Verification and Factchecking

Editorial Standards > Verification and Factchecking

Telling the truth

■ We strive to be honest, accurate, truthful and fair. We do not distort or fabricate facts, imagery, sound or data.

■ We strive to provide accurate context for all reporting.

■ We encourage staffers to seek diverse sources. We believe in covering not only the most powerful voices on an issue but also those who are not normally heard (e.g., in election coverage, mainstream and non-mainstream candidates).

■ We attempt to ensure that sources are reliable. To the extent possible, we make clear what motivations our sources may have and any conditions people have set for giving us information.

■ If a report includes criticism of people or organizations, we give them the opportunity to respond.

■ We clearly distinguish fact from opinion in all content with labels such as “News” and “Opinion.” Columns that express opinion and/or analysis are labeled “Opinion” and identified with tags such as “Reporter’s Notebook,” “Editor’s Notebook” or the name of the column.

Balance and fairness

■ Our journalists will take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of information that we publish and note their sources. Whenever possible, we will verify information with multiple sources. We will link to our source material online when possible.

■ We do not publish rumors or other information we have not verified.

■ We will be alert to situations where the most accessible spokesperson is at the extremes of issues, but most people are somewhere in the middle.

■ We will refrain from presenting multiple points of view if one perspective on an issue has been credibly established as fact. In other words, we will avoid “false balance.”

■ In breaking news situations, we will attempt to gather comments from key sides of an issue; if comments are not immediately available, we will publish or air the story without them, make clear that we were unable to get some comment and update our story as needed.

■ We will follow the same process we use for covering any other organization when our organization has done something newsworthy. We will assign a reporter and let that reporter contact sources within our organization. The story will be edited like any other; only the editor will see the story before it is published.

■ Reporters, at their discretion, may share parts of story drafts with sources for accuracy or ensure they understand technical points and procedures.

■ We will run sensitive material that might be offensive to some readers after internal debate has demonstrated a clear public interest in and value from the publication. We will refrain from running sensitive material specifically or solely for the revenue purposes, such as increased digital traffic.

■ We will accurately reflect the content of stories in headlines and social media posts.

■ We will not use metric considerations (i.e., driving online traffic to a story) in determining what we cover and how we place stories.

■ Our journalists avoid expressing opinions and work to ensure that their stories do not reflect bias toward any position. Exceptions are made for journalists whose jobs specifically involve expressing opinions, such as editorial writers, columnists, commentators and cartoonists.

■ Our organization does not advocate or operate in a way that promotes any legislation, policies, government action or outcomes, though policy or legislative changes may be a consequence of our reporting. We lobby only for freedom of information and freedom of press issues.

■ We will permit undercover reporting only when we feel a story is important enough to justify doing so and we have exhausted all other reasonable methods of obtaining the information.

■ We may use sources with a conflict of interest in stories, but details that signal the conflict of interest will be included (e.g., a scientist who conducted a study about a drug’s effectiveness when the study was funded by the manufacturer).

Quotations

■ We will clean up random utterances such as pauses, “um” or “you know” unless they materially alter the meaning.

■ We will correct grammatical errors by all sources.

■ We will allow separate phrases of a quote separated by attribution. (“I will go to war,” the president said. “But only if necessary.”)

■ In Q&As such as “5 Questions,” a subject’s responses will be edited for brevity, and responses that addressed the same question but were made at different times in the conversation may be brought together in a single response. At the discretion of the reporter or editor, a response edited in this manner will be verified with the source.

■ If information or a quotation in a story comes from a news release, we will include that in our attribution, i.e., “she said in a statement.”

■ We will avoid publishing quotes that include profanity or hate speech, but if deemed relevant to a story, the words will be spelled out.

Issues of privacy

■ We view everything posted openly on social media and the internet as public information, although we attempt to verify material found there with other sources.

■ We consider the standard for publishing material about private individuals who are thrust into the public eye as higher than that for public individuals.

■ We do not believe that everything public officials say and do should be made public, even though they cede a great deal of privacy when they enter the public eye. We analyze cases on an individual basis, taking into account the news value of the public figure’s action.

■ We reserve the right to publish material that we have voluntarily withheld if we determine that the material has valid public interest or if we feel that the requesting party has deceived us as to his or her motives.

■ We use discretion when it comes to interviewing and publishing material from trauma victims or bystanders because we understand that to do so may cause additional harm to individuals.

■ We do not remove material from our archives, although will weigh exceptions to this policy in extreme cases, such as abuse or danger to someone’s personal safety.

Sources of information

■ We do not pay for interviews.

■ We do not allow interview subjects to review stories before publication, except in limited cases where an expert source may be allowed to review a passage or passages to ensure the accuracy of technical information.

■ Articles and reports will state the method of interviewing (i.e., whether it was in person, by telephone, video, Skype or email) if it provides necessary context.

■ We use links, if available, for source attribution in online stories.

■ When members of our board of directors are mentioned or quoted in our coverage, we will identify them as such.

■ We will consider potential harm to sources facing intolerance in their societies before naming them in stories.

■ We will seek out people in the groups we cover to gain perspective on our coverage and terminology. We will use racial, ethnic, gender and sexuality identifiers when germane to a story. We will identify transgender people by the gender they express publicly.