Journalism / Ethics FAQ
Every employee of The Washington Times has an obligation to maintain the highest ethical standards for journalism and business. That commitment begins with ensuring that every story is accurate, precise, fair and balanced. It also requires that we maintain a bright line between news coverage and advocacy on the editorial and opinion pages. This means using confidential sources aggressively but responsibly to break the biggest news of the day but governing those source relationships with clear rules that secure the confidence of our readers.
Our management and staff must remain free of obligation or the appearance of favoritism to any special interest and be committed only to the public's right to know.
Secondary employment, political involvement, holding public office and service in community organizations should be avoided if they convey the possibility of conflict of interest or of compromising, or appearing to compromise, the employee's integrity at work or the integrity of the organization.
The acceptance of gifts or services of value from people or organizations with whom the employee comes into contact through work, or may reasonably be expected to come into contact, must also be avoided.
As a general principle, The Washington Times pays for all travel necessary for news gathering or other official Times business. If free travel is offered by a third party and the employee's supervisor authorizes it, a decision about what travel arrangements will be approved by management will be made on the merits of each case.
Conflict of Interest
The Washington Times recognizes and respects individual employees' rights to engage in activities outside of their employment where those activities are private in nature and do not in any way conflict with or reflect poorly on The Washington Times. The management team reserves the right, however, to determine when an employee's activities represent a conflict with the company's interests and to take necessary action to resolve the situation, up to and including discharge.
The list below contains some of the activities that would reflect in a negative way on an employee's integrity or that could limit his or her ability to execute job duties and responsibilities in an ethical manner, depending on the nature of the employee's job and the circumstances involved:
- Simultaneous employment by a Washington Times competitor or supplier.
- Borrowing money, receiving funds and or gifts valued at more than $50 from people or entities, other than recognized loan institutions, with whom The Washington Times does business or is seeking to do business, receives or provides services, materials, equipment or supplies.
- Speculating or dealing in materials, equipment, supplies, services or property purchased by The Washington Times.
- Being involved in, recommending or otherwise influencing a policy or financial decisions of The Washington Times in any matter in which a family member or close friend could benefit or have a personal interest without prior disclosure.
- Participating in civic or professional organization activities or personal activities in a manner in which confidential information is used or divulged.
- Any activity that brings negative or unwanted media attention to The Washington Times and that is not otherwise protected by law.
- Misusing or disclosing without authorization privileged, proprietary or confidential information.
At The Washington Times, we understand that social media can be a fun and rewarding way to share our lives and opinions with family, friends and co-workers around the world. We encourage the use of social media as a means of reaching our audience. But use of social media also presents risks and carries responsibilities. That includes showing restraint in comments and posts in social media, which should not disclose personal political leanings. Employees' private and professional behavior must not compromise The Washington Times' image as a fair arbiter of news. Opinion writers necessarily have more leeway in this regard and news reporters.
Our advertising sources include practically every type of business. Because of our early deadlines, each business must work with us on advertising plans. Therefore, it is essential that we protect the confidentiality of their information so that our advertisers' plans do not become known in advance by their competitors or anyone else. Breaches of advertiser confidences are subject to discipline, up to and including discharge.
We consider information contained in our advertising to be public information only when the ads are released to the public.
Every newsroom employee has an obligation to avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest. This means restricting behavior that might be acceptable or even commonplace in other parts of the corporate world. Our professional ethics require each newsroom employee to avoid any activities that might cause a reasonable person to question the quality or impartiality of our work. As a result, every potential activity from travel to social involvement outside the office must be viewed in light of whether the employee has worked on a news story concerning that activity or might reasonably be expected to work on such a story in the future. If so, and if participating in the activity, if known, would cause an outsider to question the impartiality of the employee’s work, the activity should be avoided.
The most important rule of The Washington Times' ethics-in-journalism policy is this: Whenever a reporter, writer or editor has doubts or questions about the ethics of specific conduct, he or she should seek out a senior manager before acting. Consultation, collaboration and careful weighing of consequences are the best means to avoid unethical conduct.
The Washington Times is owned by Operations Holdings Inc.
Excellence. The newsroom will strive to achieve the highest standard for print and digital journalism, built on The Washington Times’ rich history of uncovering stories others have missed or ignored. That means producing original reporting about government and political accountability, national security, politics, culture, faith, technology, family, international affairs and other issues of keen interest to our readership without wavering from a neutral, civil voice. Our journalism will seek to be fair, balanced, accurate and precise. Our goals are to produce enterprise stories so compelling that they will impact the daily dialogue of Americans. Spot news coverage should transcend the commodity news available on internet sites and cable television. Our stories must offer context, deep analysis and original reporting to enhance our readers’ understanding of each day's major events.
Integrity: Every employee of The Washington Times has an obligation to maintain the highest ethical standards for journalism and business. That commitment begins with ensuring that every story is accurate, precise, fair and balanced. It also requires that we maintain a bright line between news coverage and the advocacy found on the editorial and opinion pages. Confidential sources should be used aggressively but responsibly to break the biggest news of the day. But those source relationships must be governed by clear rules that secure the confidence of our readers.
Convergence: We must leapfrog over the industry’s incremental efforts to adapt to the demands of the digital marketplace and create the first truly converged news operation of the 21st century. That means creating a content stream that flows 24 hours a day, seven days a week through our Web and digital products. It means adapting our storytelling to incorporate audio, video, interactivity and social networking. Our readers should be able to experience, engage and interact with the news and to act if they choose, based on the information we provide them. This means that reporters and editors must engage readers in a two-way dialogue through blogging, forums and other Web tools to ensure our audiences develop a deeper understanding of the issues we cover and the ways we cover them. This also means we must pursue partnerships with other media to broaden the reach of our journalism and to extend the shelf life of our best stories beyond the traditional 12-hour window of print journalism.
Enterprise: The Washington Times will distinguish itself in the marketplace and grow readership by producing cutting-edge enterprise stories that uncover issues others have overlooked or ignored. These stories will hold political, government, corporate and cultural leaders accountable and will substantially impact the national and global dialogue. Such enterprise must be adapted to the digital marketplace. The responsibility to break news and develop deep, distinguishing enterprise rests with every reporter and editor.
Innovation: Today’s information marketplace demands that content providers pursue new and innovative ways to convey information to audiences already awash in data. Every aspect of our daily tasks -- design, presentation, assignment, writing, reporting, editing, audience engagement -- must adapt to these demands so that our products take readers to the next great frontier of content. This spirit of innovation must be augmented by a culture of continuous learning about our readership and the tools we have to engage them.
Collaboration: The Washington Times’ greatest asset is the men and women who gather, report, write, edit, print, distribute, advertise and market our news. The most successful and converged newsrooms leverage this human asset by fostering an environment that values the free exchange of ideas and encourages collaboration and teamwork
The Washington Times strives to publish fair and accurate information. We take numerous steps to ensure accuracy, including speaking with sources and by verifying facts through research, source documents and public records.
Stories are subject to review by one or more editors. The Washington Times has a multi-level structure for the review and editing of stories. These include topic and top editors.
We welcome feedback from our readers and sources regarding the information that we publish. If you would like to reach our editors regarding coverage, you can find their contact information on our Contact Us page.
When material in The Washington Times is found to contain errors of fact, are misleading or to have serious omissions, a correction or clarification will be published in the corrections section of the newspaper.
When an article, blog post or other content is published on our website, we will update the published version with any modifications or corrections. When material published online is found to contain significant errors of fact, are misleading or to have serious omissions, we will publish a correction note at the bottom of the corrected article.
At times, material might be technically correct but lack satisfactory detail or context to provide full understanding. The Washington Times might rewrite the item and add a note of clarification to the bottom of the online article explaining the change.
Unnamed Sources Policy
The use of anonymous sources has been and will continue to be a powerful tool for uncovering compelling stories. But this tool, when overused and abused, also greatly erodes the public’s trust in the authority, credibility and transparency of our work.
At the Washington Times, we will publish information from anonymous sources responsibly. We reserve the use of that tool for the times when there is no other way to get vital facts for an essential story. This means anonymity will never be granted for convenience. It will never be used to allow a source to express an opinion, launch a personal attack or provide facts that could have been uncovered through other means. In short, we exhaust all avenues for securing information on the record before we consider publishing material from anonymous sources.
The publishing of material from anonymous sources must be regarded as a last resort, when reporters and senior editors decide after careful consultation that the information is essential and cannot be reported any other way. When we take this leap, we must achieve transparency with our readers, explaining in the greatest possible detail the reasons we granted anonymity and the potential motivation of any of our anonymous sources.
Under The Washington Times' rules, material from anonymous sources can be published only if:
- The information is factual, not opinion or speculation.
- The information is vital to the news story and the story is essential to our readers.
- The information is not available except under the conditions of anonymity imposed by the source.
- The source is reliable and has direct knowledge that the information he or she is providing is accurate. Second- or third-hand confirmation from anonymous sources is forbidden.
Reporters who intend to publish material from anonymous sources must get prior approval from a senior news manager before sending a story to the copy or Web desks. The manager is responsible for vetting the material and making sure it meets our guidelines. The manager must know the identity of the source and is obligated, like the reporter, to keep the source's identity confidential. It is incumbent upon the reporter and the editor to know how the source knows the information, ensuring they have direct knowledge and are in a position to ensure its accuracy. For the purpose of anonymous source approval, a senior manager is defined as the executive editor, the managing editors, the deputy managing editors or the assistant managing editors.
Reporters should proceed with interviews on the assumption they are on the record. If the source wants to set conditions, these should be negotiated at the start of the interview. At the end of the interview, the reporter should try once again to move some or all of the information on the record.
Here are the three conditions that can be set for an interview:
- On the record: The information can be used with no caveats, quoting the source by name.
- Off the record: The information cannot be used for publication but can be used to enlighten the reporter's efforts to secure the information from other on-the-record or background sources.
- Background: The information can be published but only with the conditions set forth by the source. Generally, the sources do not want their names published but will agree to a description of their positions.
The responsibility of reporters to abide by The Washington Times’ source rules extends to briefings offered to a group of journalists by government and corporate officials in public locations. Times' reporters are obligated to object when a source wants to brief a group of reporters on background and try to persuade the source to put the briefing on the record.
Reporters and editors are permitted to have background or off-the-record sessions in private settings, such as lunches, coffees or dinners, as a way of developing sources for future stories. Publication of information from such sessions will be limited, governed by the stringent rules set forth in this set of guidelines.
Whenever anonymous sources are being quoted, Times reporters should strive to seek out and secure more than one source. Stories should be reasonably held while attempts are made to reach additional sources for confirmation or elaboration.
We must explain in the story why a source requested anonymity. And we must describe the source's motive for disclosing the information. Our attribution should also be as specific as possible to establish the source's credibility. Simply quoting "a source" is not permitted.
Stories that use anonymous sources must carry a reporter's byline. If a reporter other than the bylined staffer contributes anonymous material to a story, that reporter should be given credit as a contributor at the bottom of the story.
Any questions about the authenticity or veracity of anonymous material must be promptly brought to a senior news manager's attention.
Finally, the grant of anonymity is a momentous journalism decision, one that carries with it legal, ethical and moral responsibilities. Reporters and editors should take great care to guard the confidentiality of source material and the identity of people granted anonymity. This means taking great care in email, phone conversations and even newsroom discussions to ensure that confidentiality is guarded at all times.
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Diversity is essential to The Washington Times' journalism. We constantly seek to expand our base of news sources to better reflect the broad diversity of views and experiences of people in the U.S. and globally.
As a result, in the course of our reporting we continue to seek out as sources people of different genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, geographic base and economic circumstances. The Washington Times also strives to employ a diverse array or reporters, editors and other staffers.
Diverse Staffing Report
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