Dishonesty / Fabrication
No media or content provided in news content may in any way be fabricated, dishonest, or fictional. This means that we will not:
- Stage or re-enact events in order to capture them.
- Use sound effects or add in photo elements, audio, or video.
- Embellish or fabricate photo elements, audio, or video.
- Ask people to pose for photos (unless for a portrait that is labeled in the caption).
Attention should always be paid to avoid misleading viewers to believe that a posed photo (such as a portrait) was candidly captured. If a photo is in anyway posed it must be stated in the caption clearly.
Journalist must never use the work of another and pass it off as their own. When using photos, video, or audio provided by an individual, company, organization, or any other source, where we do not own the copyright we will always provide a credit or source on or in the media. When using material from press releases (even from government sources) the source must always be credited and when quoting directly from the release quotations should be used. It should always be clear when any content is used that is not our original work.
Additionally journalist should use caution when taking photos, video, or audio that contains the copyrighted work of another. (Example when working on a feature piece on an artist, that the artist has consented to allow their copyrighted work to be displayed in publications, and that the captions clear identified as the work of the artist).
Quotes should be accurate and care should be taken so that quotes are not out of context. When necessary provide the setting in which a quotation was obtained (such as at a press conference, in a phone interview, during a casual conversation with a journalist). It may also be necessary to include the mood and body language of the person being quoted (such as when “air quotes” are used, said in a joking manner, during an angry outburst).
Do not alter quotes, even to correct grammatical errors, spelling or word usage. (use of [sic] tag when required). If a quote contains of grammatical errors or is unclear (ie. missing context) the journalist should add context or paraphrase in a way that is accurate to the original quote. If a quote is too confusion or requires to much information to provide it in context it should not be used.
If quotes are provided in a language other than English the quote may be translated but should still contain the original quote. If automated translation (such as Google Translate) is used it should be noted with “Translation provided by: (source)”.
Quotations or soundbites provided in audio / video format should follow the same guidelines above.
No part of the photo may be removed and no elements added to a photo, or the scene or content of a photo altered.
Acceptable Cropping, levels, curves, dodge and burn, desaturate, toning and color adjustments used as minimally as necessary for clear and accurate reproduction and that restore the authentic nature of the photograph. Only retouching or the use of the cloning tool to eliminate dust on camera sensors and scratches on scanned negatives or scanned prints are acceptable.
Un-Acceptable Faces or identities of individuals must not be obscured by editing software. Adding or removing elements of a photo, cropping a photo to omit a part of the photo in a way that would change its context or alter the scene. Changes to the tone, color, saturation, or levels for no other reason than aesthetics. All edits should have a reason.
No part of a video may be removed and no elements added to a video in a way to alter the scene or context.
Acceptable Adjustment of white balance, video and audio levels, eliminating distracting audio (buzzing, hums, clicks), and normalization of audio.
Videos for use online use / broadcast may be altered to add graphical elements such as lower thirds to display a name or location, titles, watermarks, and logos. Subtitles may be added for accessibility or if a speaker is hard to hear / understand. Subtitles should always be accurate to speakers words, even if it contains grammatical errors or run-on thoughts. (use of the [sic] tag as required). If automated subtitles are added the source of the automation should be noted at the beginning or end of the subtitles (beginning for longer audio [over 3 mins] or at the end for audio shorter than 3 mins).
Un-Acceptable Any editing that would conceal, obscure, remove or otherwise alter the content or context of the video.
Acme News allows the masking (blurring) faces to protect a subject's identity to protect the identity of a source when confidentiality has been promised.
The display of data in graphics (including graphs) should always cite the source of the data and when possible provide a link to the original source.
Anonymous Information / Tips
When we receive anonymous information, documents, or news tips our journalist will attempt to verify the information with an outside source. Additionally the source of the information must provide how they know if the information is accurate and that they have direct knowledge prior to Acme News using any information. Anonymous information must always be attributed as such with the sources credit-ability. (example would be “an anonymous city official”) As Acme News is a news service and not an outlet, information, documents and tips will likely be passed on to a news outlet if deemed credible and accurate and at such time we would follow that outlets guidelines for the handling and use of anonymous information.
Our journalist may work with confidential sources so long as there is a compelling interest in keeping the sources identity confidential that is not out weighed by the public right to know. (such as in the case of a government wistleblower exposing wrongdoing who would face jail time. The public's right to know the name of the source is outweighed by the damage to government transparency if wistleblowers were identified and jailed for attempting to expose wrong doing).
A source must establish credit-ability and provide a reason to remain confidential before proving information or being promised confidentiality. It is the policy of Acme News not to disclose the identity of any source or information that could be used to identify a source if confidentiality was promised. Under North Carolina shield law, our journalists are protected against being compelled to disclose "any confidential or non-confidential information, document, or item obtained or prepared while acting as a journalist." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 8 53.11(b). Confidential information is any information obtained by a reporter with a promise that the source will not be disclosed. See State v. Wallace, 23 Media L. Rep. 1473 (N.C. Superior Ct. 1995); State v. Hagaman, 9 Media L. Rep. 2525 (N.C. Superior Ct. 1983).
As Acme News is a news service and not an outlet, the identity of a confidential source will likely need to be disclosed to an editor or reporter at the publishing news outlet. Our journalist may only share the identity of a confidential source with the sources permission to another journalist also covered by a shield law.
Acme News uses the AP’s definitions for the following:
- 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.
- Background:The information can be published but only under conditions negotiated with the source. Generally, the sources do not want their names published but will agree to a description of their position. AP reporters should object vigorously 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. These background briefings have become routine in many venues, especially with government officials.
- Deep background:The information can be used but without attribution. The source does not want to be identified in any way, even on condition of anonymity.
Our Journalist are expected to avoid political activity. While working for Acme News journalist may not run for political office or accept any appointment that is political or where political standing is a factor used in the decision making process. Journalist should not provide any media or public relations services for politicians, campaigns, or PAC’s. Journalist may not make any donation to political organizations or campaigns.
Journalist are discouraged from owning stock or have any personal investment or involvement with any local company they may cover. Journalist are prohibited from purchasing stock, futures, investing, or taking any action, including sharing with another person any information being used in a story that is not yet been published. If journalist own stocks while working with Acme News they are advised to place them in a blind trust or liquidate them.
Journalist given gifts of any kind by by sources, companies, public relations companies, government officials, and others should follow these guidelines:
Any gift that is a clear attempt to influence the journalist or is an attempt to gain favor with the journalist, gifts of cash, stocks, precious metals, gems, or similar items, of gifts with a value over $30 must be declined, returned, or donated. Gift under $30 in value that are provided as perks to journalist covering an event or are also provided free to members of the public may be accepted. The same $30 limit applies to meals. If a source offers to pay for a meal for the journalist, the total cost of the bill must be under $30 for the journalist to accept.
As a small news service Acme News may accept travel arrangements only from groups or companies when used to cover newsworthy events. The party providing travel arrangements must understand that they will have no editorial control on what the journalist covers, will not be given advanced copy of the story, and will not have copy approval.
Our journalist may work as freelancers for outlets, or other news services so long as doing so does not present a conflict or interest.