USA – York (Pa.) Daily Record Guide to your workplace (1999)

York (Pa.) Daily Record Guide to your workplace, published 29 January 1999, last updated 17 February 1999.

What you do on a computer can be awfully hard to take back.

– Internet accounts are for our business and professional activities, the same as for portable computers and cellular phones. Private business should be conducted through private accounts. The company is paying for a limited number of simultaneous accesses to the Internet through its service provider. If you are on line for personal use, you might be blocking someone from important work.

– Represent yourself on line as if you were appearing at a public meeting representing the Daily Record. Every message you send is stamped “” What you write, even in private e-mail, can easily be posted to lists and newsgroups available to millions of people. No doubt it will be saved by somebody.

The same ethical standards we practice off line apply on line. Don’t participate in political activities or take sides on matters of public debate electronically. Don’t express opinions about products, companies or individuals when you may be perceived by the public as a representative of the Daily Record.

If you do participate in an on-line discussion group, please clarify that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of the organization.

– Act as though the laws of libel apply to electronic communications. Remember that laws of other jurisdictions might be more restrictive than the laws in our state. You must apply the same journalistic standards of fair reporting, good sourcing and verification that you would if interviewing face to face or gathering material in some other media.

Again, please see your supervisor, the editor, or managing editor if you have questions about issues that arise in this increasingly important area.

Gifts, volunteerism, outside employment
A newspaper is in a special position of public trust and responsibility. We write stories and editorials that raise issues of not only conflict of interest but appearance of conflict of interest. All employees of the York Daily Record should hold themselves up to the same standards that we expect of other community leaders.

One implication of this is that we need to have standards on areas such as acceptance of gifts, community service and outside employment. The ethics section of the “POLICY94” file in the Atex system also discusses these issues. “POLICY94” can also be found in the newsroom policy section of the red binder given to you at orientation.

Gifts: Basically, we should not accept anything of significant value from subjects or potential subjects of news coverage. If we cannot decline or return gifts, they should be donated for our internal auctions that raise money for causes such as the Christmas Emergency Fund.

Volunteerism: For many years, newspapers discouraged community involvement by journalists so they could remain distanced from any potential conflicts. There was a big price paid by this. Journalists became aloof from the communities they covered, and missed out on life experiences that could enrich them both personally and professionally. The York Daily Record encourages you to be active in the community, whether it’s coach a baseball team or making a meal at the soup kitchen. However, this requires more situational judgment calls. Use common sense. Don’t handle publicity for an organization. You should stay away from public-policy advocacy groups and political campaigns. Journalists active in an organization that is a subject of coverage must disclose that involvement should any conflict or likely potential conflict arise. Failure to disclose such involvement could result in disciplinary action. If you are in doubt about appropriate involvement, please discuss this with your supervisor.

Outside Employment and Free-lancing: We’re in a highly competitive, growing media market. The unique material we produce is the most important thing we have to sell, and it’s in everyone’s interest to protect this. The company must approve any work YDR employees may wish to perform for the following organizations: the York Dispatch, York Sunday News, the Harrisburg Patriot News, Sunday Patriot, Capital News Service or its successor, the Baltimore Sun, The Hanover Evening Sun, the Lancaster New Era, Intelligencer Journal, Sunday News, Community Courier, This Week, WGAL-TV, WPMT-TV, WHP-TV, WHTM-TV, WSBA Radio, the Merchandiser, USA Today, and Central Penn Business Journal. Work for other organizations also can be problematic, particularly if it appears the work could put us at a competitive disadvantage or affect our credibility. Free-lance or outside employment relationships also can create conflict-of-interest situations in your work for the paper. On the other hand, it may be perfectly fine to take a story written for the paper, add material collected on your own time, and do a rewrite to prepare a new article for free-lance sale to a magazine.

The York Daily Record owns the rights to the material it publishes. This includes the stories, photos and negatives, artwork or graphics to which you contribute as an employee of the Daily Record. You are not entitled to sell on your own or give permission to anyone to re-use any material produced for the Daily Record or its related ventures.

Requests to reproduce published material, or other questions about free-lance and outside employment situations should be referred to the editor or managing editor.

Resignation/exit interview
Most employees enjoy their work experience with us. The atmosphere here is pleasant, professional and rewarding for your career. Most who leave the York Daily Record move on to bigger and better papers and continue to advance their careers. Should you choose to leave us, we ask that you give us at least a two weeks’ notice in writing, which will allow us to adjust work schedules and minimize the extra workload on your friends you will be leaving behind.

We like to conduct exit interviews, designed to provide feedback to us to make our workplace better today and in the future. You will be asked to answer a few brief questions.

York Daily Record Ethics Policies
Be wary of going “off the record.” Newsmakers who go “off the record” can maneuver you into the position of not being able to report or pursue what they have told you. In the vast majority of cases, a hard-nosed attitude against going off the record prods the newsmaker to go ahead and say what he wanted to say anyway, or it at least leaves you free to seek the information without restriction elsewhere.

If there are conditions on attribution, or any possibility of misunderstanding about what will or will not be used for publication, be sure the source understands them. This is particularly true when sources are not public officials or do not generally talk to the media. These are the generally accepted definitions of the conditions of attribution:

On the record: All statements and opinions can be quoted and paraphrased at will, and are attributed directly to the source. This is the preferred manner.

For background: All statements and opinions can be quoted and paraphrased at will, without direct attribution to the source. However, the newspaper has strict guidelines on the use of unnamed sources, so this may be of little actual value.

Off the record: Anything said off the record cannot be quoted or paraphrased at all. The reporter should make it clear to the source that he or she will attempt to learn the information from other sources without implicating the original source. Never agree to go off the record if the understanding is that you can not try to get the information from another source. At that point, you have ceased to be a reporter.

Ethical standards
A. Newsroom personnel must not use their association with the newspaper for personal gain or influence.

People will sometimes offer a journalist gifts in hopes of getting favorable coverage for the organizations they represent. To prevent such a situation from developing and to prevent even the appearance of conflict of interest in our coverage, the following is a Daily Record policy:

a. Personal gifts to newsroom employees generally are not permitted. An employee may accept such modest gifts as a cup of coffee or a soft drink if acceptance of such a gift is reasonably relevant to the course of the employee’s duties. Material gifts such as cash, clothing, a bottle of liquor, etc., are not permitted. If you should be mailed such a gift, tell a supervising editor immediately and that will be put into the company auction, benefits from which are given to the Christmas Emergency Fund.

b. Employees are urged to use the utmost caution in accepting a gift of a meal from a source. In this area you may face a quick, unexpected decision and you are expected to use good judgment and put personal desires aside.

If a source offers to buy you lunch, the best policy is for you to buy the meal or to go Dutch treat. If the source insists on paying, offer to buy the next lunch, set a date and follow through. If the meal is going to be expensive, take a second to question the source’s motives. Avoid anything that may compromise – or may allow the source to compromise – your integrity. A cheese sandwich is one thing. A five-course meal with drinks at the Accomac Inn is another. If a source insists on treating you to a big-tab dinner, try to delay him/her until you can talk it over with a supervisor.

Remember, employees will be reimbursed for reasonable costs – such as lunch or dinner – with a source when unavoidably incurred during the course of the employee’s duties. Receipts are necessary for reimbursement.

c. Employees who review or use for reference any books or records, tapes and discs that publishers and recording companies provide to the newspaper turn them in for auctioning to benefit the Christmas Emergency Fund.

Items that arrive unsolicited in the mail are auctioned off periodically in our news office, and the proceeds donated to charity.

d. Junkets, free trips and reduced rate or subsidized travel may not be accepted. An exception may be made, however, when free or reduced-rate transportation is the only means available to cover an event (such as a military flight or a trip arranged by a foundation or a government agency).

Staff must consult with their supervising editor before accepting such arrangements.

Staff members may travel on charter plans (such as with a sports team or political candidate) and take advantage of charter rates, hotel bookings or other services offered by a news source. Again, all such trips must be approved by your editor. In every instance, the news value of the trip will be the determining factor in approving or disapproving participation. The company also will consider reimbursement in such instances.

e. Staff members may not accept the free use or reduced-rate purchase of merchandise or products for personal pleasure when such an offer involved the employee’s newspaper position. The only exception is the use of a product for a short time to be evaluated for news stories or if purchased for the company. The extended or regular use of products for evaluation purposes is not allowed.

f. A reporter must never guarantee positioning of an article or photo. Also, a reporter must never guarantee when an article will be published. The determination in both instances is at the discretion of the editors.

g. No employee is permitted to hold another job or office or duty that may represent a conflict of interest with his/her duties. An employee must inform his or her supervisor of any other employment or membership in any organization that would represent such a conflict.

h. An employee must make his or her supervisor aware of any involvement in any employee or personal friend of the employee may have in a story to which the employee is assigned or which the employee suggests be run by the newspaper. Generally, such employees should not be assigned to such stories, but there may be exceptions, such as first-person stories or stories that the employee may be more knowledgeable about than others on the staff.

i. When relatives of employees of the York Daily Record are prominently involved in stories or pictures, a supervising editor should determine whether the relationship should be mentioned in a parenthetical paragraph. If in doubt, err on the side of identifying the relationship.

B. For the past few years, sports staffers have been following APSE Ethics Guidelines, which generally support guidelines stated above. APSE guidelines follow:

1. The newspaper pays its staffer’s way for travel, accommodations, food and drink.

If a staffer travels on a chartered team plane, the newspaper should insist on being billed. If the team cannot issue a bill, the amount can be calculated by estimating the cost of a similar flight on a commercial airline.

When services are provided to a newspaper by a pro or college team, those teams should be reimbursed by the newspaper. This includes providing telephone, typewriter or fax service.

Editors and reporters should avoid taking part in outside activities or employment that might create conflict of interest or even appearance of a conflict.

(a) They should not serve as an official scorer at baseball games.

(b) They should not write for team or league media guides or other team or league publications. This has the potential of compromising a reporter’s disinterested observations.

(c) Staffers who appear on radio or television should understand that their fire loyalty is to the paper.

3. Writers and writers’ groups should adhere to APME and APSE standards: No deals, discounts or gifts except those of insignificant value or those available to the public.

(a) If a gift is impossible or impractical to return, donate the gift to a charity.

(b) Do not accept free memberships or reduced fees for membership. Do not accept gratis use of facilities, such as golf courses or tennis courts unless it used as part of doing a story for the newspaper.

(c) Sports editors should be aware of standards of conduct of groups and professional associations to which their writers belong and the ethical standards to which those groups adhere, including areas such as corporate sponsorship from news sources it covers.

4. A newspaper should not accept free tickets, although press credentials needed for coverage and coordination are acceptable.

5. A newspaper should carefully consider the implications of voting for all awards and all-star teams and decide if such voting creates a conflict of interests

6. A newspaper’s own ethical guidelines should be followed, and editors and reporters should be aware of standards acceptable for use of unnamed sources and verification of information obtained other than from primary news sources.

(a) Sharing and pooling of notes and quotes should be discouraged. If a reporter uses quotes gained secondhand, that should be made known to the readers. A quote could be attributed to a newspaper or to another reporter.

7. Assignments should be made on merit, without regard for race or gender.

Guidelines can’t cover everything. Use common sense and good judgement in applying these guidelines in adopting local codes.

News judgment
Our bias is to do stories and publish photos as opposed to not doing so. That seems self-evident but often newsrooms spend considerable time thinking of reasons why something needn’t be published. Informing the public in a timely manner is key to our mission. Still, it’s often the case we can’t or shouldn’t use some material, and we’re always assessing how to best use the material we want to publish. That’s what news judgment is all about.

While no guidelines can be exhaustive, the following criteria is a good place to start when evaluating newsworthiness. Much of this comes from the textbook, “The Art of Editing.”

a. Questions

A story/photo be used at all?

A story be used in full or in part?

A story/photo run on IA, section front or inside?

b. Criteria
(Does a story/photo reflect one or more of these values?)
1. Audience: No two audiences are alike, so it is reasonable to assume that readers’ tastes differ from city to city. Audiences may differ even within a city. Readers of The New York Times, for example, may have tastes that differ significantly from those of readers of the New York Daily News. Good editors have a feel for the interests of their audiences, and in many cases readership research has helped to clarify those interests. In other words, tone.

2. Impact: The number of people affected by an event is often critical in determining how extensively an account of it will be read. If garbage rates are to increase throughout the city, the story has more impact than if the garbage rates of only 15 families were affected.

3. Proximity: If the event happened nearby, it may be more interesting to a newspaper’s readers than it would be if it happened in another country.

4. Timeliness: News is important when it happens, and old news is of little value to readers.

5. Prominence: Prominent people are of more interest than those who are not. If the president changes his hairstyle, that may be news. If the local butcher does, chances are that few people care.

6. Oddity: A 30-pound tomato may be interesting, and therefore newsworthy, because such a tomato is unusual. Events that are firsts or lasts, and therefore historical, also may be unusual enough to merit attention in the news.

7. Conflict: Sport events, crime, political races and disputes often are newsworthy because conflict plays such an important role in modern society.

8. Visual impact: Photos that have strong and/or interesting graphic elements will help draw a reader into a page.

Altering or faking photos
1. The content of a photograph may never be changed or manipulated in any way.

2. Only the established norms of standard photo printing methods, such as burning, dodging, black-and-white toning and cropping, are acceptable. Retouching is limited to removal of normal scratches and dust spots.

3. Color may be corrected only to ensure honest reproduction of the original. Color adjustments always should be minimal.

4. Any deceptive presentation of information in a news photograph (e.g., arranging debris at an accident scene) is prohibited.

5. Posed situations or the use of models for illustrative purposes should be specifically identified to the reader when there is the possibility that someone will believe the picture portrays a spontaneous event.

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