Ethics & Professional Standards Guidelines
CFL News Hub is committed to the highest ethical standards.
Fairness and accuracy are among our core values. But perhaps nothing stands above the need for the news organization to maintain and preserve its integrity. The public’s trust in our work — our most important asset — depends on it.
This evolving document is meant to provide general guidance to CNH 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 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 ought to be discussed with a ranking (masthead) editor. None of us should decide such issues alone.
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 a ranking editor.
CNH recognizes that while there are many black-and-white issues easily resolved, there also are many that involve shades of gray. Not every question needs to be brought to the immediate attention of a ranking editor. Questions often can and should be, discussed openly and thoroughly with members of the newsroom. Avoid “doing” ethics alone. Collaboration produces better decisions.
Professional Activities and Standards
Fairness, Accuracy and Corrections
The Southern California News Group strives to operate with fairness, accuracy, and independence.
Whenever possible, the Southern California News Group seeks opposing views and solicits responses from those whose conduct is questioned in news stories.
While it is our responsibility to accurately report the news we know, and as soon as possible after breaking the news, we should update what we can from an opposing side or more background. If the opposing side can’t be reached, we should say that. We should also foster a spirit of fairness in the tone of our coverage. An opposing side shouldn’t necessarily be expected to provide cogent and thoughtful responses to complex issues instantaneously. Developing stories must indicate they will continue to be updated with “More to come” or similar phrasing.
We must strive to create balance in all of our coverage with a sense of immediacy.
All errors shall be acknowledged promptly in a straightforward manner, never disguised or glossed over in a follow-up story. Only in rare circumstances, with approval from the Executive Editor, should an attempt be made to remove erroneous content (or content published inadvertently) from the web. When errors are made online, we should correct the errors and indicate that the story has been updated to correct an error or clarify what it says. We always acknowledge our mistakes and set the record straight in a transparent manner.
In considering requests to remove accurate information from our public archives, we should consider not only the person’s interest in suppressing the content but also the public’s interest in knowing the information. Circumstances will guide the decision and must be approved by the Executive Editor. Our policy is not to remove published content from our archives, but we want archives to be accurate, complete, and up-to-date, so we will update and correct archived content as needed, including headlines.
Clarifications should be made when a story, photograph, video, caption, editorial, etc. creates a false impression of fact.
A correction or clarification should repeat the original error only if omitting that information fails to provide the necessary context for understanding the correction/clarification. For example, a correction such as “The name of Joe Editorowski was incorrectly spelled in a story about the Southern California News Group” is sufficient in print. It is not necessary to repeat the original error. Corrections/clarifications should be appended to the original story online and be located in a consistent place in print.
When there is a question over whether a correction, clarification, or removal of a story or photo is necessary, bring the matter to an editor.
Reporters or photographers ought to identify themselves to news sources. In the rare instance when circumstances suggest not identifying ourselves, the Executive Editor or appropriate senior editor must be consulted for approval.
Journalists must not plagiarize, whether it is the wholesale lifting of someone else’s writing or the publication of a press release as news without attribution. CNH journalists are responsible for their research, just as they are for their reporting. The inadvertent publication of another’s work does not excuse plagiarism. Plagiarism will result in serious disciplinary action and may include termination.
While journalists are expected to cover breaking news aggressively, they must not interfere with civil authorities while on assignment. In no circumstance should a journalist break the law. Journalists who feel they have been unlawfully restricted from doing their job are expected to remain calm and professional and report the situation to a ranking editor immediately.
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