June 9, 2010

Code of Ethics

Accuracy

Accuracy must be our constant goal. There is no such thing as a minor inaccuracy inasmuch as every error tends to erode our credibility.

Simply stated, every reporter, photographer, radio Programmer and contributor is responsible for the accuracy of what he or she produces. Every editor and radio programmer is responsible for the accuracy of any facts added to or deleted from a story or any changes made in a story. Headlines and segment titles must accurately reflect the tone and content of a story.

Editors and radio programmers are also expected to exercise a healthy skepticism in handling stories. If something does not seem to ring true or holds the potential for legal action, then it should be checked. One of the major reasons for inaccuracies appearing in print or on-air is that a reporter, photographer, editor, or programmer assumed that something was correct rather than checking to make sure.

Rewrites are another major source of error. When rewrites are needed, special care should be taken to make sure the facts and tone in the rewritten version are accurate.

Accuracy of Sources

In the interest of accuracy, it is the duty of reporters, photographers and radio programmer always to obtain exact addresses and telephone numbers of individuals who figure in a story or segment. Staff members are also urged to respect the privacy and safety of sources, their families and property, and not to divulge phone numbers and addresses without permission. As a general rule, if we don’t print it or air it, we should not release information by other means.

Staff members are also urged to respect the privacy and safety of sources, their families and property, and not to divulge phone numbers and addresses without their permission.

Alcohol

Staff shall not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs during their work time for WLUSP.

Analysis & Opinion

We have a responsibility to our readers and listeners not only to provide fair and balanced coverage of events of the day, but to put the news into perspective and try to explain the significance of events.

Opposite-editorial pieces, analyses, columns and other such interpretive articles and stories can serve an important function in fulfilling our duty to inform. These articles and stories have added credibility when they are written or told by staff with first-hand knowledge.

However, care should be taken when opinions are offered on issues which are ongoing and directly related to that particular writer or programmer’s beat. Commenting on events while they are unfolding could call into question the impartiality of our coverage.

Analysis or opinion pieces must be clearly identified so the reader or listener is aware they contain the writer or programmer’s views or interpretation.

Attribution

Every effort should be made to get all information and comments “on the record” and with attribution but if that is impossible and the story warrants it, then, with a supervisor’s approval, information from unnamed sources may be used.

Unnamed sources should be credible and their information should be supported by at least one other source. As much information as possible should be used in the story to establish the credibility of the source without revealing his or her identity. Reporters must make an effort to learn as much as possible about these sources and their motives.

Sources must be warned that staff could be forced by the courts to reveal their identity, so there can be no absolute guarantee of anonymity.

If information is accepted off the record, the source should be warned that every effort will be made to obtain the information from another source, and if it is confirmed, it will be published.

Under no circumstances should staff members pay a source for information.

Bylines & Photo Credits

Bylines must be used by all staff members, with the exception of section editors, on every story or picture.

Reporters or photographers have the right, however, to withhold their bylines and credit lines if they feel their work has been substantially altered.

Community Involvement

WLUSP respects the right of its employees to be involved in the community, including Laurier and the greater Waterloo and Brantford areas, but staff members should remember that they have a responsibility to avoid being compromised by their participation or membership in organizations.

Conflict of Interest

Editors, employees, writers and programmers are responsible for their own conduct, and it is up to individuals who represent the organization to ensure that their actions can withstand intense conflict-of-interest scrutiny.

Staff members shall not have financial or personal interest in an organization about which he or she covers or determines the play of related events.

By the very nature of their work, staff members are often privy to information before it becomes public. Under no circumstances should they use such information to their own advantage before it is disseminated to the public.

Staff members should not exploit their connection with WLUSP to advertise, endorse or promote products or causes.

Corrections

It is WLUSP’s obligation to make prompt corrections of errors whether the mistake is discovered by the organization itself or brought to its attention by the public. Corrections should be prominently and appropriately displayed or aired, usually in the same section as the original article was printed or on the same show that the error was made.

A written explanation of how the error occurred must be submitted to a supervisor.

Every reader complaint must be reported immediately to a section editor who will investigate fully and notify the complainant of the result of such investigation. A publication’s Editor-in-Chief must approve all corrections before they are published.

Every listener complaint must be reported immediately to the Programming chair or the Station Manager who will investigate it fully and notify the complainant of the result of such investigation. The Station Manager must approve all corrections before they go to air.

Courtesy

Staff members are expected to be courteous at all times. Rudeness is inexcusable, even under the provocations that sometimes arise. The brusque approach is not part of the good journalist. It is bad manners and also not productive.

Identification

It is a reporter’s obligation to be honest when dealing with interview subjects and news sources. At times, this will necessitate advising someone not accustomed to dealing with the press that his or her comments may appear, with attribution, in a WLUSP product.

Special care should be taken to ensure that people being interviewed over the telephone are made fully aware they are speaking for publication.

Similarly, reporters surveying opinion through random interviews should take pains to make subjects aware that the opinions requested are for publication and that names will accompany the views expressed.

Keeping Notes and Recordings

A reporter’s or programmer’s notes or recordings are often needed as defense against charges of misquoting or defamation. All notes and recordings should be kept for a minimum of 90 days. These notes or recordings should be stored in a secure place where they will not be accidentally misplaced and where the reporter or programmer can obtain them easily if needed.

Notes and recordings on ongoing issues or stories and issues of a controversial nature should be kept for a minimum of 120 days. If the notes or recordings will be required for court or are of a particularly sensitive nature they should be stored under lock and key in a place approved by the editor or manager.

Just as a reporter will not show a finished story to a source neither should a reporter allow anyone outside the newsroom or studio to read his/her notes or listen to recordings of interviews.

Letters to the Editor

The letter-to-the-editor column is intended to be a public forum. WLUSP reserves the right to reject or to condense any letter. Personal attacks or defamatory statements will not be published. Letters will be routinely edited and will not be published unless the writer identifies themselves in writing including name, student ID, and phone number, if applicable.

Defamation

All libel/slander notices served must be forwarded immediately to the publication’s Editor-in-Chief or the Station Manager. Anyone receiving a defamation notice should note the time and method of service and attach this information to the notice. The Editor-in-Chief or Station Manager will inform the President of WLUSP and Executive Director and ask the editor, reporters, or programmers involved for a detailed report, including the source and authenticity of our facts and other relevant information. The report must be completed within 24 hours after receipt of the notice so the material may be referred to our lawyers and a decision made on whether we should publish a retraction.

Retractions should be given as prominent a place as the original article and published promptly usually in the next issue or on the next show after receipt of the notice.

The report given to WLUSP’s solicitors must be accurate in all respects. Reporters and programmers should make it a practice to file their notes on all sensitive stories so they will be available if required.

The responsibility for accuracy rests on the editor or programmer’s handling a story and ultimate responsibility rests with the publication’s Editor-in-Chief or Station Manager. They must satisfy themselves that the facts as their publication represents them are accurate before they pass a sensitive story. It should also be remembered that the temptation to rush into print or on-air can be dangerous; it may be that a delay will not invalidate a story but may provide the time required to further authenticate the material.

Headlines, photographs (for example, words on placards), and segment titles can constitute libel.

Staff members should not discuss threats of libel actions. Such discussions or comments may seriously jeopardize WLUSP’s position in court. Any editor or manager handling a libel threat should merely strive to obtain a clear understanding of the complaint and should not express any view on its merits.

Photography

Photographs and their captions report and interpret the news. Therefore, photographs and captions are subject to the same judgments as stories, and photographers are as responsible for accuracy as reporters are.

Photographs must communicate something to the reader. They should be of interest to the majority of our readership and provide them with information and/or entertainment in a fresh and professional manner.

Photographers should not capitalize on the misfortunes of others, nor should they interfere with a person’s right to privacy, but they should strive to take a picture that reflects an event accurately even though it could have a strong emotional impact on readers.

Captions

All questions that arise from viewing a photograph should be answered in the caption. It is the responsibility of the photographer to inform the editor of the situations he/she has controlled. We must not mislead the reader.

All principal subjects in photographs should be identified unless circumstances prevent the photographer from getting identification or if a subject refuses to be identified. A photographer can identify subjects from a secondary source, but must ensure the accuracy of the identification.

Exploitation

Care should be taken in the presentation of photographs and captions that could appear to exploit gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, handicaps, deformities or age.

File Photos

Editors should be careful in their use of file photographs. WLUSP gives readers incorrect information when it runs an old photograph of a person, building or location without informing the reader of the age of the picture and/or changes that have occurred.

Hand-out photographs from such sources as public relations firms and movie companies should be used only when there is no other source of photographs to illustrate a news worthy event.

Plagiarism

Ideas, phrases, or substantial passages which are not the writer’s or programmer’s own or common knowledge should be attributed in some way.

It is an equally serious offense to reproduce, without additional research or new information, any story (or substantial sections of it) previously published in a WLUSP publication.

The evidence of plagiarism should be conclusive, and the offender should be given the right to defend himself or herself.

News is not copyrighted, only the form in which it appears. We take others’ stories only as a last resort and only if the editors are confident the facts are accurate.

If at all possible, all information should be independently verified.

If there are any doubts, rewritten stories should refer to the originating medium (eg. The Waterloo Region Record says…).

Stereotypes

Any article, editorial, letter, advertisement, show segment or other submission that is deemed sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory shall be withheld from publication or release.

Racially or sexually derogatory terms are only permissible when part of a direct quote and when essential to a story.

Reporters, photographers, editors and programmers are cautioned to treat sexes equally and without stereotyping. The standard to use when describing or photographing a person is to ask oneself if similar adjectives would be used to describe a member of the opposite sex, or if a similar pose would be requested.

Distinctions between the sexes should be noted for purposes of identification, but avoid superficial reference.

Style & Language

Good writing and on-air reporting, and that is to say vivid, precise, active writing or storytelling, should be the constant goal of reporters, editors and programmers. Writing and on-air reporting should reflect the tone and significance of the story.

Particular care should be taken with quotations. Quotes from sources should be treated as inviolate and not cleaned up, grammatically corrected or re-worded unless in the judgment of the reporters and their editors, good taste is severely violated, or an unsophisticated source humiliated, to no newsworthy purpose. On the other hand, the overuse of dull quotations should be avoided.

WLUSP encourages writers to refrain from using profanities or tasteless language unless such quotations have a compelling importance to the story.

Withholding Information

Any decision to withhold information or the names of sources must come from a publication’s Editor-in- Chief or Station Manager.

WLUSP as News

Any significant criticism of WLUSP or one of its publications, particularly when delivered in a public forum, should be reported and if appropriate comments sought from WLUSP’s senior staff.

Staff members will not be singled out for special treatment as news subjects. The same rules should apply to them, their families and friends as to any other person who may be considered newsworthy.

In the event a member of the news staff becomes a part of a story, he or she should be taken off the assignment.

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