The Wenatchee World's newsroom generally embraces the ethics code of the Society of Professional Journalists, SPJ. It's reproduced in its entirety below.

Where The World's newsroom has additional or differing guidelines, it's noted in pertinent sections of the SPJ Code, either in boldfaced text or through highlighted words you may click on to see World-specific policies.


Preamble

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society's principles and standards of practice.


Seek Truth and Report It

Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.


Journalists should:

  • Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
  • Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
  • Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
  • At The World, the standard is higher than "identify whenever feasible."
  • We will be skeptical of wire stories that use anonymous sources.
  • In local copy, we will identify sources unless there are significant reasons not to do so. Information from unidentified sources will be cross-checked by at least one more source before publishing; we will not publish personal attacks from anonymous sources. Local stories using anonymous sources must be approved by the managing editor.
  • Always question sources' motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
  • Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
  • Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.
  • Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it.
  • Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story
  • Never plagiarize.
  • Fabrication and plagiarism are offenses that will result in severe disciplinary action. Immediate dismissal is the most likely.
  • Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
  • Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
  • Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
  • Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
  • Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
  • Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
  • Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
  • Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public's business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.
  • The World is aggressive in pursuing, through escalating measures that ultimately may involve the courts, openness in public boards' meetings and full access to public documents.

Minimize Harm

Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

Journalists should:

  • Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
  • Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
  • Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
  • Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy.
  • Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
  • Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
  • We routinely, in news of record, identify juveniles convicted of crimes, and on occasion will identify juveniles upon charging or arrest, depending on the seriousness of the crime, the age of the suspect and public interest.
  • Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
  • Our practice of naming upon arrest in news of record is undergoing revision. Regardless of changes in news of record, we will continue naming on arrest on a case-by-case basis, with the determining factors being the seriousness of the crime, community interest and safety, and the age of the suspect. We rarely will name suspect in sex crimes upon arrest, due to the particularly damaging nature of the allegations of such crimes.
  • Balance a criminal suspect's fair trial rights with the public's right to be informed.
  • Also: The World generally will not report suicides. Exceptions: If a suicide occurs in a public place or involves a prominent person. Even when a suicide occurs in a public place, we may not name the deceased.

Act Independently

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.

Journalists should:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility. The World's employee handbook says:

Editorial and advertising personnel should not be publicly aligned with a particular political candidate or issue, since it raises a question about the newspaper's ability to treat all candidates and issues in a fair and impartial manner.

Reporters and editors may not run for public office.

Employees will not serve on publicity committees for organizations.

The World encourages participation in worthwhile community organizations and service clubs. If you are asked to take a time-consuming office in an organization, you and your supervisor should make the decision jointly.

  • This isn't in the handbook, but should guide us: For newsroom employees, taking a leadership position in an organization may be a conflict in itself. Before doing so, discuss the situation with an editor.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
  • Unsolicited items received throughout the year from public relations people and others are gathered for our annual "payola sale," which benefits the United Way. Perishable food in small amounts may be eaten; larger amounts of food should be donated to a food bank or other charity.
  • On occasion, a grateful source or subject of a story may bring gifts as an expression of that appreciation. We may accept the gift if it would be awkward or insulting to decline. A later explanation to the source about how the gift was disposed of may be a graceful resolution.
  • The World pays its own way when we attend, for coverage or source development, entertainment events or banquets.
  • Reporters generally should insist on paying when meeting a source for lunch or coffee. If that insistence becomes a conflict, it's OK to acquiesce with the assurance that we'll pick up the tab next time.
  • Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
  • It's expected that staffers will inform editors about relationships, activities or other involvements that could bring about a perception of conflict of interest.
  • Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
  • Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
  • Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.
  • Let's say it more strongly: We don't pay sources for news.

Be Accountable

Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

Journalists should:

  • Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
  • Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
  • Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
  • Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
  • Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!