2021 Staff Ethics Policy

  • The perception by the public of media impartiality is one of our most important assets, and once lost is difficult to regain. To protect such a vital asset, reporters and editors should avoid all conflicts of interest, and as importantly, the appearance of conflict of interest, in their roles as reporters and editors. If such conflicts or appearances of conflicts develop or are foreseen, reporters and editors should declare them to their immediate manager.

    The following guidelines are designed to address specific ethical concerns, but reporters and editors also should be guided by the more general rule that conflicts of interest, and the appearance of such conflicts, are detrimental to the newspaper and to the profession.

    Staff members should not use their status with Community Journals to receive any benefit or advantage in commercial transactions or for other personal gain. That said, ethical guidelines cannot cover every circumstance or answer every question. They rely on open discussion and mature judgment. When in doubt, ask your immediate manager.


    1. Tickets. At times, reporters and editors may be offered complimentary tickets to performances or events. Tickets may be accepted, as reasonable, but a favorable review or coverage in a Community Journal publication is never to be promised in exchange.
    2. Seek truth and report it. Ethical journalism should be fair, accurate and unbiased. Take responsibility for the accuracy of your work and verify information. Identify sources clearly. Never plagiarize. Always attribute.
    3. If an error is made, please notify your manager immediately. Corrections will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Corrections can include updating or removing stories online, correcting social media posts and print acknowledgment, depending on the mistake.
    4. Gifts, meals, other payments. Reporters and editors should refuse all gifts or gratuities of significant value. Gifts of insignificant value — key chains, pens, calendars, etc. — may be kept if it is impractical or awkward to return them. Reporters and Editors must never make any promise of coverage in any Community Journal publication in exchange for any meals, press trips or other situations where items, goods or services are freely offered. Gifts or comp’d meals, trips, etc. should never be solicited by a reporter or editor unless explicitly for an Last updated, January 2021 assigned story. If press trips exceed more than one business day, prior manager approval is required, and personal vacation time may need to be taken.
    5. Sample merchandise may be accepted if it is used as part of research for a story or review, Items of significant value not used for a story or review should be returned to the sender or donated to charity. When in doubt, consult management. In the case of unsolicited gifts, decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis by the publisher or editor.
    6. Politics/activism/campaign contributions. Reporters and editors should not give campaign contributions or active support to any political candidates, political parties, or organizations with local political objectives on behalf of Community Journals.
    7. Reporters and editors should not take an active part in, or a public stand regarding any political or public policy debate over which they may report or where they may be editing stories and planning coverage. Reporters and editors should declare to his or her supervisor any active participation being considered before participation.
    8. All staff members should take care during public appearances on behalf of Community Journals to avoid remarks that could compromise their objectivity in the perception of their readers.
    9. Story readbacks. If a source requests to “see the story before it’s published,” explain that it is against company policy. It is best to not let a source read the whole story. Instead, read the source’s quotes back to the source, or email the pertinent parts of the story (quotes, data) to the source. If a source wants to change an accurately stated quote on a news story, it is not recommended if it changes the angle of the story in some significant way. For other stories (features, for example), use common sense. There is no reason to anger a source for something minor.
    10. Other writing and freelance assignments. Other writing, including blogs, freelance writing and editing work undertaken by staff outside the newspaper must be done on employee’s own time. Use good judgement for freelance assignments to avoid conflicts of interest. Work may not be undertaken for a direct competitor in any instance, and work for sources also is discouraged.


    The Company understands and expects that social media will be a regular part of your work experience at Community Journals as well as used for your personal relationships. However, use of social media also presents certain risks and carries certain responsibilities. To assist in making responsible decisions about your use of social media, we have established these guidelines for appropriate use of social media as it relates to your work.

    1. Social media includes all means of communicating or posting information or content of any sort on the Internet, including to your own or someone else’s web Last updated, January 2021 log or blog, journal or diary, personal web site, social networking or affinity web site, web bulletin board or a chat room, whether or not associated or affiliated with the Company, as well as any other form of electronic communication.
    2. The same principles and guidelines found in Company policies and these basic beliefs apply to your activities online. Ultimately, you are solely responsible for what you post online. Before creating online content, consider the risks and rewards that are involved.
    3. Keep in mind that any of your conduct that adversely affects your job performance, the performance of fellow employees or otherwise adversely affects members, customers, suppliers, people who work on behalf of the Company or the Company’s legitimate business interests may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.
    4. Be respectful. Always be fair and courteous to fellow employees, customers, members, suppliers or people who work on behalf of the Company. Also, keep in mind that you are more likely to resolve work-related complaints by speaking directly with your co-workers or by utilizing our Open-Door Policy than by posting complaints to a social media outlet. Nevertheless, if you decide to post complaints or criticism, avoid using statements, photographs, video, or audio that reasonably could be viewed as malicious, obscene, threatening or intimidating, that disparage customers, members, employees or suppliers, or that might constitute harassment or bullying. Examples of such conduct might include offensive posts meant to intentionally harm someone’s reputation or posts that could contribute to a hostile work environment on the basis of race, sex, disability, religion or any other status protected by law or company policy.
    5. Be honest and accurate. Make sure you are always honest and accurate when posting information or news, and if you make a mistake, correct it quickly. Be open about any previous posts you have altered. Remember that the Internet archives almost everything; therefore, even deleted postings can be searched. Never post any information or rumors that you know to be false about the Company, fellow employees, members, customers, suppliers, and people working on behalf of the Company or competitors.
    6. Maintain the confidentiality of Company trade secrets and private or confidential information. Trades secrets may include information regarding the development of systems, processes, products, know-how and technology. Do not post internal reports, policies, procedures or other internal business-related confidential communications.
    7. Respect financial disclosure laws. It is illegal to communicate or give a “tip” on inside information to others so that they may buy or sell stocks or securities. Do not post personal political opinions on company social media channels.
    8. Retaliation is prohibited. The Company prohibits taking negative action against any employee for reporting a possible deviation from this policy or for Last updated, January 2021 cooperating in an investigation. Any employee who retaliates against another employee for reporting a possible deviation from this policy or for cooperating in an investigation will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
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