Better Dwelling’s Editorial Principles

Last edited October 4, 2021.

Fundamentals of reporting

  • Be honest, accurate, truthful, and fair. Do not distort or fabricate facts, imagery, sound, or data.
  • Provide accurate context for all reporting.
  • Seek out diverse voices that can contribute important perspectives on the subject you’re writing.
  • Ensure that sources are reliable. To the maximum extent possible, make clear to your audience who and what your sources are, what motivations your sources may have and any conditions people have set for giving you information. When unsure of information, leave it out or make clear it has not been corroborated.
  • Correct errors quickly, completely and visibly. Make it easy for your audience to bring errors to your attention.
  • If a report includes criticism of people or organizations, give them the opportunity to respond.
  • Clearly distinguish fact from opinion in all content.

Conflicts of interest

  • Avoid any conflict of interest that undermines your ability to report fairly. Disclose to your audience any unavoidable conflicts or other situational factors that may validly affect their judgment of your credibility.
  • Do not allow people to make you dishonestly skew your reporting. Do not offer to skew your reporting under any circumstances.
  • Do not allow the interests of advertisers or others funding your work to affect the integrity of your journalism.

Community

  • Respect your audience and those you write about. Consider how your work and its permanence may affect the subjects of your reporting, your community and ­­ since the Internet knows no boundaries ­­ the larger world.

Professional Conduct

  • Don’t plagiarize or violate copyrights.
  • Keep promises to sources, readers and the community.
  • If you belong to a news organization, give all staff expectations, support and tools to maintain ethical standards.

Concealing Identity

  • We have a blanket ban on undercover reporting in the belief that deception is never appropriate in news gathering, and other ways can always be found to get the story. 

Confidential Sources

  • 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 will disclose to readers or viewers the reasons for granting confidentiality, such as fear for the source’s safety or job, when we use unnamed sources.
  • 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 recognize that many sources cannot talk to us freely. We grant confidentiality if we think the source has a good reason. We will use information and quotes from unnamed sources we consider reliable.
  • 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.

Interviewing

  • 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 permits interviewees with transcripts to revise their comments to clarify complicated or technical matters.
  • Our organization will provide interview subjects with a general idea of our questions in advance.
  • Articles and reports must state the method of interviewing (i.e., whether it was in person, by telephone, video, Skype or email) if doing so enhances the context of the interview and article.

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 use links, if available, for source attribution in online stories.
  • We include source attribution in online stories themselves as well as links, if available, that provide additional information.
  • We consistently include clear attributions throughout a story, even if something has been established as fact.

Accuracy

  • Our staff members should take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of information that we publish and note our sources.
  • We should not publish rumors or other information we have not verified.

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).
  • We will be alert to situations where the most accessible spokesmen are at the extremes of issues, but most people are somewhere in the middle.
  • 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.
  • We will refrain from presenting multiple points of view if one perspective on an issue has been credibly established as fact. In other words, we will avoid “false balance.”
  • 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.

Online Commenting

  • We permit comments on all articles.
  • We allow anonymous commenting.
  • We allow pseudonyms for commenting as long as a user has registered an account with us.
  • We will access and review the identity of a registered commenter only when subpoenaed by law enforcement.

Quotations

  • 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.”)

Withholding Names

  • Unless we have a compelling reason to withhold a name, we always publish names of people involved in the stories we cover.
  • We will consider potential harm to sources facing intolerance in their societies before naming them in stories.

Financial Interests

  • Our journalists must disclose their financial interests to their supervisors.
  • 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.

Community Activities

  • 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.

Gifts, Free Travel and Other Perks

  • Our journalists should accept no gifts from subjects or potential subjects of our coverage. If gifts sent to journalists cannot be returned, we should donate them to charity.
  • 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.

Personal Ethics Statements by Staff

  • Our journalists should work precisely to our company ethics and standards; personal ethics statements are, therefore, not necessary.
  • Our organization’s policy prevails if personal ethics codes and organizational policy conflict.

Plagiarism and Attribution

  • We must always attribute all sources by name and, if the source is digital, by linking to the original source.
  • 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.
  • When we are using someone else’s exact words, we should use quotation marks and attribution.
  • 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.
  • When we use substantial material from our archives or from an author’s previous work in a current story, we should note that the material has been published before.

Political Activities by Staff

  • 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.
  • 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.

Social Networks

  • Our journalists are free to express opinions on social media.
  • 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.

Censorship

  • We will refuse any attempt to censor our material, accepting delay as the price for putting out exactly what we want.

Corrections

  • 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.
  • We will show all changes that have been made to online stories if they involve corrections or rephrasing to fix unclear material.
  • We will post all of your corrections in a single corrections area.

Freelance Work by Employees

  • We permit freelancing by full-time employees, but they must receive explicit permission to do so from their direct manager before undertaking such work.
  • 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 leave a story online but block it from indexing by search engines if someone complains about a story in our archives showing up in searches. (If you pick this choice, you need to teach the appropriate staff members how to do that.)
  • 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.

Robot journalism

  • We will publish a statement with all automatically produced stories, explaining that they are the work of robot journalism.

Diversity

  • 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.

Hate Speech

  • We report on hate speech and actions but include original offensive expressions only when specifically necessary for audience understanding of the case.
  • We consider the perspectives of those offended by hateful expression when making publication decisions.
  • We support local, national or international laws to combat hate speech.

Naming suspects

  • We will name criminal suspects if they are arrested.
  • We will name criminal suspects if we have their identifications confirmed by sources we trust.

Obscenities

  • Online we will allow obscenities, vulgarities and slurs in non-quoted material if they fit with the voice of the writer and tone of the outlet.
  • We will apply the same standards on obscenities, vulgarities and slurs to reader comments on stories that are applied to the story itself.

Privacy

  • We consider the standard for publishing material about private individuals who are thrust into the public eye as higher than that for public individuals.

Race and Gender

  • We will Identify transgender people by the gender they express publicly.
  • We will use plural references to avoid gender-specific pronouns when possible.

Sensational Material

  • We will refrain from running sensitive material specifically or solely for revenue purposes, such as increased digital traffic.

Audio

  • Audio cuts of newsmakers may be edited to remove insignificant stumbles.
  • We will fully identify person-in-the-street-type speakers in audio cuts unless there is a compelling reason not to.

Data Journalism

  • We believe that data is like raw footage and may be purchased if it cannot be obtained through other means.
  • In collaborative projects, we insist that all parties are clear on shared ethics, values and roles.
  • 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 pay reasonable technical costs (copying, transmission, etc.) for providing data to us.

Interactives

  • We will organize and internally link our interactives in a way that users entering and navigating in different ways will be able to grasp the essential points of the story.
  • We will structure our interactives so there is only one way in, to give all users a consistent experience.
  • Links among the parts of an interactive will be retained over time, including when the story is archived.

Photo and Video

  • 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 not ask subjects to pose or to re-enact an event.
  • We will clearly label posed or re-enacted photos/video.
  • 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 pixelate images only when the intent is to protect the identity of someone in the image or to protect viewers from gory or graphic material.
  • We will verify photos or videos from social media before using them.

User-Generated Content

  • We will guard against using UGC in situations that might be dangerous to the person who created it or to others in the images. We will stress to possible providers of UGC that they must not take risks to gather information or imagery.
  • We consider UGC an extension of our own journalism. We don’t run such material unless we’re sure it’s authentic.

Virtual Reality Journalism

  • If a VR production is designed to spread a certain political or social point of view, this should be disclosed at the beginning of the piece.
  • In re-creating news events in VR, the viewer should get full disclosures about any guesswork or artistic license involved.
  • Producers may stage-manage a VR production if that’s the only way to overcome technical obstacles.

Accepting money

  • Our funder(s) will not be able to see our stories before publication.
  • Our funder(s) will have no say in topics to be covered or specific stories.
  • We will publicly disclose funding sources only if they are financing specific topics or reporting.

Clickbait and Metrics

  • We are encouraged to write clever, creative headlines and social media posts that will entice readers to click on our stories, but headlines will not make promises that our stories don’t deliver.
  • We will not use metric considerations in determining what we cover and how we place stories.

News and Advertising

  • We do not allow advertisements for certain types of products.
  • We do not allow advertisers to have a say in the selection or content of stories and photos.
  • We have specific, consistent definitions of terms like “Advertisement,” “Sponsored Content” and “Message from …” and disclose them to our readers.
  • We make it clear when tweets or posts on our social media accounts are linked to advertiser-prepared material

Still have questions? Drop us an email: [email protected].