to message them directly to call attention to our corrections.
  • We will not share anything that is unconfirmed on our social media account(s), professional or otherwise.

Corrections

  • 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 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).

Hate Speech

  • We report on hate speech and actions but include original offensive expressions only when specifically necessary for audience understanding of the case.

Sensational Material

  • We will run sensitive material that might be offensive to specific members of the audience after internal debate has demonstrated a clear public interest in and value from the publication.
  • 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).
  • We will treat all publication decisions based on the standards of the local community.

Photo and Video

  • When documenting private or traumatic moments, we will seek permission from subjects before shooting photos or video.
  • We will not manipulate images through Photoshop or other means.
  • We will obscure or pixellate images only when the intent is to protect the identify of someone in the image or to protect viewers from gory or graphic material.
  • We will clearly label the source of all “handout” photos or video.
  • We will use generic photos only when viewers would not expect to see a photo specific to the story (e.g. using a photo of a plane from an airline’s fleet to illustrate the kind of plane that was involved in a crash.)
  • When using generic photos, we will make sure they are clearly labeled as such.
  • We will verify photos or videos from social media before using them.

User-Generated Content

  • 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.
The Student News Site of Simmons University
The Voice’s Code of Ethics