Loktej 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 Loktej 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 the editor.
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 the editor.
Professional Activities and Standards
FAIRNESS AND ACCURACY
Loktej 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 to 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 be 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.
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.
Staff members accept complimentary meals that are supplied at press events.
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.
GIFTS AND SAMPLE PRODUCTS
Employees may accept gifts or free services as Items of token 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.
Online and Outside Activities
CREDIBILITY AND CONFLICTS
Staff members should avoid online and real-world activities that could conflict with their jobs.
In an age when everyone shares everything — particularly on social media — staff members must be mindful that espousing viewpoints on public issues in public forums casts doubt on their impartiality and the news organization’s credibility. To our audience, what we post online — even on an ostensibly private social network — is the equivalent of news reporting, and should follow the same rules. Whether it’s a tweet, a response to a reader comment, or an in-depth story, online content must be fair and balanced, and it ought to avoid overt expressions of opinion, unless offering opinion is an explicit part of a staffer’s job.
In some common-sense circumstances, staffers may post opinions about topics that are sufficiently distinct from their job duties (a housing reporter could do movie reviews on her blog, for instance). Loktej understands that many employees share opinions intended only for a small group of friends, and that occasionally those opinions may inadvertently find a wider audience. The point of these guidelines is not to curtail expression, but rather to protect the credibility of this news organization. Good judgment and an appreciation of the organization’s prerogatives will generally keep employees on the right side of the guidelines.
Employees should not have a financial connection to anything they cover, whether it be owning stock or other form 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 the 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 news sites that originate in our city of Surat. Any questions as to what constitutes “media in direct competition” should be addressed with the editor; exceptions can be authorized only by the editor.
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 Loktej may be recast to appear in a national publication. The writer should be identified as a Loktej staffer and the 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.
When freelancing for a print publication, it is important not to allow the publisher to automatically claim online rights. There are cases where a print publication does not compete with the paper, but the publication’s online site does. Check with the editor before granting online rights.
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.
What is “not reasonable”? Using photo department resources to process and deliver images shot for a freelance assignment.
When invited, Loktej staff members are permitted to speak before trade groups, community organizations, etc., but should not accept speaking fees. Instances where a staff member will be permitted to accept expenses or fees as part of a speaking engagement will be decided on a case-by-case basis in consultation with a the editor using ethics — not economics — as the overriding factor.
If the presentation is a professional seminar before a group of peers, staff members are permitted to accept expenses for travel.
Employees shall not use their positions with Loktej 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.
The editor will take a constructive rather than punitive approach to potential violations whenever appropriate. All incidents, however, will be need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
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