Editorial Standards and Code of Ethics
Trust is centre to everything we do
We’re committed to exceeding industry-leading standards in transparency and ethics
Please take a moment and review our code of conduct which we hold all of our employees and contractors. Our goal is to inspire trust in everything we do. This code is part of that commitment. If you have concerns please reach out to us.
Nature of Journalism at TheConsumR
- Our journalists should not express opinions about topics they might be likely to cover, but are free to express opinions on other matters. For instance, a political writer should not express opinions about politics, but is free to express opinions on sports or entertainment.
- 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.
- We encourage our journalists to express opinions about journalism matters, advocating for freedom of information and joining the conversation within the profession about important issues.
- Our journalists, salespeople and executives work to ensure that advertisers, sponsors and contributors have no influence over editorial content.
- Our journalists should avoid political involvement such as running for or holding office, joining political parties, volunteering in campaigns, serving on community boards, donating to campaigns or displaying campaign materials on their property or persons.
- 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 disclose community and political involvements, particularly those involving topics they might cover, both in general statements we will publish on our website and in stories relating to their involvements.
Bombs and Other Threats
- We will consult with local officials to determine whether a bomb threat is credible before we publish a story, but we will reserve the right to publish regardless of what officials say.
- We permit undercover reporting only when we feel a story is important enough to justify doing so, and we have exhausted all other reasonable methods.
- 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.
- We publish information from confidential sources that we consider reliable, but do not publish the opinions of unnamed sources.
- We do not attend “background briefings” where officials try to spoon-feed information to the media without speaking for the record.
- We are more open to granting confidentiality to sources we approach for interviews than to sources approaching us with tips or with dirt about political opponents or business rivals.
- We always assume that government snoops, law enforcement or hackers might access our regular communication channels when we grant confidentiality to a source. We should use technology such as encryption software or “burner” cell phones to protect confidentiality.
Children: Coverage, Images and Interviews
- We avoid identifying — by name or photo — children who are connected with a crime as perpetrators, victims or witnesses.
- We refrain from featuring photos of children who are connected with a crime as perpetrators, victims or witnesses.
- Our journalists seek permission from a parent to interview or photograph a child when it relates to all but simple matters (e.g. asking about a favorite video game).
- We do not require parental permission to photograph or interview children in breaking news situations.
- We consider granting confidentiality if we’re covering a story about a sensitive issue that could cause a child to be stereotyped, judged unfairly or put in harm’s way, even if the child doesn’t request it.
- We will take authorities’ recommendations into account but use our own judgment.
- We believe our primary responsibility in covering hostage situations is to help bring a peaceful resolution and not to advance the hostage-holders’ cause.
- Our organization never pays for interviews.
- Our organization will provide interviewees with transcripts of interviews in advance of publication but does not permit them to revise their statements.
- Our organization will provide interview subjects with lists of questions in advance upon their request, but the source must make a strong case for justifying the request.
- When reporting on an interview, we do not require our staff to state the type of interview (i.e., whether it was in person, by telephone, video, Skype or email.)
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 include source attribution in online stories themselves as well as links, if available, that provide additional information.
- Our staff members should take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of information that we publish and note our sources.
- 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).
- If an issue generates debate — even if one perspective on the issue has been credibly established as fact — we will seek out and report dissenting views in a proportionate way.
- 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.
- We have established a registration and approval system permitting “favorite” commenters to post and publish their comments immediately without editorial review.
- We have a system that permits individuals to “flag” comments for potential problems, and we review those “flagged” comments in a systematic and timely fashion.
- We edit comments to remove potentially libelous language or hate speech, as we define it, but we do not change spelling or grammatical errors.
- We permit comments on all articles.
- We allow anonymous commenting.
- We will never access and review the identity of a registered commenter.
- We will not alter quotes in any way.
- We will clean up random utterances such as pauses, “um” or “you know” unless they materially alter the meaning.
- We will allow separate phrases of a quote separated by ellipsis. (“I will go to war … 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.”)
- We do not publish names of sexual assault victims unless they agree to speak on the record.
- In rare cases, such as when a sexual assault allegation has been proven to be false and malicious, we will identify a sexual assault accuser.
- In breaking news stories, we do not publish the names of dead people until authorities have notified their families and released the names, unless compelling circumstances justify publication as soon as we have verified the names.
- We should always be careful about identifying kidnap victims if the person may be in danger.
- We withhold the names of mass killers to deny them the attention they appear to seek. Other than names, we cover other details of these crimes based on their newsworthiness.
- In covering active police or military operations, we will withhold such details as location or tactics planned, until after the operation, to avoid endangering police, troops or civilians who could be affected.
- We will consider potential harm to sources facing intolerance in their societies before naming them in stories.
- Our journalists may not own interests in companies they cover regularly.
- Our journalists should immediately disclose to a supervisor any interests they have in a company they are asked to cover. Supervisors should consider putting another journalist on the story.
- Our journalists must disclose their financial interests to an outside person, retained by our company, who will protect the confidentiality of the information while assessing what the journalist can cover.
- Our journalists may invest in equity index-related products and publicly available diversified mutual funds or commodity pools, but should disclose them if they happen to cover a particular fund in which they have an interest.
- Our journalists should avoid community involvement in areas that they cover. Journalists should tell their supervisors about their community involvements, including when a story suddenly arises that may present a conflict. 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 should disclose community involvements, particularly those involving topics they might cover, both in general statements we will publish on our website and in stories relating to their involvements.
- Our journalists are encouraged to be involved in the community and the issues we cover, but we will disclose these involvements in our coverage.
- 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.
Gifts, Free Travel and Other Perks
- Our journalists may accept tickets or press passes to events we are covering or reviewing, but should not accept extra tickets for family or friends.
- Our journalists should pay their own way to all events we cover, including entertainment and sporting events, though we can accept, for our admission price, access to media areas such as a press box.
- Our journalists should disclose any gifts they receive to their supervisors and discuss whether something needs to be returned, disclosed, paid for, donated to charity or handled in some other way that protects our integrity.
- Our journalists who travel internationally should use good judgment to determine if upholding our gift policy would be culturally insensitive. If a journalist accepts a gift that normally would violate our ethics, we should disclose the gift and/or donate it to charity.
- Our journalists may accept a small gift in cases where people are being kind and clearly not trying to influence us. Our gift policy does not require us to be rude; sometimes there’s a common-sense need to accept a small gift.
Personal Ethics Statements by Staff
- Our journalists are encouraged to make personal ethics statements, which provide more information about themselves and their attitudes, even though they must follow our corporate values.
- Our organization’s policy prevails if personal ethics codes and organizational policy conflict.
- Our journalists focus their personal ethics statements on ethics and do not use statements simply as a place to post their biographies. Biographical details are put in the context of how they will or will not affect our journalism, or to disclose matters that might appear to create potential conflicts.
Plagiarism and Attribution
- We believe a link to a digital source is sometimes sufficient attribution; we need not always name the source in the text if the information is routine.
- Attribution should be as specific as possible, including the name of the author and publication or organization of the source we are quoting.
- We should always cite news releases if they are our sources, and should quote them if using their exact words.
- Even when taking basic facts from another source–“World War II ended in Allied victories over Germany and Japan”– we should vary the wording from the phrasing used in source materials.
Political Activities by Staff
- Our journalists should avoid coverage of an issue or campaign if a family member’s political involvement would call into question the integrity of a journalist’s coverage. If avoiding such a family conflict is impossible, we will disclose the family member’s involvement in related coverage.
- Our journalists should disclose community and political involvements, particularly those involving topics they might cover, both in general statements we will publish on our website and in stories relating to their involvement.
- Our journalists should be aware of personal biases that can skew their reporting, even if journalists conduct no public activity indicating a political bias. They will consider publishing personal ethics statements, or making colleagues aware of their beliefs to help backstop the objectivity of their work.
- Our journalists should not express opinions on social media about politics, but are free to express opinions on cultural areas such as sports, entertainment or technology if they do not cover those areas and are not likely to cover them.
- We encourage staff members to retweet, reblog, share and otherwise pass along things they find interesting on social media. We trust them to provide context where appropriate.
- 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.
- A staff member who considers not identifying himself or herself accurately in a social media profile should explain the extraordinary circumstances to a top editor and receive approval before starting such an account.
- If staff members want to share unconfirmed information on social media, such as rumor or hearsay, they should explain in the post why they are posting this information, such as seeking community confirmation for the report.
- Staff members communicating with and about people in dangerous situations, such as war, crime or disaster zones, should consider the safety and security of people depicted or addressed in the social media content.
- For platforms that don’t allow editing of posts, we should leave original posts untouched, unless they are defamatory or otherwise legally problematic.
- 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.
Awards and Contests
- We will accept awards from advocacy organizations, if we are transparent about favoring that point of view.
- We will assess the nature of the contest and make a decision consistent with our overall contest principles if we win a contest we did not enter.
- We will refuse any attempt to censor our material, accepting delay as the price for putting out exactly what we want.
- In military situations, we will be respectful of requests related to security and respect for troops, but reserve the right to make our own decisions.
- 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.
- If a mistake is made in a social media post, we will publish a corrected version indicating that the new post is a correction. We will include a link to the erroneous original post and allow it to stand.
- 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).
Freelance Work by Employees
- We do not allow any freelancing by full-time employees, as we believe it will inevitably compromise our integrity or open us up to ethical challenges.
- We prohibit full-time employees from doing freelance work for a competing media organization as defined by company managers or for a political organization, elected official, government agency, candidate for office, or a non-profit agency with a political agenda, such as an environmental group.
- We allow part-time employees to perform freelance work, but they must notify their direct managers.
Handling and protection of freelancers and “fixers”
- We will publicly credit the work of freelancers, fixers and translators unless doing so poses risk of harm, such as threatening a person’s safety.
- We will pay reasonable fees to freelancers, fixers and translators for their services but not for contributing as sources on a story.
Removing Archived Work
- We will remove an outdated story from our archives if it is causing problems for someone.
- We will update a story in our archives, including the headline, if the story would damage someone’s reputation and is outdated.
- We will correct any errors we learn of in our archived content and note the corrections.
- We will consider exceptions to our policy in extreme cases, such as abuse or danger to someone’s personal safety.
Reporting On Your Organization
- We will avoid all potential conflicts of loyalty by refraining from covering the story when our organization has done something newsworthy. We will let others cover our organization. If an issue is particularly newsworthy, we will limit ourselves to publishing official company statements.
- We will publish a statement with all automatically produced stories, explaining that they are the work of robot journalism.
- We will “tune” our software for certain purposes; for example, we will try to encourage children’s soccer by having the software highlight goals and downplay mistakes. We will disclose such tweaking.
- We will not disclose that we “tune” our software for certain purposes because it’s standard practice in our area; our human writers have long written kindly about children’s sports, local amateur theater, etc.
- We will set goals in hiring and promotions to increase diversity in our staff and management.
- We will seek diverse pools of candidates for all jobs, but will always seek to hire the most qualified candidate.
- We encourage staffers to seek diverse sources, both in specific stories and in routine beat coverage.
- We consider the perspectives of those offended by hateful expression when making publication decisions.
- We consider the climate for free expression when making publication decisions.
- We support local, national or international laws to combat hate speech.
Mental Health and Suicide
- We will use the phrases “died by suicide” or “killed himself or herself” and avoid the phrases “committed suicide” and “took his or her own life.”
- We will not describe a suicide attempt as “successful” or “unsuccessful.”
- We will not detail specific means of suicide in news stories or obituaries.
- We will not use sensational headlines on stories about suicide.
- We will not use graphic images on stories about suicide.
- We will opt for everyday images of a person who dies by suicide (such as a school photo) instead of images of people grieving.
- We will Include contact information for resources for people in mental health crises. (e.g. “The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States is available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.)
- We will not include the method used in a suicide.
- We will name criminal suspects if they are arrested.
- We will name criminal suspects if we have their identifications confirmed by sources we trust.
- We will not name juvenile suspects in criminal cases unless extraordinary circumstances justify use of the names.
- If a criminal suspect is at large and believed to be dangerous, we will identify the suspect, including a photo or sketch.
- We will replace obscenities, vulgarities and slurs with a descriptor (e.g. “an anti-gay slur”).
- We will replace obscenities, vulgarities and slurs with something that implies the word rather than stating it directly (e.g. “f—”).
- We will apply the same standards on obscenities, vulgarities and slurs to reader comments on stories that are applied to the story itself.
- We view everything on social media and the Internet as fair game for journalists, and everyone knows it, even private individuals. We reserve the right to publish whatever we find online or from public sources.
- We respect individuals’ right to privacy and do not use content we discover online from private individuals without receiving their permission.
- We do not believe that everything celebrities and public officials say and do should be made public, even though they cede a great deal of privacy when they enter the public eye. We analyze cases on an individual basis, taking into account the news value of the public figure’s action.
- We will voluntarily withhold information we have gathered when requested if we deem the individual’s request to be valid, based on our news judgment and professional standards.
- We believe interviewing bystanders of traumatic events is voyeurism and unlikely to add relevant material to articles or programs. We generally will not conduct interviews “in the heat of the moment” because people under stress may not be aware of the consequences of talking to us.
Race and Gender
- We will seek out people in the groups we cover to gain perspective on our coverage and terminology.
- We will alternate between male and female pronouns.
- 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 facilitate responses from the public to publication of sensitive material.
- 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 refrain from running sensitive material specifically or solely for the revenue purposes, such as increased digital traffic.
- Cuts and programs may be heavily edited and rearranged as needed, as long as there’s a disclosure the audio was edited, the meaning of statements remains the same after editing, and rearrangements of audio do not affect the original meaning.
- We will fully identify person-in-the-street-type speakers in audio cuts unless there is a compelling reason not to.
- Our journalists may mix sound from different sources as long as it gives a true picture of what happened (even if it was not all recorded at the same time).
- In collaborative projects, we may not be able to insist on shared ethical values with partners, but we will disclose to our readers and viewers that we have separate policies from our partners.
- We will put all data in relevant context.
- We will not use personally identifiable data without specific and valid news value to support disclosure.
- We will secure data to the best extent possible to prevent hacking.
- We will apply our rules on paying for news to paying for data.
- We will pay reasonable technical costs (copying, transmission, etc.) for providing data to us.
- We will allow a certain degree of poetic license in reconstructions or previews of events through infographics or animations; not every detail can be knowable for sure.
Photo and Video
- When documenting private or traumatic moments, we will seek permission from subjects before shooting photos or video.
- When documenting private or traumatic moments, we will not seek permission to shoot, but will be sensitive to subjects’ situation.
- We will refrain from using drones to capture images.
- We will allow the use of drones to capture images, but publish or air those images only if they serve a compelling public interest.
- We will clearly label posed or re-enacted photos/video.
- We will refrain from intentionally becoming an active participant in a news story (e.g. taking part in a rescue operation or using our camera to influence a situation).
- We will edit or manipulate images only if doing so doesn’t affect the news content of the image or the meaning viewers will make from it.
- 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 refrain from doing re-enactments of news events.
- We will refrain from using any photos or video provided by outside organizations (governments, companies, agents, etc.).
- We will refrain from using “handout” photos or video unless your own photographers are unavailable to cover the story.
- If using music in video stories, we will be cognizant of the emotional effect the music may have, and avoid using music if the story is intended to have a neutral voice.
- We will verify photos or videos from social media before using them.
- We partner with other organizations and the public in attempts to verify what UGC is accurate. This means distributing it with caveats that it hasn’t been verified.
- 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.
Virtual Reality Journalism
- In re-creating news events in VR, the viewer should get full disclosures about any guesswork or artistic license involved.
- Photos and video may be manipulated if needed to avoid disturbing scenes like dead children.
- Our funder(s) may see our stories before publication but may not alter content or veto publishing decisions.
- Our funder(s) will not be used as sources in stories they fund.
- We will publicly disclose funding sources only if they are financing specific topics or reporting.
Clickbait and Metrics
- We will accurately reflect the content of related stories in headlines and social media posts.
- We will use metric considerations as one of a number of factors in determining what we cover and how we place stories.
News and Advertising
- We do not allow advertisers to have a say in the selection or content of stories and photos.
- We require news-like content produced by advertisers to be clearly identified as advertising.
- We will allow advertising anywhere on our publication or site.
- We will assist advertisers in creating advertising material.
- We make it clear when tweets or posts on our social media accounts are linked to advertiser-prepared material.
- We disclose whether any one advertiser or industry provides a substantial share of our revenue.