Asbury Park Press, Neptune, N.J.: Ethics code

The Press adheres to the highest ethical standards.

We believe that it is the duty of journalists to serve the truth. As practitioners of the press freedom that is essential to democracy, we believe that journalists have a higher duty than others to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest in their professional and private lives.

We strive to be fair, accurate, honest, responsible, independent and sensitive to the feelings of our readers. We respect individual rights to privacy. We strive for balance. If we represent a point of view, we want it to be the public interest.

The Press and its staff should be free of obligations to outsiders, especially news sources and special interests. We accept nothing of value from anyone outside the profession, with the exception of review copies of new books, video tapes and other recordings, and reviewers' admissions to theaters and other working-press passes to sporting events, etc. In the case of books, tapes and other recordings, we donate surplus items to local libraries or to the annual charity raffle when it is impractical to return them to the originator.

When it is impractical to refuse or return gifts, we notify the giver of our policy of contributing them to our annual raffle and discourage further gifts.

We guard against the appearance of bias and partiality in our coverage. No one should hold any public elective or appointive office except in the rarest of instances as approved by the executive editor.

Our news staff does not advise or work for politicians or political organizations. We encourage good citizenship by exercising our right to vote in referenda, primaries and general elections, but we do not engage in partisan activity beyond that.

We are not employed by news sources or potential sources.

We recognize that it may be a conflict of interest for any reporter, editor or correspondent to write promotional material or press releases for any organization that may appear in our news pages. If any staff member receives such a request, the organization may be given material prepared by The Press as assistance in writing releases and offering information on submitting them.

Our news staff does no public speaking when such an appearance can be construed as benefiting a commercial enterprise or a point of view of any organization.

We do not treat our advertisers differently than other sources of potential stories. We may use the advertising department as a source of news. If an advertiser has a legitimate story, we research and report it ourselves.

No reporter, editor or correspondent with a personal or financial interest in a story should be involved in any aspect of coverage of that story, from development to layout and headline writing to follow-up editorial and Op-ed pieces. While we encourage all employees to give tips on newsworthy stories, no staff member should use this as a vehicle to promote a favored project or person.

We do not seek and we try to avoid special favors and treatment. We do not use our positions at The Press to seek any benefit or advantage in personal business, financial or commercial transactions not afforded to the public generally.

We disclose our news sources unless there is a clear and ethical reason not to do so. When it is necessary to protect the confidentiality of a source, we explain the reason to a supervising editor who is then entrusted with the responsibility to grant permission to publish without attribution.

We do not plagiarize. We do not use the words or phrasing of other publications without attribution. We do not manufacture direct quotes.

We always balance with the facts those public statements we know to be inaccurate or misleading.

We do not write or edit stories primarily for the purpose of winning awards. We avoid blatantly commercial journalism contests and others that reflect unfavorably on the newspaper or the profession.

We recognize that it is not unusual for corporate officers of a newspaper to be involved in civic activities. However, that involvement should never color the news coverage of those activities and staff members should be no less vigilant in that coverage.

No set of guidelines can cover all situations that could face a journalist. We rely on the professional judgment of our staff members to recognize, and to discuss in advance with supervisors, a situation that in any way could affect the fairness or credibility of our news report.