WNN IS COMMITTED TO ACCURATE, INDEPENDENT, ETHICAL AND RESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM. WE REPORT FAIRLY; WE ATTRIBUTE CLEARLY; WE CORRECT MISTAKES TRANSPARENTLY. OUR EDITORIAL POLICIES AND PROCESSES ARE ALWAYS INTENDED TO SUPPORT THOSE VALUES.
WE WELCOME FEEDBACK FROM OUR READERS. IF YOU FEEL THAT WNN HAS FAILED TO MEET OUR OWN STANDARDS—OR YOURS—PLEASE LET US KNOW. YOU CAN CONTACT US USING THIS FORM.
- We expect all WNN journalists to comply with these guidelines, but no memo could anticipate every contingency. It is your responsibility as a WNN journalist to hold yourself to the highest professional standards.
- You must always represent yourself as a reporter for WNN. NEVER use deception or pretense to obtain information.
- Do not accept any remuneration in exchange for coverage. Do not cover any company, industry or issue in which you have a financial interest.
- You are responsible for the accuracy of your story. Check every single fact that you include: dates, spelling of names, titles, timelines, numbers and other statistics. Hard-check any superlative—i.e., is this really the first, the worst, the only, the highest?
- Write what we know. Be clear about what we don’t know or what information is open to debate, and do not speculate.
- Weigh the data and evidence impartially. Acknowledge and include analyses or interpretations that may conflict with your personal views.
- Be aware of inflected language—e.g., “He slipped a provision into the bill.” If the provision was added to the bill via normal procedure, “slipped” is editorializing, not reporting. Don’t imply motive.
- Before identifying someone by race or ethnicity, ask yourself if you are using those identifiers to convey an agenda or theme subliminally — i.e., members of this group always behave this way. And don’t identify only “outliers” in a story unless that is relevant. That is, in a story about a group of soldiers, don’t identify only the race of the African-American soldier(s) unless it’s crucial to the story.
- Reach out for comment and give parties time to respond. (The length of time to wait is a judgment call relative to the seriousness of the story. If we are accusing a person or company of wrongdoing, we must include fair comment.)
- If you are contacted about a possible error in your story, examine the question fairly, with an open mind.
- If we have indeed erred, you are responsible for writing a correction, noting that at the bottom of the story and notifying your editor and the editor-in-chief.
- We make any needed corrections promptly and transparently.
- If we need to retract a story, we do so transparently. We do not unpublish or “disappear” problem copy.
Our Corrections policy and the list of errors and corrections is on our website here.
“Valuable aggregation does two things well: It discovers relevant news stories and highlights the most relevant parts of those stories.” —Jeff Sonderman, digital media fellow, the Poynter Institute
- Credit the source or sources of the story in the second paragraph. Explicitly name-check them: “the BBC reported” or “according to The Guardian” or whatever is the case.
- With very rare exception, do not aggregate stories that rely on anonymous sources: we don’t know how reliable or independent the source might be. If a responsible publication relies on an anonymous source, it may be acceptable to cite it, but only after discussion with your editor.
- WNN reporters should use anonymous sources only rarely, in consultation with their editors (at least one of whom must know the identity of the source).
- Essentially, try to fact-check your story by using as many sources as possible.
- Use only credible sources. The Associated Press is a good source. Wikipedia is not.
- We should never repeat the same language from any story, other than quotes (which must be attributed to the media organization that obtained the quote, unless it was a public statement or press conference). If we do, we’re plagiarizing, which is a fireable offense. See separate plagiarism policy below.
- When writing about criminal charges or allegations, be specific and complete. What was the precise charge, if any? Did the accused person plead not guilty? Did a lawyer deny the allegations? If there was a conviction, check on what count(s).Double-check all these details. Unless someone has been convicted, all headlines and other text must clearly state that the crime is alleged. Use language such as “allegedly” or “accused of” or “arrested in connection with” (not “arrested for,” which implies guilt).
- If in any doubt about the source or material, don’t do the story.
QUESTIONS OF TASTE:
Follow the WNN Style Guide here.
- In general, we avoid profanity, especially in headlines, and use it only in quotations where it is relevant and necessary.
- We do not publish nude photos (or links to them) or grisly, graphic images.
- We never spell out the n-word.
Plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.
The company has a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism and fabrication, and violation of this policy will be considered a gross misconduct offense that may result in immediate termination of employment on the first offense (summary dismissal).
It is at the manager’s discretion to determine how much content is required to constitute plagiarism.
Fabrication of any extent is unacceptable.
- The most common instances of plagiarism involve replicating text published by another person or organization without attribution.
- Editorial staff are strictly prohibited from using someone else’s work as his or her own.
- Plagiarism occurs when portion(s) of text have been cut and pasted, without citing where the text originally came from. Editorial staff must gather and verify every piece of information that is included in their final product.
- It is not acceptable to merely make minor modifications to another publication’s wording or to duplicate its story structure. Writers should produce stories with original phrasing and structure and with additional information and context.
- On the rare occasion when we can’t confirm a critical fact that another publication has reported, we must credit the fact to that publication. If you are ever unsure about the use of such material, consult your manager or editor-in-chief.
- There are instances when it is acceptable to use your own words as they appeared in previous WNN stories—this should be limited to background information. Examples include very brief descriptions of the Mueller investigation, the government shutdown, the history of migrant caravans, a summary of charges in an ongoing trial. Please do this sparingly and always flag to your editor when filing the story.
- It is not acceptable to cut and paste paragraphs from one of your previous stories into another one.
- It is not acceptable to use your own words if they were published by another publication; it is also a violation of the rules to use the words of your WNN colleagues (except in a brief quotation, explicitly attributed and linked).
- Notify your manager or editor-in-chief if you feel that another publication has plagiarized your work.
SUICIDE, MASS SHOOTINGS AND OTHER DEATHS:
Mass casualty events are always confusing; do not rely on information from social media.
- Do not identify suspects or cite a number of victims until there is official confirmation.
- Do not use social media to report a profile of a suspected killer or victim. It’s all too easy to be mistaken.
Poynter’s Guidelines for covering mass shootings
When writing about a suicide:
- Do not describe the method. Do not give specifics. Do not say how painful or otherwise.
- Do not speculate about a proximate cause—a lost job or relationship break-up, for example.
- Never write that someone “committed” suicide—this is a dated phrase from a time when suicide was a crime. It no longer is. Use “died by suicide” or “took his/her own life.”
- Do not publish the contents of a suicide note (unless the family has purposely made it public).
- ALWAYS include a note at bottom with details of where to get help: “If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours, every day.”
The Poynter Institute offers further guidelines here.
Some guidelines for covering deaths of celebrities:
- Cause of death only if not suicide;
- Limit of five stories on the subject;
- No stand-alone coverage of children if they are minors (they can be mentioned in the main story).
- No stand-alone coverage of former partners (who are no longer tied to the subject) unless relevant.
- Net worth only if the individual’s wealth is central to who they were.
- Reaction to passing
- Life in pictures
- Highlights of career
WRITING ABOUT SCIENCE/HEALTH STUDIES:
In general, do not base a story on a single study. There are cases where doing so is a reader service as long as we’re careful to present the study in context and with appropriate caveats.
- Be clear about whether what you’re writing about is a study, an opinion piece or a review of the literature.
- Don’t oversell the results. Is it actually a cure, or just a new avenue for further research? Does it delay or diminish symptoms, undo damage, prevent a syndrome or disease from developing? Make sure the headline is nuanced as well as the story..
- Be explicit about the methodology and its implications. Were the test subjects animal or human? How big was the test sample? How did researchers measure the results? Was there a control group?
- To the extent that you can, put the study into a larger context. Do the results confirm the conventional wisdom, or appear to contradict our earlier understanding? What have other recent studies shown? Is this a new approach to studying the issue/disease?
- Also put the issue itself into context: How many people are affected by this, and how serious is it? How might this research change how we address a problem like climate change or a challenge like a Mars mission?
- Assess the “cons” of the treatment—price, availability, known or possible side effects. Is the treatment studied the only one of its kind or are other treatments available?
- Identify any conflicts of interest—the group or industry that sponsored the study, for example.
- And, as always, BE CAREFUL NOT TO PLAGIARIZE. It’s dangerously easy to parrot the language of a press release, particularly when it’s about a complicated technical subject on which you have no expertise. Take the time to think it through for yourself and explain it in your own words.
SOCIAL MEDIA // INTERACTING WITH READERS:
- Be aware that your personal social media accounts may portray you as someone with a bias, or with a personal or partisan agenda. That could undermine your credibility as an independent journalist and raise questions about your—and WNN‘s—impartiality.
- If you respond to a reader, you must be respectful and civil at all times. No profanity, no ad hominem attacks.
- Do not do anything on social media that could harm WNN‘s reputation.