France – Le Monde (2002)

Rules and Usages of the daily Le Monde, published in “Le Style du Monde”, Le Monde’s Style book, in 2002, under the general title “La déontologie”, i.e. professional ethics. The clauses in the list have been left in the original order, the alphabetical order of French subtitles.

See Incrimination.

Whenever a company that holds shares in Le Monde is mentioned in the newspaper, that ownership will be mentioned in the intro, in the text of the article or in a sidebar.

News Agencies
Wire-service stories must serve as  a call to action in the newsroom. When they are directly used in the shape of short items or as articles, they will be signed with the name of the agency (AFP, Reuters, etc.). That rule is valid both for French news and international news.

The news staff always endeavours to check the accuracy of the agency news that it publishes.

Le Monde publishes the (signed) reports of agencies when it is not present on the location of a conflict, a disaster, etc.

NB: an agency report should not be attributed when Le Monde mixes with it news from other sources. Then the newspaper must assume responsibility for the whole.

Amnesty is when a law removes the criminal nature of some action and wipes off the conviction administered because of it, without removing the facts themselves.

French law forbids news media from mentioning amnestied convictions. This is a fundamental guarantee of individual rights in a law-abiding State which helps the re-insertion of convicted persons. Only strong reasons can lead us, exceptionally, after discussion in editorial conference, to violate that rule.

Any gift whose value can be estimated at over 70Euros is sent back. Beyond that limit, Le Monde considers that it is no longer a present but a business maneuver. When they return a gift, journalists enclose a form letter available at the newsroom secretariat.

Only exceptionally will Le Monde publish un-attributed quotes.

In our columns, quotations from VIPs or anonymous persons are the object of a few simple rules:
– the person’s style is respected and reflected as closely as possible with care taken not to ridicule the person quoted. The news staff refrains from rewriting, and eventually distorting, what was said. Le Monde only accepts the suppression of interjections, onomatopeias and the correction of such obvious improprieties as might cause a misunderstanding.
– we abstain from selecting, among the words said, only those which can offend, wound third parties or, in reaction, the person who said them;
– an old statement should not be published as a quote without being clearly dated;
– a quote from a broadcast discussion, from a book, a report or an article should not be corrected. Its source must be clearly given. If the journalist has not the time or the means to check its veracity, he should warn the copy editor in a note at the start of the story.

Please note: any cut in a quote is pointed out to the reader thus: […]. It is recommended that such cuts be not numerous. It is sometimes better to give up a quote rather than publish it riddled with cuts.

Journalists will apply to the managing editor in writing for permission to contribute to outside publications. They must inform management of all their other professional activities (lectures, seminars, books, films, etc.). Any external activity, if regular and paid, must be agreed with the newspaper.

All journalists can offer an “analysis” or “comment” on a news topic that falls within their sphere of expertise.

The rule is never to smuggle one’s personal viewpoint into a news story.

Journalists will specify the communities to which the people mentioned in their articles belong when such information is needed to understand the context of the event reported.

Courtesy should characterize the relations of journalists with the readers and with the various actors in public life. The same applies within the newsroom.

Conditional Mode
Usage of the conditional as a precaution in case of unverified news should be limited.

Conflict(s) of interest
Journalists accept to cover or go on covering a field only if no personal conflict of interest appears. Examples:
– a journalist must not cover a field in which a member of his family or of his circle of friends is vested with decision-making authority;
– a journalist will not buy shares in a company which he monitors for the newspaper. If he already owns some, he will sell them or entrust the management of them to a brokerage firm.

Journalists who happen to go to the French provinces or to a foreign country for an assignment or a conference will inform the newspaper’s local correspondent.

A sub-editor who has to make cuts in a story will strive not to destroy its balance. He will be especially careful not to cut quotes or news items that stand in opposition to other viewpoints cited.

As far as possible, the sub-editor will inform the journalist of the cuts made.

Readers’ Mail
The letters that are sent to us by readers, with rectifications, corrections, bursts of enthusiasm and fits of anger, express their attachment to Le Monde. Our duty is to answer them, even by a brief message. Nothing is more unpleasant than silence, which is felt as a sign of contempt. “Every letter deserves a reply”, Hubert Beuve-Méry   used to say.

Most letters can be answered with a few handwritten lines. Some require more elaborate answers. In case a journalist cannot answer because of his workload, he will ask a secretary temporarily to manage his mail (every secretariat is equipped with a large choice of form-replies).

The most interesting letters should be transferred to the “mediator”  for possible publication.

The journalist who is covering an event (a demonstration, a trial, etc.) should not leave before the end of it.

Journalists will be careful to return the invitations they accepted. They will refuse repeated invitations that have no clear purpose.

Professional Discretion (devoir de réserve – see Petitions)
In their public contacts, journalists will be careful not to express their own opinions (political, religious, philosophical, etc.) too ostensibly. They will observe a duty of professional discretion which is the best guarantee that they can hear and be heard properly.

Journalists will consult Le Monde’s data bank before they undertake to cover or investigate some event, so as to take advantage of archived information. They should be aware of what the newspaper has published on the topic over the past few years.

Right of reply
Requests by readers to take advantage of their right of reply shall be immediately forwarded to management and to the legal department.

The daily editorial is written by a newsroom journalist. It is not signed. It is checked by the managing editor and by the executive editor and can be edited as to its shape or its substance.

Editorials by the executive editor bear his initials.

Journalists available during electoral evenings and nights will assist the “France” department.

Journalists will not run for municipal, regional or parliamentary elections.

Le Monde will respect embargoes on documents or reports delivered by institutions or firms.

That rule does not apply if the news staff has managed to obtain the information by its own means.

Le Monde will allow interviewees to read the transcript only of long interviews (like those published on Mondays). This is a precautionary measure to avoid any serious misunderstanding. If the interviewee corrects the text so as to soften its tone, the newspaper reserves the right not to publish  the interview.

Always correct.

Human Interest Stories
The first and last names of minors are not published, except if the families of them have given their agreement or if their first names have become well-known.

The first and last names of rape victims are not published, except if the victims have explicitly asked that they be.

The first and last names of people suspected of crimes and misdemeanours are published if they are adults.

Should be proscribed. Le Monde is not to give lessons to anyone.

Open Letter
Le Monde does not publish open letters.

Reviews of books published by journalists or occasional contributors of Le Monde will be concluded, under the byline of the reviewer, by a note mentioning the author’s status.

Incrimination  (Mise en cause)
Any person, firm or institution incriminated in Le Monde must have been informed previously. Their arguments or refusal to comment must absolutely be mentioned in our columns.

Case Dismissed (Non lieu)
Le Monde  will unfailingly publish the news of a case being dismissed whenever previously it has reported that a case was opened. A non lieu cleanses a person from any suspicion as soon as the decision is final. The space devoted to that information (on the front page possibly) will be proportional to the degree of attention Le Monde gave the case.

“Non-inscription au B2”
By that phrase, magistrates mean that the conviction will not be entered into the judicial file of the accused. In that case, abstain from citing the name of the convicted person whose rehabilitation the judges wish to assist.

Journalists should not sign petitions. They can express their viewpoints by writing analyses or comments within the newspaper.

To avoid any risk of unconscious plagiarism, journalists refrain from using a wire-service story or a published article as a draft on which to weave their own stories.

Always check with judiciary sources that a complaint has effectively been lodged before mentioning it.

Journalists will refrain  from using any phrase or cliché with sexist or racist connotations (“a charming lady registrar”, “a very Oriental kind of cruelty”) or social contempt (“the son of a humble school teacher”).

Corrections received in the newsroom will be transmitted to management in the shortest possible time. The publication in Le Monde of a correction will not be accompanied by any comment from the news staff.

Any document (report, book, video etc.) that has provided much of the substance of a story must be explicitly quoted.

In case of a disagreement about a cut or an alteration, a journalist can ask to withdraw his by-line.

– In the case of a story signed by several journalists, their by-lines are listed in alphabetical order;
– when a journalist signs several articles on the same page, only the main story is signed with his full name;
– when a journalist publishes a story and an interview on the same page, he will put his full name on the article and his initials on the interview (e.g. statements collected by E.J.);
– when the copy-desk merges the articles of two correspondents, it will point it out thus: “Frédéric Bobin (in Beijing) and Philippe Pons (in Tokyo)”;
– journalists will avoid signing synthetic articles with their by-line plus the added mention (with AFP” or “with Reuters), etc.

Opinion surveys
The publication of any opinion poll must absolutely contain several indications:
– the name of the polling service;
– the name of the firm or institution that commissioned and funded the survey;
– the date when the survey was done;
– the size of the group polled.

Journalists will be careful to protect their sources of information. Article 109 of the French Code de procedure pénale    specifies that: “Any journalist who is being heard as a witness about information collected in the exercise of his profession, is free not to reveal the origin on if”. When abroad in countries with an authoritarian or dictatorial government, reporters will be particularly careful not to endanger their sources. To that end, they will take certain precautions such as being discreet on the phone, taking minimum notes, purging their address books etc.

That duty to protect sources of information should go hand in hand with a duty to check the information received. The mere existence of a source is not sufficient to validate a piece of information. A critical attitude towards sources must be a constant practice.

Le Monde takes great care in dealing with the suicides of VIPs or ordinary people. The staff will avoid giving any general and peremptory interpretation.

Journalists will not accept free “press” trips before being authorized to do so by their editor or his/her deputy. They respect an absolute rule: to prepare intensively for the trip so as to be able to evaluate the information gathered during the journey.

Le Monde’s Advertising Charter (1997)
1. In the pages of Le Monde, both in the daily and in its supplements, the editorial content is clearly distinguishable from the advertising content. The executive editor will see to the enforcement of that principle through several intangible rules:

– the daily and each of its supplements carry the Le Monde logo on their front page;

– every page of the daily or of the supplements carry the mention Le Monde next to the page number;

– the typography and iconography and layout of advertising should not  lead to any confusion with editorial material. Any graphic similitude likely to mislead the reader will cause the ad to be refused both for the daily and for its supplements;

– display ads are published under a double horizontal rule. Ads included in tables (Stock Exchange listings, television or cultural events listings, etc.) are also distinguished by a specific presentation within their environment;

– whole pages of advertising are published under a single line over which the mention “Advertising” appears in the middle of the page, on a level with the page number;

– Any formula of the ” advertorial” type in which advertising and editorial contents are mixed, is proscribed, in the daily as in the supplements.

2.  The content of advertising published by Le Monde, in the daily as in the supplements, will conform to legal requirements:

– Le Monde uses the services of BVP, a fact that is mentioned daily in the newspaper, so as not to publish deceitful ads or ads that do not conform to the regulation relative to fair competition;

– the managing editor makes sure that the contents of advertising messages published in the daily or its supplements may not cause legal action for obscenity, instigation to murder or to racist hatred. To that end, all ads considered questionable by the advertising department or the newsroom are submitted to him for approval. The managing editor will take advice from the daily’s legal department or any other expert of his choice.

3.  The advertising or elements of publicity campaigns distributed by Le Monde but not included in the daily or in its supplements (catalogue, special edition magazine, publicity objects, gifts, etc.) are to submit to the same contents rules as advertising published in the daily and its supplements: the managing editor will see to it that none pertains to obscenity, incitement to murder or to racial hatred. None of those ads or elements in a publicity campaign should mention Le Monde, except, if the need occurs, to clear the daily of any responsibility in their contents.

4. Means of communication relayed by Le Monde via the ads published in its daily and the supplements (Minitel number, website of a multimedia network, 800 style free phone calls, etc.) are presented in a space that clearly belongs to the advertising sphere. When those same means of communication are mentioned in, the editorial content, the advertiser or product advertised must absolutely be identified.

5. The publisher/executive editor of the newspaper, whose criminal and civil responsibility is involved, intuitu personae, by the whole content of Le Monde, can oppose the inclusion of any ad in the daily or the supplements as well as the distribution of any advertising with and separately from Le Monde (catalogue, magazine, publicity object etc.).

6. Permanent collaborators of Le Monde must not participate, directly or indirectly, even anonymously, even in an unpaid capacity, in the conception, writing, illustration or layout of an advertisement published in the daily or in any of its supplements, or distributed with the daily.

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