Ethics Policy

The Samachar Buddy is committed to the highest ethical standards.

PURPOSE: Samachar Buddy as a Product of It Fames Private Limited will maintain the highest ethical standards in the conduct of Company affairs. Intent of this policy is that each associate will conduct the Company’s business with integrity and comply with all applicable laws in a manner that excludes considerations of personal advantage or gain.

Preamble

As journalists, we seek the truth and strive to present a responsible and fair glimpse of the world. The newspaper is our powerful vehicle, and we endeavor to face the public with respect and candor.

Our power must be used responsibly. Our notebooks and cameras are tickets into people’s lives, sacred worlds and complex institutions.

Our job is to intensely scrutinize the activities of others as watchdogs that challenge authority and give voice to the voiceless. Our own actions should withstand equally intense scrutiny. We should be transparent.

Transparency is won through accuracy, compassion, intellectual honesty and an introspective mission to convey complete, contextual views of our world. When we are transparent, we conduct our professional lives as if all our colleagues and our readers are watching over our shoulders.

Our goal is to begin and end each day with a primary obligation to the public’s right to know.

With every ethical scar, we threaten a delicate relationship with readers. Ethical breaches violate hard-earned trust and shatter our credibility.

To properly understand and reflect the community, we must live thoroughly and wholeheartedly in it. The constant tension of demanding a better society, while still living in it, is an obligation of a passionate and compassionate journalist. We should be independent, without being detached.

Ethics is the constant process of examining and drawing these lines. It is a communal effort, and we should hold each other accountable in the protection of our values. These values must come through a discussion with our conscience, our colleagues and our leaders, both for the public interest and our own professional education.

NEWS GATHERING: ACCURACY, FAIRNESS AND SOURCING

Nailing our stories can be as simple as phoning three people – or as grueling as spending months chiseling away the nonessential, the rumor, the red herrings.

Our aim is to deliver the facts with precision and context.

We believe in getting not only both sides, but “all” sides.

The best stories are multi-sourced. Facts are triple-checked. Issues are balanced with diverse views and sources.

They are, simply, as complete as possible.

Anonymous Sources

Samachar Buddy expects the information in its pages to be accurately attributed. Anonymous sources are a last resort. In the public interest, however, anonymous sourcing can be a vital tool to exposing hidden truths while protecting those who may be harmed for reporting them.

The use of anonymous or confidential sources in a story must be approved by the Managing Editor/News or the Editor. Reporters must be able to characterize the source’s accessibility to the information and the source’s credibility, and will be expected to disclose the source’s identity to editors.

In granting confidentiality, the reporter must reach a clear understanding with the source, after consultation with an editor, about how the information and attribution will be presented in the story. Care should be taken when using terms with sources such as “off the record,” “not for attribution” and “background.” Different people can have different understandings of these terms. Reporters should be specific with sources, and they should clearly explain to editors how the source believes the information will be characterized.

Before an anonymous source is used, great weight should be given to whether the source’s information could or should be substantiated by other sources. We should ask ourselves whether the source’s information serves a personal agenda that overrides the greater public interest.

We should disclose to readers our sourcing techniques when writing stories without traditional styles of attribution.

When an anonymous source is used, a reason, if possible, should be cited in the story for protecting the source’s identity (fear of job loss, fear for safety, etc.).

Anonymous sourcing used in narrative projects must be based on interviews with multiple sources with direct knowledge of the details. This technique should be clearly explained in the story package, such as in an editor’s note.

Relationships with sources are sacred trusts. Care must be taken to avoid phrasing that could inadvertently identify a confidential source. Reporters should reach understandings with sources about who and how many people will have knowledge of confidential information. In some situations, it may be sufficient to inform a source that his or her identity will be “protected by Samachar Buddy.”

On some stories, editors might ask reporters to discuss with confidential sources what the source’s reaction would be if a court orders the newspaper and/or the reporter to divulge its source of information. The source’s willingness to be publicly identified and attest to the information he or she provided might determine whether certain sensitive information is published.

An agreement to protect a source’s identity creates an agreement with both the reporter and The Post. The agreement should be based on the understanding that the source is honest. We should tell the source that if he/she is dishonest with us, the promise of identity protection will be negated. In other words, “The Post will protect you. But if you lie to me, that promise of confidentiality is void.”

Use of Quotes

The words of our sources and the people we cover must never be altered.

Quote marks are intended to bracket the true voices and exact words of people.

If a reporter or editor is concerned that ungrammatical or clumsily worded remarks may expose the source to embarrassment or ridicule, then they may agree to use another quote from that person conveying the same or a similar point, or they may agree to paraphrase the source.

Plagiarism and Originality

Plagiarism is the act of stealing work – whether it is writing, reporting or photography – and passing it off as one’s own.

Attribution is crucial. Proper credit is necessary if we can’t independently verify the information.

Acts of plagiarism or fabrication announce to the world that the writer did not have the honesty, skill, savvy or energy to do the work that someone else performed. Information, quotes and passages from another publication must be attributed.

All writing and reporting in Samachar Buddy must be original or credited to the proper source.

Story Packaging

The presentation of by-lines, taglines and datelines should accurately disclose authorship and the origin of reporting.

Bylines should convey who is largely responsible for the writing and reporting. The dateline should accurately reflect where most of the reporting originated and where the reporter physically gathered the information.

Editors should assign by-lines using both quality and volume of work as criteria.

In some cases, taglines or bylines should indicate whether the lead writer compiled reporting that originated elsewhere. For example, the tagline for a report on the Iraq war should mention where the lead writer was based and whether he or she compiled reports fed to the writer from overseas reporters and wires.

Pre-publication Review

Stories should not be shown to sources or people outside the newsroom prior to publication.

However, it is sometimes acceptable to allow a source to review portions of stories for purposes of accuracy. For example, an engineer might be sought to review a technically descriptive passage in an environmental story that details how sewer piping allows toxic chemicals to flow into public waters.

Such exceptions should be approved beforehand by the Managing Editor/News.

Fictitious Names and Events

Our work is to chronicle history, not make it up. We must avoid perceptions that any portion of a story does not reflect truth.

Use of fictional names, ages, places, dates and composite characters is generally unacceptable, except in rare situations that must be approved by the Managing Editor/News and the Editor. Fictional or composite characters can be used only as an obvious literary device, such as in satire, and only in consultation with the Managing Editor/News and the Editor.

In some instances, a reporter, with approval from the Managing Editor/News, can use a fictional name, or pseudonym, to describe a real person when public identification could bring harm to that person. Readers should be clearly informed in the story or in an editor’s note that such a technique is being used to protect the source.

Errors/Corrections

We make mistakes. Correcting them promptly is vital to our credibility.

When an error is discovered – whether it is detected by a member of the public or a staff member – it should be discussed immediately with your supervisor and corrected as soon as possible.

If there is a dispute over whether something is incorrect, a supervisor should be consulted to resolve it. Correction forms should be filled out and turned in to your supervisor.

When significant inaccuracies are committed by an editorial employee, or a pattern of errors in stories is detected, a department head or above should be informed of the problem immediately.

Fairness

A strong sense of fair play must imbue our writing, accurately reflecting motives of sources. The tone and language of stories must be even-handed and avoid loaded phrasing.

Even under deadline pressure, it is imperative that we allow news subjects ample time to respond and react to issues, events and, most important, allegations against them. We should make every possible attempt to reach them, both at home and work.

We should accurately characterize their response or lack of response. “Would not comment” may be preferable to “refused to comment.” However, it may be appropriate to characterize a public official, who typically is obligated to respond, as refusing to comment when given ample time and opportunity.

We also should never characterize anyone as refusing to return phone calls if he or she had little time to respond.

We owe it to our readers to disclose in detail how and when we tried to reach the subjects of news stories.

Treatment of Inexperienced Sources

A common challenge is communicating with people inexperienced in dealing with reporters.

But the rights of people ensnared in news events must be respected.

Ordinary people have greater rights to privacy than public figures. And our use of their words, or descriptions of their behavior, can have unintended consequences.

We should clearly identify ourselves to inexperienced sources, such as crime victims, children and others, and be willing to explain to them the context of their portrayal in stories. Such disclosure respects the victim’s dignity. It also builds trust.

Questions of Taste

Out of respect for our readers, Samachar Buddy avoids prurience, profanity and obscenity.

That said, sometimes the use of graphic or inflammatory language is essential to the context of a story or photograph. In some cases, omitting the language might alter the story’s meaning or render the story incomplete. The editor or Managing Editor/News must approve use of graphic or inflammatory language.

Slang, foreign languages and colloquialisms also can be minefields. Writers and editors should avoid the use of words or phrases if they might be offensive to some racial, religious, gender or ethnic groups, unless the language is essential to the story’s meaning or completeness. A department head should be consulted when making such decisions, and the Editor or Managing Editor/News should be informed.

Misrepresentations

We should be honest in carrying out all of our work. We should clearly identify ourselves in all situations.

If deception might be necessary to obtain critical information, it must be approved in advance by The Editor or Managing Editor/News. The information sought must be vital to the public interest and all other approaches to obtaining the same information without using deception must be exhausted.

SELF-DEALING/CONFLICTS/PERSONAL BUSINESS

At the heart of credible journalism is independence from the subjects we cover.

If and when Post editorial employees have a personal connection to a story or potential story, or anticipate such a personal connection, that connection should be fully and immediately disclosed to a department head or other senior editor.

Samachar Buddy editorial employees should not engage in activities that openly or discreetly bring advantages or special favors to themselves, their families or friends as a result of Post employment.

This includes trading on their Samachar Buddy affiliation to gain such advantages.

Investments/Business Relationships

Post employees should avoid engaging in professional activities that could create even an appearance of a conflict of interest or suggest that:

  • An employee made financial gains by acting on information gathered through his or her work at The Post and acted before the information was made public
  • A story was written in order to influence a company’s stock price
  • An employee is so deeply invested in a stock or the market generally that his reporting is biased
  • A reporter or editor is trading favor in exchange for stock tips or the opportunity to invest in a company early on

To avoid conflicts of interest, employees may not invest in any company they cover. This standard applies to any editors who oversee news coverage of a company. If a member of an employee’s immediate family holds stock in such a company, it may constitute a conflict of interest and should be reported immediately to a supervisor. Employees and their families may invest in companies the employee does not cover and in widely held mutual funds and other similar investments, but any potential conflicts should immediately be disclosed to a department head, the Managing Editor/News and the Editor.

Samachar Buddy editorial employees shall not engage in business transactions with people and institutions they cover.

Trading on Influence in Non-Work Situations

Employment with Samachar Buddy should never be used to win favorable treatment.

This includes a special price for something, preferential treatment or other benefits.

Such situations must be avoided regardless of whether the person or establishment offering the benefit is involved in the employee’s area of coverage.

Examples might include:

  • Seating at a restaurant, entertainment or sporting event
  • Discounts for merchandise, travel or other items or services for purchase
  • Injecting your employment at Samachar Buddy into legal or other disputes in which the employee is involved

If employment at The Post surfaces in the normal course of conversation, or if an employee is recognized by name or other association and is offered special treatment – as opposed to access to a newsmaker or news event – decline as graciously and professionally as possible.

Samachar Buddy editorial employees may take advantage of DNA-negotiated price breaks on merchandise or services. However, if a potential conflict arises regarding a discount involving an industry covered by a reporter, a supervising editor should be immediately consulted.

Blogging

Samachar Buddy has embraced the tremendous story-telling and reader-interaction possibilities provided by the Internet. We want to do more, including video reports and commentaries, and staff-produced podcasts and blogs.

Many Samachar Buddy reporters and columnists already blog. Blogs allow readers to connect with us on a more personal level, and they help us in building an online audience. We encourage blogging, but we also realize it presents many of the same ethical issues inherent in traditional newspaper journalism, as well as some new issues. Samachar Buddy’s ethics policy provides ample guidance as we provide different kinds of content via the Internet. The policy’s requirements of accuracy, fairness, independence and disclosure will continue to guide everything we do, including blogging.

This addendum to our ethics policy deals with additional issues, and offers guidelines, specific to blogging and other forms of Internet-based story telling:

All blogs on Denverpost.com or its related sites (i.e., PoliticsWest.com) must first be approved by a supervisor and by the Managing Editor/News or the Editor.

Bloggers should admit mistakes and correct them quickly.

Personal Disclosure

  • Editorial employees must notify a supervisor if they are working on a matter involving a personal connection. If it is deemed by a supervisor to be a potential conflict of interest, the story should be reassigned. The same scenario applies to editors who may have an interest in, or personal connection to, the outcome of a story.
  • If a columnist is writing about an issue in which he or she has a stake, the columnist must discuss the matter with a supervisor. Sometimes, it will be enough for the writer to clearly disclose to readers what his or her connection is to the source or issue. Other times, it may be deemed inappropriate for the columnist to write about that source or issue.
  • Areas of conflict potentially include, but are not limited to, writing/editing stories about: family or friends, organizations you belong to, schools you attend, a business from which you benefit, a church you attend, etc.
  • If an employee refers a legitimate news tip to a colleague about something in which the employee has a stake, the nature of the conflict must be disclosed to the colleague and to a supervisor.

Tickets, Credentials

Samachar Buddy editorial employees may use media credentials to cover stories, events and sports.

Samachar Buddy editorial employees not specifically assigned to an event may use credentials for admission only with approval of a department head, the Managing Editor/News or the Editor.

Newspaper personnel are prohibited from obtaining media credentials, VIP passes or comp tickets for family or friends. “One-plus” tickets commonly used at theatrical events should be paid for by the employee.

Newspaper personnel cannot use influence or connections to buy tickets to sold-out events or to obtain VIP passes or comp seats, either for personal use or the benefit of family, friends or business associates.

Gifts

Samachar Buddy editorial department employees should never solicit or accept gifts from news sources or newsmakers.

This would include accepting hotel vouchers, discounted or free travel, meals, ski-lift tickets, entertainment or products. If offered such gifts, editorial employees should politely decline, explaining The Post’s policy. If employees receive unsolicited gifts, they should be returned, along with an explanatory letter.

Gifts should not be confused with press materials that a writer or reviewer might receive that are necessary to the reporting of a story – such as CDs, videotapes or DVDs. However, once reviewed, these materials become the property of The Samachar Buddy.

Staffers should make every effort to return or donate to charity a thank-you gift such as flowers from a press agent, public official or anyone who has benefited in any way from the publication of an employee’s work. An exception is a modest gift from a thankful reader who received no economic benefit from the publication of a story. In that case, if the gift consists of flowers or other material with a nominal value (as a guide, less than $25), the writer may accept it. If the value of the gift is not nominal, it must be returned with an explanatory note.

All gifts received should be disclosed to a supervisor for discussion purposes.

Perishable and nonperishable foods should be distributed to shelters or returned to senders with an explanatory note.

Implementation

The purpose of this ethics policy is to protect the credibility of Samachar Buddy. Questions about the policy or its application to a particular circumstance should be discussed with a supervisor. Disclosure and discussion are fundamental to newsroom ethics.

Employee discipline or discharge under the Code of Ethics shall be for just cause.