Standards of behavior and practice for our journalists
(Updated Spring 2022)
Anyone today can publish, broadcast or display information to an audience. What sets us apart as journalists is the degree of professionalism we bring to the task. At American Public Media Group, we are determined that our journalism will reflect the highest professional standards. In this age of misinformation, standards and ethics are what sets journalism apart.
For people to trust the news and information we report, they must have faith in our integrity. We should never give them cause to doubt that our first loyalty is to the public — not to our bank accounts, our political agendas, our friends, our funders or any other cause or purpose.
Public service should be the goal of any journalist, but it has special meaning for us, because we call ourselves “public media.” We are here to inform the public by considering multiple perspectives, but ultimately presenting fact-based truths. Our communities support us in that effort. That gives them the right to demand that we adhere to the highest standards of practice and behavior.
We expect Southern California Public Radio (KPCC/LAist) journalists to use this document to guide their conduct and to hold themselves and each other accountable. We hope the public will use it to learn about the principles that shape our work and to judge whether we are living up to them. We also want the document to highlight the enduring ideals that govern our work, such as fairness, accountability, minimizing harm, and reporting on the diversity of the human experience.
Our guiding principles
We build trust. Our journalism is independent, nonpartisan, fact-based and rigorous. We build trust by delivering news and information that is of the highest quality and done with the highest standards. We believe in verification and an obligation to the truth.
We listen. We engage with the communities we serve, and we listen to them. We frequently meet with our audiences and convene community members and leaders for important discussions. We know that the best journalism requires listening so that we can better understand what matters to our audiences.
We are leaders. Our journalism aims for the highest standards for news ethics, policies, and practices. Our news and information drive important stories and discussions. We examine structural inequities. And we will lead in technology and delivery, so that audiences can access our journalism at any time and on any device.
We focus on audiences. Our journalism is intended to illuminate and equip our communities. We are at our best when we provide the news and information that enables our audiences to be informed citizens. We also play the role of watchdog by keeping a close eye on the people and institutions that regularly affect our lives.
We are inclusive. Our journalists reflect the communities we serve. Our sources, story subjects and coverage must demonstrate that we seek diverse ideas and hear every person with respect and gratitude. We call attention to injustice and lift the voices of marginalized groups. We explore the ways in which race and gender issues take hold in every aspect of society.
We act courageously. Our journalists cover the difficult stories and ask the tough questions. When covering new ideas and policies, we look for unequal consequences. We will correct our mistakes and not shy from constructive critiques.
When any of us has an ethical question or sees a potential ethical conflict or lapse, it is our job to bring it to the attention of newsroom leaders. Communication is paramount. At all times we will guard against our own buried biases and privileges creeping into our work. We hope, too, that our audiences will ask a question when something does not seem right.
The guidelines are divided in two sections. The first addresses how we act as journalists and the second how we execute journalism. They will be reviewed regularly. The guidelines — coming in May 2022 — follow years of divisiveness and the politicization of race and gender equity. We, though, unequivocally hold true to those values in our journalism. And we acknowledge that for many people, these are long-standing issues of discrimination that have never subsided.
We believe that a democratic society depends on an informed public, and that an informed public depends on a free and independent press. We participate in our democracy, in our way, and this is how we do it.
Acknowledgements and credits
We reviewed and drew upon various ethics policies in originally creating this six years ago. It was updated throughout 2021. The basic tenets of ethical behavior for a journalist do not vary much among organizations. What truly matters is adherence, understanding and constant review. In some areas, though, we hadn’t considered certain ethical difficulties. And more recently, we recognized the lack of attention in our guidelines given to matters of race and gender as they apply to our news coverage.
We’re grateful for the work of others, specifically:
- The BBC
- Local Public Media Organizations’ Code of Editorial Integrity
- Los Angeles Times
- National Public Radio
- Society of Professional Journalists
- The New York Times
- The Wall Street Journal
In addition, the document has been reviewed over the years by outside experts: Geanne Belton, a journalist, attorney and professor at Baruch College and a faculty member at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism; Tom Kent, the former standards editor of The Associated Press; Jane Kirtley, the Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota; and Kelly McBride, the public editor at NPR and Chair of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at The Poynter Institute. In late summer of 2020, we called Sally Lehrman and Venise Wagner, authors of “Reporting Inequality,” published in 2019. Both former journalists, Lehrman runs the Trust Project and Wagner teaches journalism at San Francisco State University. They added and bolstered language that will now guide our journalism about race and gender.