These rules are meant to help the California Examiner deliver news and information in a media world that is changing quickly. We think of these rules as a “living document” that we will keep changing and updating based on what our journalists, readers, and we think our changing needs are. Because the way information is found and shared varies so much from one case to the next, these guidelines shouldn’t be taken as a set of hard and fast rules or as a way to handle every possible situation.
Conflict of interest
This news organization has promised to avoid conflicts of interest or things that look like they might be conflicts of interest as much as possible. We have strict rules about these things, even though we know they may be stricter than what is usual in the private business world. In particular:
We pay our own way
We don’t accept gifts from sources of news. We do not take any free trips. We don’t want or accept special treatment because of our positions, and we don’t ask for it either. Few and obvious exceptions to the no-gift rule exist. For example, you can accept an invitation to a meal if it’s only once and for a good reason, but not if it’s repeated and its purpose is to get something from you.
Events that aren’t free to the public can’t let people in for free. The only exceptions are seats that aren’t sold to the public, like in a press box, or tickets that are given to critics so they can write about the event. Every time it’s possible, plans will be made to pay for these seats.
We don’t take money from governments, government-funded organizations, groups of government officials, political groups, or organizations that take stands on controversial issues. This includes honoraria and expenses. A reporter or editor also can’t take money from anyone, company, or group that they cover.
And we shouldn’t take money from people, companies, trade groups, or organizations that lobby the government or try to change what the newspaper covers in other ways. This rule doesn’t usually apply to broadcasting organizations, educational institutions, social organizations, and many professional organizations unless the reporter or editor is covering them.
It is important to not take on any freelance work or accept any honoraria that could be seen as a disguised gift. We do everything we can to be independent of news sources and special interests. We shouldn’t get too close to people whose positions make it likely that journalists will be interested in and look into them. Both what we do in our personal lives and what we do at work must not bring shame to our jobs or to The Post.
We don’t get involved in politics, community issues, social action, or protests that could affect or make it seem like they could affect our ability to report and edit fairly. Relatives can’t be forced to follow Post rules, but it’s important to remember that their jobs or involvement in causes can at least make us look less honest. Department heads need to know about the business and professional ties of traditional family members and other members of your household.
The Post’s reporters and editors work hard to be fair. Even though there are a lot of arguments about objectivity, editors and reporters can easily understand and work toward fairness. Fairness comes from doing a few simple things: No story is fair if it leaves out facts that are very important. Completeness is a part of fairness.
No story is fair if it leaves out important facts in favour of details that don’t really matter. Relevance is a part of fairness.
No story is fair if it misleads or even fools the reader on purpose or by accident. Being fair means being honest with the reader.
No story is fair if it talks about people or groups that haven’t been given the chance to respond to what other people have said about them. Fairness means asking people what they think and really thinking about what they say.
The California Examiner cares about taste and decency and knows that people’s ideas of what is tasteful and decent are always changing. A word that was offensive to the last generation might be used by the next generation.
But we won’t get too excited. We won’t use swear words or bad language unless they are so important to a story that it would lose all meaning without them. No curse words can be used without the executive or managing editors’ permission.
If editors decide that content that could be offensive but is still important news, they should put up visual and/or text warnings about it. For example, we may link to a Web page that has content that doesn’t meet the standards for Post original content. Before users click on the link, we let them know what they might see by adding a warning, like “Warning: Some images on this site show violent scenes from war.”
Lastly, we don’t link to sites that help or encourage people to do something illegal. If you’re not sure if a site falls under this rule, talk to the Legal Department.
There is a clear break between the news columns and the editorial pages. This is done to help the reader, who has a right to get facts in the news columns and opinions on the editorial and “op-ed” pages.
But nothing about this separation of roles is meant to get rid of honest, in-depth reporting, analysis, or commentary in the news columns when they are clearly labelled as such. The labels are made like this:
Analysis of the news based on evidence, such as data, and predicting how things might go based on how they have gone in the past.
Perspective: Discussions of news stories from a certain point of view, such as people’s stories about their own lives.
Opinion: A blog or column in the section called “Opinions.”
A review is a professional critic’s opinion about a service, product, performance, work of art or literature.
This part of the rules has been changed as of June 30, 2022.
The good of the country and the community
The California Examiner cares a lot about what’s best for the country and for the community. We think that these goals are best served by getting information to as many people as possible. If a government official says something is in the national interest, that doesn’t mean it is in the national interest. Just because a local official says something is in the public interest doesn’t mean that it is.
A journalist’s role
Even though it’s getting harder in the Internet age, reporters should do their best to stay in the audience, be the stagehand instead of the star, and report the news instead of making it.
When gathering news, journalists won’t lie about who they are or what they do. They won’t pretend to be police officers, doctors, or anything else other than reporters.