ETHICS POLICY

Straight Line Family firmly believes, a Journalist should seek truth and strive to present a responsible and fair glimpse of the world around him. And come what may, Journalists will last while propaganda peddlers would be reduced to margins.

We believe, Journalists must face public with respect and candor. Power must be used responsibly and wisely. Notebooks and cameras of Journalists are tickets into people’s lives, sacred worlds and complex institutions. The Job of Journalist is to intensely scrutinize activities of others. Journalists have to act as watchdogs who challenge authority and give voice to the voiceless. However, the actions of Journalists should withstand equally intense scrutiny.

Transparency is won through accuracy, compassion, intellectual honesty and an introspective mission to convey complete, contextual views of our world. Our goal is to begin and end each day with a primary obligation to the public’s right to know. Ethical breaches violate hard-earned trust and shatter our credibility.

Nailing our stories can be as simple as phoning three people or as gruelling as spending months chiselling away the nonessential, the rumor, the red herrings. At Straight Line, our aim is to deliver the facts with precision and context. We believe in getting not only both sides, but “all” sides.

The best stories are multi-sourced. Facts are triple-checked. Issues are balanced with diverse views and sources. They are, simply, as complete as possible.

Straight Line expects the information in its pages to be accurately attributed. Anonymous sources are a last resort. In the public interest, however, anonymous sourcing can be a vital tool to exposing hidden truths while protecting those who may be harmed for reporting them.

The use of anonymous or confidential sources in a story must be approved by the Managing Editor.  Reporters must be able to characterize the source’s accessibility to the information and the source’s credibility, and will be expected to disclose the source’s identity to editors.

In granting confidentiality, the reporter must reach a clear understanding with the source, after consultation with an editor, about how the information and attribution will be presented in the story. Care should be taken when using terms with sources such as “off the record,” “not for attribution” and “background.” Different people can have different understandings of these terms.

Reporters should be specific with sources, and they should clearly explain to editors how the source believes the information will be characterized. Before an anonymous source is used, great weight should be given to whether the source’s information could or should be substantiated by other sources. We should ask ourselves whether the source’s information serves a personal agenda that overrides the greater public interest.

We should disclose to readers our sourcing techniques when writing stories without traditional styles of attribution. When an anonymous source is used, a reason, if possible, should be cited in the story for protecting the source’s identity (fear of job loss, fear for safety, etc.).

Relationships with sources are sacred trusts. Care must be taken to avoid phrasing that could inadvertently identify a confidential source. Reporters should reach understandings with sources about who and how many people will have knowledge of confidential information.

On some stories, editors might ask reporters to discuss with confidential sources what the source’s reaction would be if a court orders the newspaper and/or the reporter to divulge its source of information.  Source’s willingness to be publicly identified and attest to the information he or she provided might determine whether certain sensitive information is published.

The words of our sources and the people we cover must never be altered. Quote marks are intended to bracket the true voices and exact words of people. If a reporter or editor is concerned that ungrammatical or clumsily worded remarks may expose the source to embarrassment or ridicule, then they may agree to use another quote from that person conveying the same or a similar point, or they may agree to paraphrase the source.

Plagiarism is the act of stealing work – whether it is writing, reporting or photography – and passing it off as one’s own. Attribution is crucial. Proper credit is necessary if we cannot independently verify the information. Acts of plagiarism or fabrication announce to the world that the writer did not have the honesty, skill, savvy or energy to do the work that someone else performed. Information, quotes and passages from another publication must be attributed.

Dateline should accurately reflect where most of the reporting originated and where the reporter physically gathered the information. Editors should assign bylines using both quality and volume of work as criteria. Cameras should provide a lens to the truth.

Nothing should be added to or omitted from scenes, and only traditional adjustments (such as cropping, dodging, burning, contrast and saturation) are acceptable.

Stories should not be shown to sources or people outside the newsroom prior to publication or being posted on the web portal of the Straight Line.

However, it is sometimes acceptable to allow a source to review portions of stories for purposes of accuracy. Such exceptions should be approved beforehand by the Managing Editor.

Our work is to chronicle history, not make it up. We must avoid perceptions that any portion of a story does not reflect truth. Use of fictional names, ages, places, dates and composite characters is generally unacceptable, except in rare situations that must be approved by the Managing Editor.

We make mistakes. Correcting them promptly is vital to our credibility. When an error is discovered – whether it is detected by a member of the public or a staff member-it should be discussed immediately with your supervisor and corrected as soon as possible.

If there is a dispute over whether something is incorrect, a supervisor should be consulted to resolve it. Correction forms should be filled out and turned in to your supervisor. When significant inaccuracies are committed by an editorial employee, or a pattern of errors in stories is detected, a department head or above should be informed of the problem immediately.

A strong sense of fair play must imbue our writing, accurately reflecting motives of sources. The tone and language of stories must be even-handed and avoid loaded phrasing. Even under deadline pressure, it is imperative that we allow news subjects ample time to respond and react to issues, events and, most important, allegations against them. We should make every possible attempt to reach them, both at home and work.

At the heart of credible journalism is independence from the subjects we cover. If and when Post editorial employees have a personal connection to a story or potential story, or anticipate such a personal connection, that connection should be fully and immediately disclosed to a department head or other senior editor.

Straight Line editorial department employees should never solicit or accept gifts from news sources or newsmakers. This would include accepting hotel vouchers, discounted or free travel, meals, ski-lift tickets, entertainment or products. If employees receive unsolicited gifts, they should be returned, along with an explanatory letter.

Gifts should not be confused with press materials that a writer or reviewer might receive that are necessary to the reporting of a story. Straight Line employees involved with stories on food, chefs and/or their restaurants will not accept free meals from the restaurants they cover. Employees may not accept free meals or drinks from potential sources, newsmakers or their agents. Employees should offer to purchase the meal, split the check or reciprocate at a later date.

Employees assigned to attend an event that involves the offer of free food and drink should attempt to find out the per-head cost of the event and pay their own way.

Because politics is the primary fault line along which our critics attack us, the greatest attention must be paid by all employees to remain impartial in political discourse. Newsroom employees are encouraged to vote and engage in private debate as long as their views are expressed as their own and not representing the views of Straight Line.

To avoid conflicts of interest, employees should take great care in joining any group, but especially organizations that engage in political advocacy. Newsroom employees should avoid joining organizations or institutions they cover or about which they make editorial decisions.

Staff members should not write about, photograph, illustrate or make news judgments about family members, friends or close associates.

The purpose of this ethics policy is to protect the credibility of Straight Line News. Employee discipline or discharge under the Code of Ethics shall be for just cause.