Code of Ethics of The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa., published 29 January 1999.
Newsroom employees are subject to rules set forth in The Tribune-Democrat Manual of Policies and Procedures and also by any existing labor contract. However, because of the nature of their work, newsroom employees must be further vigilant about their role and the role of the newspaper in the community.
The purpose of this policy is to further define companywide policies set forth in the policy manual and any existing labor contract.
The policy manual clearly states that the conduct of employees must conform to the best interest of the company. For newsroom employees, those interest exceed the requirements of employees in other departments.
Newsroom employees include reporters, copy editors, photographers, newsroom assistants and any others whose duties in any way involve the news process, whether part-time or full-time.
Newsroom employees should never accept compensation in any form, including money, gifts, food, clothing, the promise of special favors or influence for the normal performance of their duties. It is the purpose of this policy to provide a guideline to avoid the perception of wrongdoing, influence or personal interest in bringing fair, accurate and objective news to our readers.
We have an obligation to keep ourselves, and therefore, the newspaper, above reproach in the eyes of the readers.
As a competing business, The Tribune-Democrat reserves the right to protect its interest in the marketplace by requiring that newsroom employees who gather, process and present news do so only for their employer.
Employees may not receive any form of compensation by providing other competing media with news tips, stories, supporting and background information, photos or assistance in any fashion. When requested to do so, employees must report the request to the publisher, editor or managing editor, who have the authority to determine each on its merit.
Competing news agencies include, but are not limited to, newspapers whose circulation or advertising compete with The Tribune-Democrat. This also includes television and radio stations, magazines, shopping tabloids, business or tourist publications, high school or college newspapers, sports teams who produce programs or publications for fans and also any other publication with a competing interest.
The Tribune-Democrat’s basic area of competition is western and central Pennsylvania, or a territory defined by the publisher.
At the same time, The Tribune-Democrat will be helpful to other news agencies when requested to do so. As a member of The Associated Press, we will cooperate routinely with the AP and other agencies as the editor determines.
We will not cooperate when there is a chance that by contributing to a news service, we will supply a competitor with news before we publish it.
Newsroom employees are absolutely forbidden to breach the confidence of an exclusive story, editorial position or editorial endorsement and any special project, promotion or activity.
Requests to provide stories, information or photos to noncompetitors should never be fulfilled without the knowledge and/or prior approval of the publisher, editor or managing editor. If this participation is approved, compensation is permitted.
Journalists are expected to maintain an objectivity based on fairness and openness. Membership or association with special groups or interests, political or nonpolitical, will color that objectivity in the eyes of the readers.
Therefore, Tribune-Democrat newsroom employees are forbidden from participation in political parties or events because that participation gives our readers the perception that our work is biased or favors a party, group or cause.
The policy manual prohibits all Tribune-Democrat employees from holding paid political office but permits employees to hold nonpaid political office.
Newsroom employees are not permitted to hold a paid or nonpaid political office.
News employees are encouraged to take part in nonpolitical events in their communities with the prior approval of the publisher, editor and managing editor, who will consider each request on its merit.
The Tribune-Democrat recognizes that, by the nature of their profession, some employees may be considered experts in their field. We acknowledge that position and understand that newsroom employees will be asked to participate in their communities from time to time.
We encourage employees to be good citizens and members of their communities. However, caution must be used in choosing how you participate because of your role.
A precise guideline cannot cover all situations. Newsroom employees should serve their profession first and foremost and not their personal interests. All such participation on boards of trustees or boards of directors of any business or group, should be discussed with the publisher, editor or managing editor. Participation on nonpolitical advisory boards or groups is permitted.
Newsroom employees may not work in public relations, or as sports information directors.
The newspaper expects and requires news employees to use their talents and abilities primarily for The Tribune-Democrat. The newspaper has an obligation to protect itself as a business.
Employees may write or photograph for other noncompeting news agencies and receive compensation for that work. On all occasions, employees must seek the approval of the publisher, editor or managing editor, in addition to notifying their immediate supervisor.
Like other employees of The Tribune-Democrat, newsroom employees must seek prior approval on any outside employment, including employment not related to their jobs.
Conflicts and problems can be avoided by seeking the approval of the publisher, editor or managing editor prior to agreeing to perform work outside of the direct responsibilities to The Tribune-Democrat.
Freelance writers and photographers are considered independent contractors who are not full-time employees of The Tribune-Democrat. As such, they are restricted in how they may perform contracted work.
Materials, including film, computers, and working facilities or transportation may not be made available to independent contractors. They may not be given training or assistance that goes beyond a description, expectation or deadline for the contracted work.
Independent contractors may not use newsroom facilities, including computers, telephones, the library or related materials. Independent contractors who cannot perform the agreed-upon work without newsroom resources should not be considered independent contractors.
Newsroom employees may not work as independent contractors for The Tribune-Democrat while full-time or part-time employees of the newsroom.
Violations of these policies could make employees subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal.