Cedar Rapids Gazette: Code of ethics
The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Code of Ethics
1. Statement of principle
Journalists must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety as well as any conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict. They should neither accept anything nor pursue any activities that might compromise or seem to compromise their integrity. They must also recognize that their conduct reflects directly upon their employer and take no action inconsistent with their newspaper's journalistic or business interests.
Gazette staff members are to behave in a professional manner. Their most important obligation is to perform the duties for which they are employed by The Gazette with undivided loyalty. All interpretations of appropriate conduct in all situations will stem from this basic premise.
Additionally, an individual's interests outside The Gazette shall not come into conflict with -- or create the appearance of conflict with -- the staff member's professional duties at The Gazette.
Free-lancers (reporters, photographers, artists) have the same basic responsibility not to have their private lives conflict with their work for The Gazette. It is the responsibility of the free-lancer's editor to inform the free-lancer of Gazette policy and to make sure a conflict does not exist.
This code applies to all Gazette newsroom employees.
Employees shall not use Gazette connections for their own benefit, or to benefit a third party. Staff members shall not use their positions at The Gazette to obtain, for themselves or for another person, any benefit or advantage in commercial transactions and personal business. It is improper for a staff member, for instance, to write a letter of complaint to a merchant on Gazette stationery or to try to imply a threat to a merchant by leaving word to "call back at The Gazette.''
Nepotism is contrary to The Gazette's equal opportunity employment policy and inconsistent with sound managerial practices. Therefore, it is the policy of The Gazette not to hire any relative of a Gazette employee if the employee would participate in the decision to hire the relative or could, directly or indirectly, participate in decisions affecting any of the relative's terms and conditions of employment.
Editors are forbidden to hire, use as free-lancers or otherwise pay their spouses, children, parents, in-laws or ex-spouses without the written approval of the managing editor, associate managing editor or the editorial page editor. Common sense dictates that employees who have a serious romantic relationship with one another are also subject to this provision of the code.
If, while on the payroll, an employee becomes a relative of another employee in the company, one must not directly or indirectly supervise or participate in decisions affecting any of the other terms and conditions of employment. Management will make whatever adjustments are necessary to the status of the involved parties to make sure an employee doesn't supervise a relative.
A staff member shall not write about (or photograph or make news judgments about) any person related to him or her by blood, adoption or marriage or with whom the staff member has or had a close personal or romantic relationship. A staff member who is placed in a circumstance in which this kind of conflict becomes likely shall advise his or her supervisor of the relationship.
Certain staffers - columnists, for example, or those doing first-person pieces - may write about their families without its being a conflict of interest.
The acceptance of gratuities of more than token value, whether in products, services or a combination of products and services, is prohibited.
We pay our own way. If it is newsworthy, we can afford it.
Courtesies may be accepted if they are within the range of courtesies usually extended by the corporation or institution to persons other than the news media (e.g., attendance at a reception where sandwiches are being served since such things would likely be served at receptions for other persons; acceptance of coffee or telephone privileges when visiting the office of a news source, etc.). Let common sense be the guide.
If the courtesy extended is beyond the customary range offered by the institution or corporation, Gazette employees covering an event may participate at Gazette expense.
In the case of a public speech, dinner, or event that is newsworthy -- and we are covering -- The Gazette will purchase the necessary tickets. However, in the case of a political party event, a free ticket will be accepted because to purchase a ticket would contribute to a particular party.
Gazette employees will not accept invitations to parties, cocktail hours or the like where the purpose is purely and obviously promotional. If there is a question, a decision will be made by the managing editor or associate managing editor.
We will purchase our own movie, theater and concert admissions. However, acceptance of sports events passes, which carry press box admittance or the like -- and we are covering the event -- is acceptable. In the case of other events, when questions arise, consultation with the managing editor or associate managing editor is required.
Although we will always try to pay, there may be cases in which it is impossible or impractical to buy a ticket. In such cases, the staff member may accept a free ticket, and The Gazette will then donate a sum of money, equal to the price of the ticket, to an appropriate non-profit group.
We will not accept free airplane tickets from an industry or business to a news event. The same rule applies to free transportation offered by a public, tax-supported agency. We will pay our own way. If there is any question or unusual situation, a decision will be made by the managing editor or associate managing editor.
In any other cases that may arise, acceptance of a gratuity will not be made without prior consultation with the managing editor or associate managing editor.
Access to press boxes, press galleries and press rooms may be granted to other reporters, photographers and staff members on those occasions when the access is necessary to develop information or skills. Supervisors are responsible for making certain that inappropriate advantage is not being taken of such situations.
Nightclub admission costs or cover charges, and the costs of necessary meals incurred while on company business, shall be paid by The Gazette. Staff members may encounter situations in which it is socially awkward, or even impossible, to pay for a meal or entertainment; such situations are rare and may not be entered habitually.
Occasionally, someone may buy a staff member a drink. This is regarded as a simple courtesy and the staff member shall undertake at an appropriate opportunity to repay the courtesy.
Staff members shall not accept business-connected gifts, free rooms, sample merchandise, special reduced rates, funds provided by gaming establishments and race tracks, or any other low-pay or no-pay arrangement. Bottles of liquor or wine shall be considered gifts of more than token value.
Such gifts shall be immediately returned to the sender with a polite explanation that company policy does not permit the acceptance of such gifts. In cases where it is impractical or impossible to return a gift, the gift is sent to the office of either the managing editor, the associate managing editor or the editorial page editor. One of them will arrange to donate it to a charity and to write the sender explaining what has been done.
6. Review materials
We will accept books and records for review because by so doing we perform an informational and public function that otherwise would be difficult to do.
Books, recordings, etc., that are not reviewed shall be made available first to interested staff members and after that to a public or charitable institution.
Books, recordings, etc., that are of particular use to specialists on The Gazette staff may be retained by The Gazette.
7. Outside employment
All employees have an obligation to perform the duties for which they are employed by The Gazette with undivided loyalty. Any proposed employment with an employer other than The Gazette that might interfere with the employee's obligations to The Gazette -- either because it would be time-consuming or because it might place the employee in a conflict situation -- shall not be undertaken without the permission of the managing editor, associate managing editor or editorial page editor. When an employee has a doubt, he or she should consult these editors.
Writing, editing, making photographs or creating illustrations for any publication in competition with The Gazette is prohibited by this code. Publicity or public relations work, including such work as a volunteer for a charitable organization, is prohibited for full-time and part-time Gazette employees.
In general, it is the policy of The Gazette to permit employees subject to this code to free-lance for publications that are not in competition with The Gazette, provided that the proposed assignment would not otherwise adversely affect The Gazette. Therefore, no free-lance assignments shall be accepted or undertaken without the prior written knowledge of the managing editor, associate managing editor or editorial page editor.
The Gazette owns all rights, including the copyrights, to all materials prepared or obtained by its employees during the course of their employment. Therefore, no employee shall use or otherwise produce such materials for use outside The Gazette without having first obtained the written approval of the department head.
Reporters and editors shall not enter into business relationships with news sources or the subjects of news articles. Reporters and editors shall not invest in a business if the financial interest could be expected to come into conflict with the reporter's or editor's obligations to The Gazette.
Business department editors with investments or stock holdings in corporations or other business entities shall not write about, edit or make news decisions that involve those corporations or businesses. General newsroom reporters covering this type of news must disclose their holdings to the department head.
Where there is any doubt as to the appropriateness of a business investment, it is a staff member's duty to seek a clarification from the department head.
10. Radio and television
Occasional appearances on radio and television shows, including cable TV, by Gazette staff members are generally permissible but shall be reported in advance to a department head. Staff members, whose work for The Gazette is expected to meet high standards of impartiality, shall endeavor to demonstrate a comparable commitment to fairness when on the air.
Fees for occasional appearances must be approved by the managing editor, associate managing editor or editorial page editor beforehand. A staff member shall not enter into a commitment for regular involvement with a radio or television program without the prior written approval of the managing editor, associate managing editor or the editorial page editor. Such written approval must be obtained on an annual basis.
11. Political activity or other advocacy
Because the nature of our profession requires fairness, impartiality and the appearance of impartiality, staff members shall exercise great care before becoming involved in any political activity beyond registering and voting. Staff members must be aware that innocent actions (wearing a political button, for example) may give the wrong impression to members of the public. We operate in the public domain -- on and off the job.
Starting with persons hired after the date of this policy (Jan. 1, 1987), under no circumstances may a staff member run for political office or work, for pay or as a volunteer, in a political campaign organization. If a relative -- spouse, parent, child, brother or sister, for example -- or a close friend is involved in a political campaign or organization, the staff member shall refrain from covering or making news judgments about such a campaign or organization.
A staff member who chooses to become active in a social cause should recognize the potential for conflict and should discuss it with his or her editor. Participation in events such as public demonstrations where a staff member could be involved unintentionally in making the news is discouraged.
Making contributions to political or quasi-political groups, signing petitions, etc., should be undertaken with care and with the use of good judgment.
In addition, reporters and editors should bear in mind that if they accept positions of leadership in community groups, they may one day find themselves in conflict with their work at The Gazette. On the other hand, we encourage staff participation in voluntary community organizations.
Staff members may hold positions of leadership in groups that have a limited community impact and that do not fall in the normal range of coverage by The Gazette. Employees may not be involved in policy-making positions or act as spokesmen for major outside organizations. This does not apply to rank-and-file membership in such groups. Staff members have an obligation to discuss a potential conflict with their editor.
As one of the major institutions in the area, The Gazette cannot operate in isolation from the community it serves. Executives on the business side of the paper will, from time to time, be members or directors of appropriate community groups.
NOTE: This Code of Ethics is intended to provide guidance for conduct in certain types of situations. It is not contractual in nature nor does it limit in any way employees' rights (or The Gazette Company's) to terminate employment as they may choose.