Skip to main content
RLS Media Ethics Code
Telling the truth
- 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.
- 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.
- Our Social Media Community must make every effort to identify who they are with images and proper verified accounts with solidified information that poves they are active members of that social media company. Fake accounts with NOT be tolerated and we reserve the right to ban these and any accounts without notifications.
- Prohibited Behaviors on any of our platforms: Any behavior such as profanity or swearing, that threatens the life or well-being of others is not consistent with this policy. The center will not tolerate violence of any type, from any source. This includes threatening or violent actions by members of its community against other members of its community or property holdings. Such actions listed below as unacceptable behaviors include, but are not limited to, the following:
a.) Intimidating, threatening or hostile statements or actions, ranting speech.
b.) Name-calling, ethnic or racial slurs, sexual comments, etc.
c.) Profanity or obscene language or gestures.
- 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.
Nature of Journalism
- Our journalists should not express opinions at all and should work to ensure that stories are neutral, not reflecting bias toward any position. Exceptions are made for journalists whose jobs specifically involve expressing opinions, such as editorial writers, columnists, commentators and cartoonists.
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 have a blanket ban on undercover reporting in the belief that deception is never appropriate in newsgathering, and other ways can always be found to get the story.
- 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.
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 will take authorities’ recommendations into account but use our own judgment.
- Our organization never pays for interviews.
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 use links, if available, for source attribution in online stories.
- 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
- 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 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, profanity or hate speech, as we define it, but we do not change spelling or grammatical errors.
- We require commenters to use their full and complete names and to give us their email addresses, and employ an automated response system that confirms the email addresses.
- 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.”)
- 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 do not withhold essential details, such as names, from our coverage of mass murders.
- We will consider a disclosure page on our blog or website that lists our financial interests if we cover business or finance regularly.
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.
Personal Ethics Statements by Staff
- Our journalists should work precisely to our company ethics and standards; personal ethics statements are, therefore, not necessary.
Plagiarism and Attribution
- We must always attribute all sources by name and, if the source is digital, by linking to the original source.
- When we are using someone else’s exact words, we should use quotation marks and attribution.
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 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 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.
- 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.
Awards and Contests
- We will accept awards from advocacy organizations, if we are transparent about favoring that point of view.
- We will accept awards from corporations if we feel such awards will not skew our reporting.
- 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.
- In military situations, we will agree to censorship and other restrictions that are reasonable for reasons of security and respect for troops.
- We will show all changes that have been made to online stories if they involve corrections or rephrasing to fix unclear material.
Handling and protection of freelancers and “fixers”
- 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 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.
- We will delete inaccurate social media posts but acknowledge the deletions in subsequent posts.
Reporting On Your Organization
- We will assign an internal reporter to cover the story when our organization has done something newsworthy, but we will allow the story to be vetted by a high-level editor.
- 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 report on hate speech and actions but include original offensive expressions only when specifically necessary for audience understanding of the case.
- We support local, national or international laws to combat hate speech.
- We will not name juvenile suspects in criminal cases unless extraordinary circumstances justify use of the names.
- We will replace obscenities, vulgarities and slurs with something that implies the word rather than stating it directly (e.g. “f---”).
- We use discretion when it comes to interviewing and publishing material from trauma victims or bystanders because we understand that to do so may cause additional harm to individuals.
Race and Gender
- We will seek out people in the groups we cover to gain perspective on our coverage and terminology.
- We will facilitate responses from the public to publication of sensitive material.
- 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 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.
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 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 clearly label the source of all “handout” photos or video.
- We will use generic photos only when viewers would not expect to see a photo specific to the story (e.g. using a photo of a plane from an airline’s fleet to illustrate the kind of plane that was involved in a crash.)
- We will verify photos or videos from social media before using them.
- 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.
Virtual Reality Journalism
- Photos and video may be manipulated if needed to avoid disturbing scenes like dead children.
- Our funder(s) may influence special topics to be covered but have no say in stories pursued and how they are reported and written.
Clickbait and Metrics
- We will accurately reflect the content of related stories in headlines and social media posts.
News and Advertising
- We do not allow advertisements for certain types of products.
- We have specific, consistent definitions of terms like “Advertisement,” “Sponsored Content” and “Message from ...” and disclose them to our readers.
- We will allow advertising anywhere on our publication or site.