Best Practices at SIGNAL
At SIGNAL, we recognize our roles in safeguarding readers’ trust and the values and responsibilities of our profession. The following guidelines help us maintain that trust. These are recommended practices for editorial staffers and are not the last word on these issues. As a result, these guidelines cannot establish standards of conduct for every situation. However, violations are considered serious actions and could lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal.
SIGNAL staff members do nothing dishonest or illegal to obtain or alter content. We do not use the words, photos or illustrations of another person or publication without attribution. We do not fabricate quotes, sources or information and then represent them as fact. We do not alter photographs beyond minimal adjustments of color or stage news photographs.
Some work situations and outside activities can cause real or perceived conflicts of interest. SIGNAL Ethics Policy covers conflicts related to stocks and privileged information. Reporters and editors should not invest in companies or funds they regularly cover. Exceptions should be discussed with a supervisor.
In general, we pay our own way. We accept free tickets only when special seating is set aside for events we are covering. We pay for meals with sources or people in the news with a few common sense exceptions. We accept nominal gifts; larger gifts are graciously returned or donated to charity. As a general rule, if you really want it, you should send it back.
We work first for SIGNAL and at all times respect and protect its reputation. Outside activities, paid or unpaid, must not endanger our journalistic independence, infringe on work obligations nor assist competitors.
- Staffers need written prior approval to write books and articles, graphics, or other content for other publications regardless of the subject matter. SIGNAL retains the first right of refusal of any freelance idea by staff members.
- Speaking engagements/media appearances: Opportunities to represent SIGNAL in public appearances or other media are governed by the rule that we remain as neutral and objective during an outside appearance or interview as we do when creating content. The Chairman, Editorial Board, must approve all appearances on TV, even those secured through SIGNAL. Staffers are encouraged to speak only on topics they cover and should speak about information they have gleaned from reporting, not share opinion.
- Appearances on TV and radio programs that showcase the media and add to the newspaper’s reputation are considered outside employment for which payment can be accepted with the written approval of a supervisor. Speaking to students, journalists or other media professionals is also encouraged, but any honoraria received should be donated to a charity of choice. We generally can accept reasonable reimbursement for travel expenses for speeches to approved organizations.
- Resale of work: All work produced by staff members for use in SIGNAL or while on assignment are the property of the company and may not be sold or reproduced without the written approval of the newspaper.
- Contests: We limit our entry and our judging of contests to those that are sponsored by journalism organizations or institutions recognizing journalistic excellence. We vote in polls related to content areas only after gaining the approval of a supervisor.
- Blogging: Personal opinions that could cause readers to question the credibility of the newspaper should not be expressed on the Web. The perceived cloak of anonymity associated with usernames can be easily pierced. Information posted on the Web under any name can be traced to its originator.
- Community activity: Even in our private lives, we refrain from participating in activities that could compromise our integrity or damage our credibility. Staff should not openly support political campaigns or causes through the display of bumper stickers, signs, pins or donations. Personal opinions about social issues should remain personal.
In all cases of potential conflicts, when in doubt, ask.
Our main goal when creating content is to tell the truth as accurately and fairly as possible. The following guidelines can help us, but decisions that jeopardize our credibility should not be made in a vacuum. Supervisors should be consulted whenever questions arise.
Accuracy guidelines and procedures for making clarifications and corrections are attached. Random, regular questionnaires are sent to sources identified in stories to assess accuracy and are shared with appropriate staffers.
Readers have a right to know where the information in the newspaper comes from. The use of information and quotes obtained from unnamed sources can erode the confidence of readers and endanger the credibility of the newspaper. For that reason we use unnamed sources sparingly. The complete policy for the use of information obtained from sources is attached to this document.
Readers have a right to know the origin of information in each story, photo and graphic. It is best to attribute within the body of the story all facts and information from the wires and other media not confirmed by a second source. We do not attribute events we witness, information considered common knowledge or information confirmed by multiple sources. In general, we state the origin of information gleaned from a document or e-mail but explain that reporting was done by telephone only when it helps the reader better understand the content or logistics of the interview.
Readers must trust us to present photos honestly. We use photo illustrations sparingly and in such ways that do not confuse or deceive the reader. We explain through clear captions and/or credit lines when two or more images are combined and try never to merge two people into a single image so it implies they were photographed together. All photo illustrations are approved by the Creative Director. In his absence, the Editor will approve.
Everyone who creates or edits content for SIGNAL is subject to these content best practices.
Protocol for addressing problems
These best practices have been established to remind us of our responsibilities to the newspaper and our profession. We are mindful that our actions not only reflect on us personally, but on the newspaper and journalism as well. We hold ourselves accountable and may find ourselves in the awkward position of questioning the conduct of colleagues as well. Concerns about breaches of these guidelines should be brought to the Editor or Chairman, Editorial Board who will deal with each situation confidentially.