The members of Hashtag Media access to sources and information by being honest about our identity, our intentions and asking for participation. We don’t negotiate for access or information. We wouldn’t exchange a promise of story placement for access to a newsmaker. We also don’t make promises regarding story angles or approaches. It’s acceptable to discuss in general terms the story we’re considering or our general line of reporting. It’s also acceptable, when necessary, to agree to an embargo after an editor’s approval. If necessary reporters should make clear to sources that editorial decisions are up to the editors and producers. Hashtag Media does not pay sources for information.
Hashtag Media members take full responsibility for their work. Members who represent the work of others as their own violate the trust of their colleagues and audience. When we report information that we’ve learned from other media, we cite those other media as the source. Whenever possible, we try to get such information on our own, independently of other media and report it in a way that goes beyond what’s appeared elsewhere. The work we present as our own will be an original composition, not copied from news releases or other sources, even when the authors of those other sources would be happy for us to do so. Above all, we’ll strive to be accurate. We will confirm information before reporting it, and we will never knowingly report false information. We will listen to our audiences and be respectful of criticism. We will respond civilly to letters and emails that warrant a reply. Errors of fact will happen. If our writers notice an error in published work, they will promptly tell one of the leaders. If anyone requests a correction, the request will be forwarded to a leader. We’ll strive to correct our errors quickly.
Appearances with other media
Members of Hashtag Media are sometimes interviewed on other media or asked to moderate panels. Such appearances can help benefit Hashtag and they can help Hashtag stay connected to the communities it serves. At the same time, outside appearances can present problems. Here are some guidelines to help avoid the complex conflicts that may arise:
- Members must get permission for appearances with other media outlets. Requests should be made to the editor and reviewed by at least one senior news leader – the managing editor or the executive producer. When they approve such a request, news leaders will inform the marketing and communications departments.
- Members must consider whether the tone and content of the media outlet are consistent with Hashtag Media’s editorial standards. Staff should remember that, regardless of the format or character of the outlet involved, they need to conduct themselves according to Hashtag Media’s standards.
- Our writers may not accept compensation for occasional outside media appearances. If appearances become regular, writers may accept reimbursement from the other news outlet, including expenses associated with appearances. Full disclosure of such payments must be made to the staffer’s editor. A staffer who wants to accept such compensation should make a request in writing to his or her editor, who will then forward the request for review by the managing director of the company.
- Members must not appear on an outside media outlet to endorse services or market products, except for marketing Hashtag Media or co-branded ventures with other organizations.
- The procedure for vetting appearances does not apply to Hashtag Media contractors, contributors, and freelance journalists. However, if a freelancer says something on another media outlet that violates Hashtag Media’s journalism standards, we may stop using his or her work.
Appearances with outside organizations
As a news and media company, Hashtag Media is part of the public discourse on issues and events. Hashtag Media supports its writers’ participation in forums on such issues and events and encourages them to provide information, analysis, and insight.
- When appearing before an outside group, news writers must make clear they are there as independent news providers, not as partisan advocates. They should stick to their areas of expertise and avoid taking sides. We will avoid appearances that seem to endorse the partisan agenda of a group or organization.
- Appearances before outside groups must be approved by the managing editor or executive producer.
- Accepting money can make a writer beholden to the source of that money, and the result can be a real or perceived conflict of interest. Hashtag Media writers should not do any work or accept compensation for any events that could reasonably be perceived to cast doubt on Hashtag Media’s journalistic integrity. When writers are approved to accept a paid speaking invitation, they must disclose their compensation and paid expenses to their supervisor. They should not accept paid speaking engagements that might create a conflict of interest.
- Hashtag Media writers who have written books or have produced other outside projects and want to promote them must make specific arrangements with their supervisors. A leader will inform the marketing department of such promotion.
Avoiding outside influence
Hashtag Media executes writers in service to its many audiences and communities. Our allegiance is to the general public – not funders, foundations, underwriters, the people we cover or the people who sit on our board or in our executive suites. We risk compromising our credibility if personal or professional interests conflict with that allegiance. Such conflicts could take many forms, via personal relationships, business interests or in other ways. No rule can cover every situation. As professional writers, we will strive to be alert to any factor that may keep us from thinking independently and exercising our best professional judgment.
Hashtag Media will participate in contests that recognize their excellence. We may enter competitions sponsored by groups whose members have no direct interest in the coverage of the field that they’re recognizing. Writers should decline an unsolicited award if the group does not meet those criteria.
Conflict of interest
An ethics policy can’t cover everything. The general principle is this: Outside activities by the members should not compromise the impartiality of Hashtag Media’s work. That said, leaders will regularly remind the news staff of potential conflicts and review any risky areas. When necessary, we’ll make changes. In unimportant but visible instances that require no change, we’ll explain our rationale. Upon taking an assignment, it is the duty of all writers to immediately disclose to news leaders any interests that might be seen as being in an actual, apparent or potential conflict.
Coverage of Hashtag Media
When Hashtag Media is in the news, we will take special care to remember that Hashtag Media exists to serve the public. Hashtag Media writers cover their company the same way they would cover any other company when warranted. At times, we will hold ourselves accountable as we hold others accountable. No Hashtag Media employee from departments outside the Hashtag Media newsroom should be involved in the coverage. Hashtag Media writers do not advocate in support of Hashtag Media’s business or political initiatives. An obvious exception is participation in membership drives.
Family ties and personal relationships
The affiliations and activities of family members may create conflicts of interest for staff working in Hashtag Media operations. To avoid conflicts, writers may not produce or edit any news content – photographs, audio, written reports, video, blog items, Tweets — involving people to whom they are related or with whom they have close personal relationships. Additionally, they must avoid making news judgments about them. Hashtag Media certainly can’t insist that family members restrict their activities or change professions. However, we may change the writer’s responsibility based on the activities of a family member. Writers must inform an editor whenever a companion’s or close relative’s activities, investments or affiliations could create a conflict.
Financial and business coverage
Hashtag Media writers may face unique conflicts. This section identifies specific areas of concern. At all times, writers must avoid this behavior for fear our work could appear compromised.
- Confidential Information: writers should not use, directly or indirectly, for their own or any other person’s financial gain, any information that they obtained as a reporter until they have reported it. Further, a staffer should not disclose to anyone confidential information obtained as a Hashtag Media reporter until the information has been made public.
- Real or perceived conflict: writers are expected to avoid any action, no matter how well-intentioned, that could provide grounds for suspicion:
- That a staffer gained financially on the basis of “inside” information obtained through reporting. Such information includes plans to run stories that can affect price movements;
- That the writing or airing of a news story was influenced by a desire to affect financial transactions for a staffer’s or someone else’s benefit;
- That a writer is financially committed in the market so deeply or in such other ways as to create a temptation to bias writing or scheduling;
- That a writer is beholden to anyone we cover, through acceptance of favors, gifts or payments for performing services, or to anyone in the financial community for tips or for any other purpose.
Freelance work by Hashtag Media members
All freelance work must be done on a member’s own time. Freelance work must not seriously compete with Hashtag Media. We don’t enter into agreements to do freelance work for organizations we cover. Before accepting a freelance assignment, writers should make sure the assignment will not compromise their or Hashtag Media’s standards. They should adhere to Hashtag Media ethics guidelines in carrying out the assignment. A freelance employer may identify Hashtag Media members by their Hashtag Media positions, but only in a routine way.
Hashtag Media members may not accept gifts of equipment or materials from manufacturers or vendors. They may not endorse equipment. If a manufacturer seeks advice on product design, any compensation for that advice should be disclosed to the member’s supervisor.
This section is intended to help Hashtag Media interact with foundations and individual donors (“funders”) in a way that protects our integrity and makes clear our boundaries. The integrity of Hashtag Media reporting and programming is built upon a commitment to serving the public with independent, unbiased news reporting and programming. That’s why it’s critical that Hashtag Media staff maintain a steady work ethic when interacting with funders.
- Contacting news leaders: A request from a funder to contact the newsroom should come through the Hashtag Media development office. The request will be forwarded to the managing editor or executive producer. Discussion about issues that align with Hashtag Media’s coverage priorities is welcome.
- Coverage focus: Newsroom leaders, editors and show producers will determine how to cover a particular topic in a way that best serves audiences. Such decisions are made irrespective of any funding.
- Disclosing financial support: If a funder is quoted or mentioned significantly in a web or radio story, Hashtag Media will disclose the financial relationship.
- Funders as sources: Representatives of funders or donors who believe they have the knowledge to contribute to Hashtag Media may contact the Hashtag Media development office. News staff and show producers may use funder representatives as sources but must disclose the funding relationship.
- Funders as commentators: Our shows will not broadcast one-voice, point-of-view commentaries from foundation executives. It is permissible for commentators to be supported by a funder that also funds Hashtag Media, as long as they are subject to the same criteria for selection, identification, and disclosure as other commentators.
- Funders in the news: Hashtag Media will judge and report news about funders and donors without special consideration.
Hashtag Media expects its writers to behave professionally and civilly. We will treat people with decency and compassion. Hashtag Media members will take special care with people who are in the news but aren’t used to the media’s glare, especially children. Our members always should disclose their identity when pursuing the news and never pose as anyone else. We’ll work transparently and try not to surprise sources. Remembering that we always represent Hashtag Media, we will strive to show courtesy and professionalism in our interactions with sources and the public. In all instances, we must obey the law in the pursuit of news.
Hashtag Media writers may not accept anything for free or anything discounted from current or potential news subjects. Only writers assigned to cover an event may accept press passes or review tickets to that event. (Items valued at $25 or less are OK, however. Also, writers may accept any gifts or discounts available to the general public.)
Hospitality from sources and access to events
Writers who cover artistic events or are assigned to cover sports may accept press passes or tickets. No other writers, however, may accept free tickets. When buying tickets, writers may not use their Hashtag Media affiliation to get favored treatment. Hashtag Media writers pay their own expenses when out with news sources or travel to cover them. Reasonable exceptions can be made.
Misuse of our name
Hashtag Media can’t be used for a member’s private purpose or to seek special treatment for friends or family. Hashtag Media journalists may not use company ID cards for purposes not connected with Hashtag Media or for any manner of special treatment. Also, Hashtag Media-branded material can only be used for the business of reporting or producing.
Partnerships and testimonials
Writers may not partner in external projects that involve people or organizations our newsroom may cover. writers may not offer endorsements or testimonials, except in reviews or commentaries.
Writers may keep review copies of books, films, music, etc., which effectively press releases. If not kept by the members, the material may be given to a charity or used as a reference internally. The art may not be sold or copied. Recorded or digital media must be deleted or returned if not kept by the writer or given to a charity.
The writers and the public should remain on equal footing. Hashtag Media writers should not use any unpublished information obtained during newsgathering for their own or anyone else’s special advantage or personal gain. Moreover, they should not share their reporting with anyone inside or outside of a Hashtag Media division who may exploit that information. Further, writers should not disclose to anyone confidential information about Hashtag Media.
Hashtag Media writers must keep their political views private. They may not seek public office. To do so would be to participate in the news instead of covering the news. It would also risk having the staffer’s political views associated with Hashtag Media, creating the perception of political bias., Hashtag Media writers will maintain their journalistic impartiality.
Public relations advice
Hashtag Media writers can’t provide paid or unpaid public relations work or counsel in the area. And they may not provide advice or writing and editing services for outside groups. Any requests to participate in public relations workshops must be approved by a senior leader.
Relationships with sources
Hashtag Media writers keep a personal distance from news sources for fear of creating a hint of bias. Writers may meet sources informally for lunch, for example, but they must stay aware of the difference between a business relationship and personal friendship. Romantic relationships with sources carry high risk and will certainly create an appearance of partiality. No single rule can cover every possible situation. As a result, writers should openly discuss any questionable situation with a senior. No action might be necessary, or a change in assignment might be in order.
What follows is some guidance to help us negotiate social media in the changing world of news gathering and reporting:
- Fairness, balance, and perception: We should do nothing that could undermine our credibility with the public, damage Hashtag Media’s reputation. We’re aware that most of what we write or receive on a social media site is public. In our online activity, our professional and personal lives overlap. We’ll strive for a clear separation of personal accounts and those used for newsgathering and audience engagement. We’ll conduct ourselves in social media forums fully aware of how our behavior or comments might appear if we were called upon to defend them as a news organization. We won’t behave differently online than we would in any other public setting. Online discussions can become heated. Engage with your audience but think before you post. Maintain a civil tone.
- Advocacy: Do not advocate for political or other polarizing issues online. This extends to joining online groups or using social media in any form to express personal views on political or other controversial issues that you could not write for the air or post on Hashtag Media’s digital properties. Your participation in some online groups could be construed to indicate that you endorse their views. Consider whether you can accomplish your purposes by observing a group’s activity, rather than becoming a member. If you do join, indicate that you’ve done so to seek information or story ideas. If you join a group representing one side of an issue, do so for a group representing the competing viewpoint when reasonable to do so.
- Identification, confirmation: Identify yourself as a Hashtag Media writer when working online. Always explain to anyone who provides you information online on how you intend to use the information you are gathering. Clarify and confirm any information you collect online by later interviewing your online sources by phone or in person, when possible. Content gathered online is subject to the same attribution rules as other content.
- Copyright: Be wary of copyright issues when posting photos, videos, and other content. When in doubt about whether you have the legal right to post or repost content, consult your editor or supervisor, or Hashtag Media’s legal counsel.
- Corrections: Correct any errant information you post on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media in a timely fashion. Consult your supervisor to discuss whether incorrect posts should be deleted before doing so.
- Security and safety: Use the highest level of privacy tools available to control access to your personal activity. Your social media accounts can be easily compromised, which could cast Hashtag Media operations in a bad light. When in doubt about anything on social media channels, consult with your editor or supervisor.
- Retweets: Retweeting can be an effective way to distribute news and helpful service to followers of our Twitter accounts. However, some followers could construe retweets as endorsements. Take appropriate action to avoid confusion. In the bio section of your Twitter account, add the following language: “Retweets are not endorsements.” However, be aware that many followers may not read your bio. It does not protect you from assumptions.