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Editorial Policy

Ethics policy

(This is a condensed version of Unplugged News India’s policies; it is not intended to be exhaustive.)

These policies are intended to govern Unplugged News India’s journalism in a rapidly changing media world. These standards are a “living document” that we will continue to alter and update based on feedback from our journalists, readers, and our impressions of changing requirements. Because the conditions under which information is received and reported vary greatly from case to case, these principles should not be construed as creating hard and fast rules or as addressing every possible scenario.

Conflict of interest

Wherever and wherever practicable, this news organization pledges to prevent conflicts of interest or the perception of a conflict of interest. We have implemented strong policies on these concerns, aware that they may be more restrictive than is typical in the private sector. Specifically:

We pay our own way.

We do not accept gifts from news organizations. We do not accept free excursions. We neither seek nor accept preferential treatment as a result of our positions. There are a few exceptions to the no-gift rule: invitations to meals, for example, maybe accepted if they are rare and innocent, but not if they are frequent and their goal is calculated. It is forbidden to offer free entrance to any event that is not open to the general public. Only seats not offered to the general public, such as those in a press box, or tickets granted for a critic’s review, are exempt. Arrangements would be made to pay for such seats wherever available.

Governments, government-funded organizations, groupings of government officials, political organizations, or organizations that take stances on controversial matters do not pay us honoraria or costs. A reporter or editor is also prohibited from accepting remuneration from any person, firm, or organization he or she is covering. We should also avoid collecting funds from people, businesses, trade associations, or other organizations that lobby the government or attempt to influence matters covered by the media. Unless the reporter or editor is covering them, broadcast organizations, educational institutions, social organizations, and many professional organizations are normally exempt from this requirement.

It is critical that no freelancing projects or honoraria be accepted that could be seen as veiled bribes in any way. We make every effort to avoid being obligated to news organizations or special interests. We must avoid being involved with people whose positions make them likely to be the target of journalistic curiosity and scrutiny. Our personal lives, as well as our professional lives, must not reflect poorly on our profession or The Post.

We stay away from active participation in any political causes – politics, community affairs, social action, demonstrations — that could jeopardise or appear to jeopardise our capacity to report and edit properly. Although relatives cannot be held to Unplugged norms in a fair manner, it should be understood that their work or involvement in causes can appear to jeopardise our integrity. Traditional family members’ or other members of your household’s commercial and professional relationships must be revealed to department heads.

Fairness

The Unplugged’s reporters and editors are dedicated to accuracy. While there are continuous debates regarding objectivity, editors and reporters may simply grasp and pursue the concept of fairness. A few simple practices result in fairness: There is no such thing as a fair story if important or significant details are left out. Completeness is a part of fairness.

There is no such thing as a fair story if it contains essentially unimportant information at the expense of important facts. Relevance is a part of fairness.

If a story intentionally or unintentionally misleads or even deceives the reader, it is not fair. Honesty – being on the same page as the reader — is a part of fairness.

No article can be considered fair if it includes individuals or organizations that have not been given the opportunity to respond to claims or assertions made about them by others. Fairness entails proactively seeking feedback and sincerely considering that feedback.

Taste

Taste and decency are respected by Unplugged News India, which recognizes that society’s conceptions of taste and decency are always changing. A word that was derogatory to the previous generation may become part of the common lexicon of the next. However, we will refrain from being obnoxious. We’ll avoid using profanities and obscenities unless they’re so important to a story’s message that it wouldn’t be complete without them. Without the approval of the executive and managing editors, no obscenities may be used.

If editors determine that content containing potentially objectionable material has actual news value, they should include visual and/or written warnings. For example, we may link to a Web page that contains content that violates Unplugged’s original content guidelines, but we warn viewers about what they could see before they click the link, such as “Warning: Some photographs on this site feature horrific images of conflict.”

Finally, we do not provide links to websites that support or encourage unlawful activities. If you’re unsure if a site is covered by this rule, contact the Legal Department.

Opinion

The editorial pages are separated from the news columns in a solemn and thorough manner. The reader, who is entitled to facts in the news columns and opinions in the editorial and “op-ed” pages, will benefit from this distinction. Nothing in this separation of functions, however, is intended to preclude honest, in-depth reporting, analysis, or commentary from news columns when clearly designated. The labels are made in the following manner:

Analysis: Interpreting news based on evidence, including data, and predicting how events will unfold base on previous events

Perspective: Individual narratives about their own experiences are included in discussions of current events with a point of view.

Opinion: In the Opinions area, there is a column or a blog.

Review: A critical evaluation of a service, product, performance, or artistic or literary work by a professional critic.

Social media

When utilizing social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others for reporting or personal reasons, we must maintain our professional ethics and keep in mind that Unplugged News India journalists are always Unplugged News India journalists.

Journalists at Unplugged News India have social media accounts that represent the newsroom’s reputation and integrity. We must always be mindful of safeguarding The Unplugged News India’s reputation for journalistic integrity, fairness, and independence, even as we express ourselves in more personal and informal ways to establish deeper ties with our readers. Regardless of privacy settings, any comment or link we share should be considered public information.

Journalists of Unplugged must refrain from writing, tweeting, or uploading anything — including photos or video — that could be interpreted as indicating political, racial, sexist, religious, or other bias or preference.

Interests of the nation and community

The Unplugged News India is deeply concerned about both its national and societal interests. We feel that the broadest possible sharing of information will best serve these interests. A federal official’s claim of national interest does not always imply that it is in the national interest. A local official’s declaration of community interest does not always imply that the community is interested.

A journalist’s job description is as follows:

Despite the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult in the Internet age, reporters should strive to remain in the audience, to be the stagehand rather than the star, to report the news rather than create it.

Journalists will never conceal their identity or profession when acquiring information. They won’t dress up as cops, doctors, or anything else but journalists.

Standards for fact-checking and verification

Reporters at Unplugged News India are in charge of reporting, writing, and fact-checking their pieces. One or more editors will look through your stories. The Unplugged News India employs a multilayer framework for stories review and editing, which may include fact-checking. Assignment editors (department heads, their deputy editors, and assistant editors) collaborate with reporters on stories origination and typically provide an initial review when a story is submitted by a reporter; multiplatform editors (also known as copy editors) often provide the initial review on breaking news stories and routinely provide the second-level review on print and other media, and copy editors (also known as copy editors) who provide the second-level review on print and other media. Editors in charge of digital platforms may be involved in the presentation of content, headlines, news alerts, and newsletters, among other things. The number of editors who examine an article before it is published, as well as their level of engagement, vary based on a variety of factors such as complexity, sensitivity, and time constraints.

Policy on corrections

Unplugged News India tries to provide quick, accurate, and comprehensive news coverage. We make every effort to address inaccuracies in content published on digital platforms and in print as quickly as possible. When we publish a correction, clarification, or editor’s note, our objective is to notify readers of what was incorrect and what is correct as clearly and quickly as possible. Anybody should be able to figure out how and why a mistake was fixed.

Changing the information in a digital report

As we sharpen and improve our particular pieces of journalism, they change. In this digital age, our readers have come to expect it. Unless there is a specific purpose to notice the inclusion of new information or other changes, it is unnecessary to include notes on stories saying that the story has been updated; the time stamp informs readers that they are reading an evolving tale. Whenever we rectify a substantial error, we must use a correction, clarification, or editor’s note to notify readers.

Corrections

If we are substantively correcting an article, photo caption, headline, graphic, video, or another piece of content, we should issue a correction explaining the change as soon as possible.

Clarifications

When our reporting is factually true but the language used to convey those facts is not as clear or precise as it should be, the language should be updated and a clarification added to the story. A clarification can also be used to emphasize that we did not initially seek a comment or answer that has now been added to the story, or that fresh reporting has modified our narrative of an incident.

Editor’s notes

A correction that throws the entire content of an article into question, raises a substantial ethical issue or discusses whether an item did not satisfy our standards may necessitate an editor’s note and an explanation of what is at issue. An editor’s note must be approved by a senior editor before it can be added to a piece.

Other corrections policies

  • When a reader discovers an error and posts it to the comment stream, the audience engagement team should announce that it has been repaired in the comments.
  • If we sent out incorrect information in an alert, we should send out another notice alerting individuals that the news provided in the previous alert was incorrect and providing readers with the correct information.
  • When we publish incorrect material on social media, we must correct it on that site.
  • We do not assign blame to specific reporters or editors (e.g., “due to a reporting error” or “due to an editing error”). However, we may remark that an error occurred as a consequence of a manufacturing malfunction or because inaccurate information was provided to us by a reliable source (wire services, individuals quoted, etc.).

Take-down (unpublish) requests

We are increasingly being asked to remove (or “unpublish”) articles from our website due to the ease with which our published content can be searched and accessed online, even years after publication.

We do not grant take-down requests as a matter of editorial policy since they should be evaluated at the highest level. If the subject alleges that the story was incorrect, we must investigate and, if required, publish a correction. And there may be instances where fairness necessitates an update or follow-up coverage, such as if we reported that a person was charged with a crime but did not disclose that the charges were later dropped due to a lack of evidence. In brief, we will examine if further editorial action is necessary, but we will not erase the article as if it had never been published. When we publish publicly available personal data, we will only consider takedown requests if the person concerned is in danger of physical harm as a result of the material’s availability.

Policy on sources

Unplugged News India is committed to providing its readers with as much information about the sources of the information in its stories as possible. We strive to make our reporting as clear as possible to our viewers, so they can understand how and where we acquired our information. Transparency is both honest and fair, which are two values we hold dear.

Confidential sources

Before they agree to speak with us, sources frequently require that we promise not to name them. We must be hesitant to approve their request. When we employ an anonymous source, we expect our readers to go out of their way to believe the credibility of the information we provide. We must be convinced in our own minds that the advantage to readers outweighs the loss of credibility.

In such cases, we will have no choice but to grant sources secrecy. We acknowledge that there are times when allowing sources to remain anonymous allows us to provide our readers with more complete information than if we insist on naming them. We understand that, in many cases, sources will be reluctant to share information concerning corruption within their own companies or high-level policy differences, for example, if releasing their identities could cost them their jobs or expose them to damage. However, providing anonymity to a source should not be done lightly or automatically.

Unnamed sources are much preferable to identified sources. Reporters should press sources to speak on the record. We’ve found over the years that consistently pressuring sources to identify themselves works — not always, but more often than many reporters assume. If a source refuses to identify himself or herself, the reporter should explore obtaining information elsewhere.

Unnamed sources used in a story must be identified by editors so that editors and writers may mutually assess their appropriateness. Some sources may request that a reporter not divulge their identity to the reporter’s editors; we should refuse. When this occurs, the reporter should state unequivocally that the material gathered cannot be released. At least one editor will be aware of the source of anything published.

In Unplugged stories that rely on confidential informants, we prefer at least two sources for factual material, and those sources should be independent of one another. We Favour sources who have a firsthand or direct understanding of the subject matter. A relevant document can occasionally be used as a secondary source. There are times when we will publish information from a single source, but only after consultation with the executive editor, managing editor, and appropriate department head. The decision to choose a single source is based on the credibility of the source and the justification for the source’s information.

We must do everything we can to inform our readers about why our anonymous sources deserve our trust. Our responsibility is to readers, not sources. This includes refraining from attributing information to “sources” or “informed sources.” Instead, we should aim to provide more information to the reader, such as “sources familiar with the thinking of defence lawyers in the case,” “sources whose work brings them into touch with the county executive,” or “sources on the governor’s staff who disagree with his policies.”

Dealing with sources

We make every effort to handle sources fairly. This entails contextualizing remarks we quote and summarizing the arguments of people we quote in ways that are clearly fair and factual. When possible, and in context, potentially contentious statements made by public figures and others should be quoted in full sentences or paragraphs. In some circumstances, this will imply specifying which question was being addressed when the comment was made.

When requesting comments from persons who are the topic of a story, we should give them a reasonable amount of time to respond. This includes not contacting at the last minute before a deadline if we have a choice in the matter.

We make no assurances to sources that we will refrain from additional reporting or efforts to verify the material they provide us.

We should not use ad hominem quotes from anonymous sources. Sources that want to criticize someone should do so under their own identities.

We should avoid blind quotations whose sole function is to give colour to a story.

We do not employ pseudonyms and do not mislead our readers regarding the identity of characters in our writings. When we decide to identify someone by something other than their entire name, we do so in a straightforward manner — for example, by using only their first name. Editors must be involved in decisions to use less than a full name, and we must explain to readers why we do not use full names.

We never deceive or mislead our sources. We identify ourselves as reporters with The Unplugged News India. Our reporting must be honourable, and we must be willing to explain openly everything we do to get a story.

Attribution

We must be truthful about the source of our information. Facts and quotations in a story that were not produced by our own reporting must be attributed. Attribution of material from other media must be total. Plagiarism is not permitted. It is the policy of this news organisation to give credit to other publications that develop exclusive stories worthy of coverage by The Unplugged.

Readers should be able to tell the difference between what the reporter saw and what the reporter learned from other sources such as wire services, pool reporters, email, websites, and so on.

We place a high priority on first-hand reporting. We anticipate Unplugged News India when possible, reporters should evaluate the benefits of reporting from the scene of the events they are covering.

If a reporter was not there at a scene depicted in a story, it should be made clear in the piece. Assertions that something happened even though the reporter was not present should be attributed, hence the narrative device of presenting an event as it was told to us by witnesses must involve attribution. We must attribute those recollections transparently if we reconstruct statements or exchanges between people based on the recollections of those people or witnesses who heard them talk. If you are unsure how to apply these principles in a specific scenario, consult with your editors.

Special attribution issues may occur in rare cases if a source has permitted us to see something that reporters would not normally be able to see. They should be discussed with editors at all times.

Any major reporting by a stringer, staff member, or other Unplugged employee should be acknowledged with a byline or tagline at the end of the story. When such people take notes from radio or television broadcasts of news events, undertake basic research, or double-check routine information, they are not required to be credited.

Ground rules

Journalistic ground rules might be perplexing, but we strive for clarity in our interactions with sources and readers. This includes explaining our ground rules to sources and providing readers with as much information about how we obtained the information in our stories as possible. It is critical to establish ground rules at the start of a conversation if a source is not on the record. It is better for the explanation of ground rules to be recorded during a taped interview. We Favour on-the-record interviews over all others, although we understand that getting sources on the record is not always possible. When it isn’t, we owe readers explanations, as discussed above.

Almost all interviews should begin with the assumption that they are being recorded. Inexperienced sources — usually ordinary individuals who find themselves in the news unexpectedly — should understand that you are a reporter and should not be startled if they are cited in the news.

Unplugged News India’s definitions of several forms of attribution are provided below to help establish ground rules. People use these terms to signify different things, so if your interactions with a source will be anything other than “on the record,” you should have a dialogue to define the terms before beginning an interview.

On the record: For quotations, give credit to the source by name.

On background, or not for attribution: Both of these terms refer to information that can be traced to “a police department official” or “an unnamed player on the squad.” When dealing with sources who indicate they wish to share information “on background,” we must be careful to convey to them that this means we can quote the comment while protecting the source’s confidentiality. Some sources will try to bargain the terms of art in “background” attribution; for example, a State Department official may request to be described as “an administration official.” We should aim to priorities the reader’s interest. For example, in a piece about a feud between the Pentagon and the State Department, mentioning “an administration official” is meaningless to readers. Use your best judgement and strive for maximum attribution disclosure.

Deep background: This is a problematic category that should be avoided if at all possible. Accepted information on “deep background” can be incorporated in the report but not acknowledged. As a result, there is no way to assist readers in understanding where it is coming from, which is why we discourage the use of extensive backstory. You can also use information obtained on deep background as the foundation for additional reporting.

Off the record: This is the most difficult because so many people abuse the term. Off-the-record information, according to the traditional meaning, cannot be used for publication or subsequent reporting. However, numerous sources, including some high-level officials, use the term to signify “not for credit to me.” We must use extreme caution when interacting with sources that claim to wish to remain “off the record.” If they mean “not for attribution to me,” we must clarify the distinction and discuss what the attribution will be. If they truly mean “off the record,” as the word is conventionally interpreted, we should avoid listening to such material in most cases. We don’t want to be stymied by a source who tells us something that becomes unusable because it was given off-the-record.

A source may be willing to provide us with information for our guidance or to encourage future reporting on the condition that his or her comments are not used as the basis for publishing.

Quoting sources and sharing information

Our objective in quoting people is to capture both their words and intended meaning accurately. That requires care in negotiating ground rules with sources. We do not allow sources to change the rules governing specific quotations after the fact. Once a quote is on the record, it remains there.

A source may consent to be interviewed only if we guarantee to read quotations back to them before publishing. We should not enable sources to edit what they said in an original interview, even though accuracy or the risk of losing an on-the-record statement from a critical source may require it at times. Allowing a source to add to a quotation and then explaining the sequence to readers is a better and more acceptable choice. Consult your editor if you find yourself in this quandary.

Some reporters share sections of stories with sources prior to publication to guarantee technical accuracy or to identify errors. A science writer, for example, may read a passage, or even a portion of a Storey, to a source to ensure that it is accurate. However, it is against our policy to share draughts of whole stories with other sources prior to publication, unless the executive or managing editors request permission (which will be granted very seldom).

When negotiating rules of engagement with a source, reporters and editors should expect whatever they say or write, whether in print, over the phone, or in person, to become public. They should make no promises, accept no compromises, and make no concessions that are inconsistent with our policy and The Unplugged’s principles. It is critical that we communicate with sources in a clear and plain manner.

Expert sources

In The Unplugged News India, we quote a lot of people. We’re continually interviewing men and women on the street, and it seems like we’re relying more and more on “experts” to provide context for stories, make interpretive points, or make judgements about the folks we’re covering. This is a positive trend. However, it is critical to consider who we are quoting, whether for citizen reaction or professional advice.

We must always endeavour to include a diverse range of voices in our work. This includes avoiding relying on the same academics or public figures for reactions to stories. We must all look for new specialists, particularly women, younger people, people of colour, unusual ideas, and those who aren’t frequently quoted by us or other media outlets but make up a sizable portion of our readership and the broader community. This will not happen unless we make a concerted effort. Reporters must broaden their source universe.

Similarly, we must remember to speak with a diverse spectrum of people who are touched by the events we report. When we write about a new school board policy, we should consult with students, teachers, and parents to understand its implications. We should hear from affected employees when we cover a company’s sale or relocation. Ordinary individuals of all ages should be a more regular part of our journalism than they have been in the past.

Diversity policy

The Unplugged News India’s journalism is founded on diversity. Accurately reporting stories from India and around the world requires engaging a diverse range of voices as interviewees and first-person writers, striving for a staff that reflects a diverse range of backgrounds and life experiences, and soliciting feedback from all who are willing to provide it.