Fundster Editorial Integrity Policy
Journalistic integrity is the cornerstone of Fundster.
In the 21st century, news is transmitted in more ways than ever before – in print, on the air and on the Web, with words, images, graphics, sounds, and video. But always and in all media, we insist on the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior when we gather and deliver the news.
- We abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias, or distortions.
- We will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast
- We will not alter photo or image content.
- All quotations must be accurate and precise.
- We always strive to identify all the sources of our information, shielding them with anonymity only when they insist upon it and when they provide vital information–not opinion or speculation; when there is no other way to obtain that information; and when we know the source is knowledgeable and reliable.
- We don’t plagiarize.
- We avoid behavior or activities that create a conflict of interest and compromise our ability to report the news fairly and accurately, uninfluenced by any person or action.
- We don’t misidentify or misrepresent ourselves to get a story. When we seek an interview, we identify ourselves as Fundster journalists.
- We don’t pay newsmakers for interviews, to take their photographs or to film or record them.
- We must be fair. Whenever we portray someone in a negative light, we must make a real effort to obtain a response from that person. When mistakes are made, they must be corrected–fully, quickly, and ungrudgingly.
- And ultimately, it means it is the responsibility of every one of us to ensure that these standards are upheld. Any time a question is raised about any aspect of our work, it should be taken seriously.
The policies set forth in these pages are central to the Fundster mission; any failure to abide by them is subject to review, and could result in disciplinary action, ranging from admonishment to dismissal, depending on the gravity of the infraction.
Standards and practices with regard to anonymous sources:
Transparency is critical to our credibility with the public and our subscribers. Whenever possible, we pursue information on the record. When a newsmaker insists on background or off-the-record ground rules, we must adhere to a strict set of guidelines, enforced by Fundster news editors.
Under Fundster’s rules, material from anonymous sources may be used only if:
- The material is information and not opinion or speculation, and is vital to the news report.
- The information is not available except under the conditions of anonymity imposed by the source.
- The source is reliable, and in a position to have accurate information.
Reporters who intend to use material from anonymous sources must get approval from their news manager before sending the story to the desk. The manager is responsible for vetting the material and making sure it meets Fundster guidelines. The manager must know the identity of the source, and is obligated, like the reporter, to keep the source’s identity confidential. Only after they are assured that the source material has been vetted should editors allow it to be transmitted.
Reporters should proceed with interviews on the assumption they are on the record. If the source wants to set conditions, these should be negotiated at the start of the interview. At the end of the interview, the reporter should try once again to move some or all of the information back on the record.
Before agreeing to use anonymous source material, the reporter should ask how the source knows the information is accurate, ensuring that the source has direct knowledge. Reporters may not agree to a source’s request that Fundster not pursue additional comment or information.
Fundster routinely seeks and requires more than one source. Stories should be held while attempts are made to reach additional sources for confirmation or elaboration. In rare cases, one source will be sufficient–when material comes from an authoritative figure who provides information so detailed that there is no question of its accuracy.
We must explain in the story why the source requested anonymity. And, when it’s relevant, we must describe the source’s motive for disclosing the information. If the story hinges on documents, as opposed to interviews, the reporter must describe how the documents were obtained, at least to the extent possible.
The story also must provide attribution that establishes the source’s credibility; simply quoting “a source” is not allowed. We should be as descriptive as possible: “according to top White House aides” or “a senior official in the British Foreign Office.” The description of a source must never be altered without consulting the reporter.
We must not say that a person declined comment when he or she is already quoted anonymously. And we should not attribute information to anonymous sources when it is obvious or well known. We should just state the information as fact.
Stories that use anonymous sources must carry a reporter’s byline. If a reporter other than the bylined staffer contributes anonymous material to a story, that reporter should be given credit as a contributor to the story.
And all complaints and questions about the authenticity or veracity of anonymous material–from inside or outside the Fundster–must be promptly brought to the news manager’s attention.
Not everyone understands “off the record” or “on background” to mean the same things. Before any interview in which any degree of anonymity is expected, there should be a discussion in which the ground rules are set explicitly.
These are the Fundster definitions:
- On the record. The information can be used with no caveats, quoting the source by name
- Off the record. The information cannot be used for publication.
- Background. The information can be published but only under conditions negotiated with the source. Generally, the sources do not want their names published but will agree to a description of their position. Fundster reporters should object vigorously when a source wants to brief a group of reporters on background and try to persuade the source to put the briefing on the record. These background briefings have become routine in many venues, especially with government officials.
- Deep background. The information can be used but without attribution. The source does not want to be identified in any way, even on condition of anonymity.
- In general, information obtained under any of these circumstances can be pursued with other sources to be placed on the record.
Anonymous sources in material from other news sources:
Reports from other news organizations based on anonymous sources require the most careful scrutiny when we consider them for our report.
Fundster basic rules for anonymous-source material apply to pickups as they do in our own reporting: The material must be factual and obtainable no other way. The story must be truly significant and newsworthy. Use of sourced material must be authorized by a manager. The story must be balanced, and comment must be sought.
Further, before picking up such a story we must make a bona fide effort to get it on the record, or, at a minimum, confirm it through our own sources. We shouldn’t hesitate to hold the story if we have any doubts. If the source material is ultimately used, it must be attributed to the originating member and note their description of their sources.
Fundster audio actualities must always tell the truth. We do not alter or manipulate the content of a newsmaker actuality in any way. Voice reports by Fundster correspondents may be edited to remove pauses or stumbles.
The Fundster does permit the use of the subtle, standard audio processing methods of normalization of levels, general volume adjustments, equalization to make the sound clearer, noise reduction to reduce extraneous sounds such as telephone line noise, and fading in and out of the start and end of sound bites provided the use of these methods does not conceal, obscure, remove, or otherwise alter the content, or any portion of the content, of the audio. When an employee has questions about the use of such methods or the Fundster requirements and limitations on audio editing, he or she should contact the desk supervisor prior to the transmission of any audio.
Bylines may be used only if the journalist was in the datelined location to gather the information reported. If a reporter in the field provides information to a staffer who writes the story, the reporter in the field gets the byline, unless the editor in charge determines that the byline should more properly go to the writer.
We give bylines to photographers and other members who provide information without which there would be no story.
If multiple staffers report the story, the byline is the editor’s judgment call. In general, the byline should go to the staffer who reported the key facts. Or, one staffer can take the byline for one cycle, and another for the following cycle.
A double byline or editor’s note also can be used when more than one staffer makes a substantial contribution to the reporting or writing of a story. Credit lines recognize reporting contributions that are notable but don’t call for a double byline.
If either of the staffers with a double byline was not in the datelined location, we should say who was where in a note at the story's end.
For roundups, the byline goes to the writer, with credit in an editor’s note to the reporters who contributed substantial information.
Staffers must notify supervisory editors as soon as possible of errors or potential errors, whether in their work or that of a colleague. Every effort should be made to contact the staffer and his or her supervisor before a correction is made.
When we’re wrong, we must say so as soon as possible. A correction must always be labeled a correction. We do not use euphemisms such as “recasts,” “fixes,” “clarifies” or “changes” when correcting a factual error.
For corrections on live, online stories, we overwrite the previous version. We send separate corrective stories online as warranted.
For graphics, we clearly label a correction with a FIX logo or bug, and clearly identify the material that has been corrected.
For photos, we move a caption correction and retransmit the photo with a corrected caption, clearly labeled as a retransmission to correct an error.
A dateline tells the reader where we obtained the basic information for a story. In contrast, a byline tells the reader that a reporter was at the site of the dateline.
When a datelined story contains supplementary information obtained in another location – say, when an official in Washington comments on a disaster elsewhere – we should note it in the story.
Nothing in our news report – words, photos, or graphics – may be fabricated. We don’t use pseudonyms, composite characters, or fictional names, ages, places, or dates.
We do not ask people to pose for photos unless we are making a portrait and then we clearly state that in the caption. We explain in the caption the circumstances under which photographs are made. If someone is asked to pose for photographs by third parties and that is reflected in Fundster-produced images, we say so in the caption. Such wording would be: “XXX poses for photos.”
We use only authoritative sources. We do not project, surmise, or estimate in a graphic. We create work only from what we know.
We post or move a locator map only when we can confirm the location ourselves.
We create charts at visually proper perspectives to give an accurate representation of data. The information must be clear and concise. We do not skew or alter data to fit a visual need.
We credit our sources on every graphic, including graphics for which Fundster journalists have created the data set or database.
Fundster pictures must always tell the truth. We do not alter or manipulate the content of a photograph in any way.
The content of a photograph must not be altered in PhotoShop or by any other means. No element should be digitally added to or subtracted from any photograph. The faces or identities of individuals must not be obscured by PhotoShop or any other editing tool. Only retouching or the use of the cloning tool to eliminate dust and scratches are acceptable.
Minor adjustments in PhotoShop are acceptable. These include cropping, dodging and burning, conversion into grayscale, and normal toning, and color adjustments that should be limited to those minimally necessary for clear and accurate reproduction (analogous to the burning and dodging often used in darkroom processing of images) and that restore the authentic nature of the photograph. Changes in density, contrast, color, and saturation levels that substantially alter the original scene are not acceptable. Backgrounds should not be digitally blurred or eliminated by burning down or by aggressive toning.
When an employee has questions about the use of such methods or Fundster’s
requirements and limitations on photo editing, he or she should contact a senior photo editor prior to the transmission of any image.
On those occasions when we transmit images that have been provided and altered by a source – the faces obscured, for example – the caption must clearly explain it.
Transmitting such images must be approved by a senior photo editor.
Graphics often involve combining various photographic elements, which necessarily means altering portions of each photograph. The background of a photograph, for example, may be removed to leave the headshot of the newsmaker. This may then be combined with a logo representing the person’s company or industry, and the two elements may be layered over a neutral background.
Such compositions must not misrepresent the facts and must not result in an image that looks like a photograph – it must clearly be a graphic.
Similarly, when we alter photos to use as graphics online, we retain the integrity of the image, limiting the changes to cropping, masking, and adding elements like logos. It is permissible to display photos online using techniques such as 360-degree panoramas or dissolves as long as they do not alter the original images.
Obscenities, Profanities, Vulgarities:
We do not use obscenities, racial epithets, or other offensive slurs in stories unless they are part of direct quotations and there is a compelling reason for them.
If a story cannot be told without reference to them, we must first try to find a way to give the reader a sense of what was said without using the specific word or phrase. If a profanity, obscenity, or vulgarity is used, the story must be flagged at the top, advising editors to note the contents.
A photo containing something that could be deemed offensive must carry an editor’s note flagging it.
We take great care not to refer readers to Web sites that are obscene, racist, or otherwise offensive, and we must not directly link our stories to such sites.
In our online service, we link the least offensive image necessary to tell the story. For photo galleries and interactive presentations, we alert readers to the nature of the material in the link and on the opening page of the gallery or interactive. If an obscene image is necessary to tell the story, we blur the portion of the image considered offensive after approval of the department manager, and flag the image.
We do not generally identify those who say they have been sexually assaulted or pre-teenage children who are accused of crimes or who are witnesses to them, except in unusual circumstances. Nor do we transmit photos or video that identify such persons. An exception would occur when an adult victim publicly identifies him/herself.
Senior editors/managers must be consulted about exceptions.
We should give the full name of a source and as much information as needed to identify the source and explain why he or she is credible. Where appropriate, include a source’s age; title; name of company, organization or government department; and hometown.
If we quote someone from a written document – a report, e-mail, or news release -- we should say so. Information taken from the Internet must be vetted according to our standards of accuracy and attributed to the original source. File, library or archive photos, audio or videos must be identified as such.
For lengthy stories, attribution can be contained in an extended editor’s note, usually at the end, detailing interviews, research, and methodology. The goal is to provide a reader with enough information to have full confidence in the story’s veracity.
The same care that is used to ensure that quotes are accurate should also be used to ensure that quotes are not taken out of context.
We do not alter quotations, even to correct grammatical errors or word usage. If a quotation is flawed because of grammar or lack of clarity, the writer must be able to paraphrase in a way that is completely true to the original quote. If a quote’s meaning is too murky to be paraphrased accurately, it should not be used.
Ellipses should be used rarely.
When relevant, stories should provide information about the setting in which a quotation was obtained – for example, a press conference, phone interview or hallway
conversation with the reporter. The source’s affect and body language – perhaps a smile or deprecatory gesture – is sometimes as important as the quotation itself.
Use of regional dialects with nonstandard spellings should generally be limited to a writer’s effort to convey a special tone or sense of place. In this case, as in any interview with a person not speaking his or her native language, it is especially important that their ideas be accurately conveyed. Always, we must be careful not to mock the people we quote. Quotes from one language to another must be translated faithfully. If appropriate, we should note the language spoken.
We must make significant efforts to reach anyone who may be portrayed in a negative way in our stories, and we must give them a reasonable amount of time to get back to us before we move the story. What is “reasonable” may depend on the urgency and competitiveness of the story. If we don’t reach the parties involved, we must explain in the story what efforts were made to do so.
Use of Others’ Material:
A Fundster staffer who reports and writes a story must use original content, language, and phrasing. We do not plagiarize, meaning that we do not take the work of others and pass it off as our own
But in some respects, Fundster staffers must deal with gray areas.
It is common for a Fundster staffer to include in his or her work passages from a previous Fundster story by another writer – generally background, or boilerplate. This is acceptable if the passages are short. Regardless, the reporter writing the story is responsible for the factual and contextual accuracy of the material.
Also, the Fundster often has the right to use material from its members and subscribers; we sometimes take the work of newspapers, broadcasters and other outlets, rewrite it and transmit it without credit.
There are rules, however. When the material is exclusive, controversial, or sensitive, we always credit it. And we do not transmit the stories in their original form; we rewrite them, so that the approach, content, structure, and length meet our requirements and reflect the broader audience we serve.
Similar rules apply when we use material from news releases. Under no circumstances can releases reach the wire in their original form; we can use information and quotes from releases, but we must check the material, augment it with information from other sources, and then write our own stories.
We apply the same judgment in picking up material from members or from news releases that we use when considering information we receive from other sources. We must satisfy ourselves, by our own reporting, that the material is credible. If it does not meet Fundster standards, we don’t use it.
Conflicts of Interest:
Fundster respects and encourages the rights of its employees to participate actively in civic, charitable, religious, public, social, or residential organizations.
However, Fundster employees must avoid behavior or activities - political, social or financial - that create a conflict of interest or compromise our ability to report the news fairly and accurately, uninfluenced by any person or action. Nothing in this policy is intended to abridge any rights provided by the National Labor Relations Act.
Unless otherwise agreed to, Fundster journalists are not employees, agents, or representatives of the Company.
Copyright 2005-2014 - Fundster.com - All Rights Reserved.