Code of Ethics
Colorado Public Radio News Department
Journalism, a profession that is singled out for protection in the U.S. Constitution, and that subjects people and institutions to intense and constant scrutiny, must itself maintain the highest principles.
The integrity we establish by maintaining our principles is our most valuable asset. Without it, we lose the public trust essential to a vigorous and effective press. That integrity is seriously eroded by conflicts of interest, as well as the appearance of conflict.
This code of ethics is intended to offer ethical guidelines to help avoid such conflicts. It cannot envision all circumstances in which ethics must be considered, but is intended to reinforce the need for every member of the news staff to take great care in protecting their integrity as journalists and the integrity of the news department.
Every person who works for the Colorado Public Radio news department will:
1. Be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know the truth.
A. Your personal choices may have consequences for what newsroom duties you could take on. Secondary employment, political involvement, holding public office and involvement in community organizations or public institutions create strong possibilities for conflicts of interest, and must be examined for potential conflict or appearance of conflict. It should be noted that activities of close relatives or people with whom you have a close personal relationship can also pose a conflict or an appearance of conflict.You are responsible for discussing any potential for conflict between personal and professional activities with the News Director or your direct supervisor.
B. Social media - Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc. - are all public activities, even if you have taken steps to make your posts private. You should consider that whatever you write in these forums is public and you should not post opinions that reveal a personal bias; a good test is whether you could express what you write on the air. This is important to maintain our integrity, and it is also important in a legal sense. Biased comments could be used in a court of law to demonstrate a predisposition, or even malicious intent, in a libel action against the news organization, even for an unrelated story.You may not use an Avatar or anonymity on social media sites or blogs in order to cloak your identity and post opinions that indicate bias. Anonymity is not a defense; you should assume your comments can be traced to you.
C. Gifts, favors, free travel, special treatment or privileges can compromise the integrity of anyone; at best they raise questions about integrity. Accept nothing of value. CPR journalists may accept gifts of token value (hats, mugs, t-shirts, etc.). Unsolicited items of significant value will be returned with a letter thanking the sender but stating our policy on gifts.
2. Strive to present the course or nature of news material in a way that is complete, accurate, and fair.
A. Material will be edited in such a way that it does not change the meaning of the original tape.
B. Audio material, whether voice or natural sound, will not deceive the audience.
C. News staff will not plagiarize material; always give credit for reporting and writing that is not your own.
D. People in stories will be identified by race, creed, nationality, age, disability or sexual preference only when it is relevant to the story.
E. Information will be evaluated solely on its newsworthiness; as with all Colorado Public Radio programming, news decisions will not be influenced by any funding gift, from any source.
F. All substantive errors will be acknowledged and corrected.
G. Opinions will be clearly distinguished from fact, and commentary, reviews and other opinion content will be identified as such on air and online. Reporters will not present opinions about the news, either on CPR’s air or website, or in appearances on other media. Commentary and reviews by non-news staff will include opinions, but will be expected to accurately state any facts on which the work is based.
3. Show respect for the dignity, privacy, rights and well-being of people encountered in the course of gathering the news.
A. Comments or claims affecting any person or organization's reputation or moral character will not be broadcast without giving the accused a chance to reply.
B. Legal charges against anyone will be portrayed exactly as officially brought and will be clearly identified.
C. Under Colorado law, information reporters gather, including source names, is protected – that is, a reporter cannot be forced to reveal that information to outside individuals or institutions, including courts. However, the question of whether to grant a source confidentiality on-air (not naming him or her, disguising the voice, etc.) is a separate matter. Pledges of confidentiality to news sources must be honored at all costs, and therefore should not be given lightly. Do not promise confidentiality unless there is a clear and compelling need for the information. Before promising confidentiality, try to obtain the same information from sources willing to be quoted. You must talk with your editor before guaranteeing confidentiality to a source.
If after the above considerations, you are willing to offer confidentiality to a source, you and the source must first agree on the following: what information may be attributed; what information is not to be attributed; what information is confidential; how the source is to be identified; that your editor or the News Director may know the identity of the source and under what circumstances, if any, the identity of the source may be made public.
Please note that CPR's ethical decisions are also guided by NPR's ethics handbook.
CPR journalists who do not comply with this code of ethics may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.