The goal of Create! Magazine is to cover news in the arts as impartially as possible and to treat readers, news sources, advertisers and others fairly and openly. The reputation of our publication rests upon such perceptions, and so do the professional reputations of our staff members.
Thus Create! and our staff members share an interest in avoiding conflicts of interest or an appearance of a conflict.
Conflicts of interest, real or apparent, may come up in many areas. They may involve the relationships of staff members with readers, news sources, advocacy groups, advertisers, or competitors. Create! strives to maintain the highest standards of journalistic ethics. We are confident that our staff members share that goal.
Create! also recognizes that staff members should be free to do creative, civic and personal work to earn extra income in ways separate from their work at our company. Before engaging in such outside activities, though, staff members should exercise mature professional judgment and consider the stake we all have in our good name.
THE SCOPE OF THESE
These guidelines generally apply to all current staff whose work directly affects the content of the magazine, including those on leaves of absence. They include writers, editors, photographers, artists, designers, and curators. This group of professional journalists is what this text means by “staff ” or “staff members.”
Administrative assistants, secretaries and other support staff are generally not bound by these strictures. Our contracts with freelance contributors require them to avoid conflicts of interest, real or apparent. In keeping with that, they must honor these guidelines in their assignments for Create! Magazine. Create! believes beyond question that its staff shares the values these guidelines are intended to protect. Nevertheless, we view any deliberate violation of these guidelines as a serious offense that may lead to disciplinary action, potentially including dismissal.
Our fundamental purpose is to protect the impartiality and neutrality of Create! and the integrity of its report. In many instances, merely applying that purpose with common sense will point to the ethical course. Sometimes the answer is self-evident. Simply asking oneself whether a course of action might damage the magazine’s reputation is often enough to gauge whether the action is appropriate. Every staff member is expected to read this document carefully and to think about how it might apply to his, her or their duties.
A lack of familiarity with its provisions cannot excuse a violation; to the contrary, it makes the violation worse. The provisions presented here can offer only broad principles and some examples. Our world changes constantly, sometimes dramatically. No written document could anticipate every possibility. Thus we expect staff members to consult their supervisors if they have any doubts about any particular situation or opportunity covered by this document. In most cases an exchange of emails should suffice.
Thus this handbook is not an exhaustive compilation of all situations that may give rise to an actual or perceived conflict of interest. It does not exclude situations or issues giving rise to such conflicts simply because they are not explicitly covered within this document, nor does the document or any of its particular provisions create an implied or express contract of employment with any individual to whom the guidelines apply.
Create! reserves the right to modify and expand the guidelines from time to time, as appropriate. The authority to interpret and apply these guidelines is vested in ranking editors. They may delegate that duty to their ranking assistants, but they remain responsible for decisions made in their name.
In addition to this handbook, we observe the Newsroom Integrity Statement, promulgated in 1999, which deals with such rudimentary professional practices as the importance of checking facts, the exactness of quotations, the integrity of photographs and our distaste for anonymous sourcing; and the Policy on Confidential Sources, issued in 2004. We also observe policies against harassment and on computers and electronic communications.
Create! treats its readers as fairly and openly as possible. In print and online, we tell our readers the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. It is our policy to correct our errors, large and small, as soon as we become aware of them.
We treat our readers no less fairly in private than in public. Anyone who deals with readers is expected to honor that principle, knowing that ultimately the readers are our employers. Civility applies whether an exchange takes place in person, by telephone, by letter or online. Simple courtesy suggests that we not alienate our readers by ignoring their letters and emails that warrant reply.
Create! gathers information for the benefit of its readers. Staff members may not use their position to make inquiries for any other purpose. As noted above, they may not seek any advantage for themselves or others by acting on or disclosing information acquired in their work but not yet available to readers.Staff members who plagiarize or who knowingly or recklessly provide false information for publication betray our fundamental pact with our readers. We will not tolerate such behavior.
Create! treats news sources just as fairly and openly as it treats readers. We do not inquire pointlessly into someone’s personal life. Staff members may not threaten to damage uncooperative sources. They may not promise favorable coverage in return for cooperation. They may not pay for interviews or unpublished documents.Staff members should disclose their identity to people they cover (whether face to face or otherwise), though they need not always announce their status as journalists when seeking information normally available to the public.
Staff members may not pose as police officers, lawyers, business people or anyone else when they are working as journalists. (As happens on rare occasions, when seeking to enter countries that bar journalists, correspondents may take cover from vagueness and identify themselves as traveling on business or as tourists.)
Relationships with sources require the utmost in sound judgment and self discipline to prevent the fact or appearance of partiality. Cultivating sources is an essential skill, often practiced most effectively in informal settings outside of normal business hours. Yet staff members, especially those assigned to beats, must be sensitive that personal relationships with news sources can erode into favoritism, in fact or appearance. And conversely staff members must be aware that sources are eager to win our good will for reasons of their own.
Even though this topic defies hard and fast rules, it is essential that we preserve a professional detachment, free of any whiff of bias. Staff members may see sources informally over a meal or drinks, but they must keep in mind the difference between legitimate business and personal friendship. Scrupulous practice requires that periodically we step back and take a hard look at whether we have drifted too close to sources we deal with regularly.
The acid test of freedom from favoritism is the ability to maintain good working relationships with all parties to a dispute. Clearly, romantic involvement with a news source would foster an appearance of partiality. Therefore staff members who develop close relationships with people who might figure in coverage they provide, edit, package or supervise must disclose those relationships. In some cases, no further action may be needed. But in other instances staff members may have to recuse themselves from certain coverage. And in still other cases, assignments may have to be modified or changed. In a few instances, a staff member may have to move to a different department to avoid the appearance of conflict.
Obeying the Law in
Pursuit of the News
Staff members must obey the law in the pursuit of news. They may not break into buildings, homes, apartments or offices. They may not purloin data, documents or other property, including such electronic property as databases and email or voice mail messages. They may not tap telephones, invade computer files or otherwise eavesdrop electronically on news sources. In short, they may not commit illegal acts of any sort.
Staff members may not record conversations without the prior consent of all parties to the conversations. Even where the law allows recording with only one party aware of it, the practice is a deception.
Dealing with the Competition
Staff members deal with competitors openly and honestly. We do not invent obstacles to hamstring their efforts. When we use facts reported by another publication, we attribute them.
Staff members may not accept gifts, tickets, discounts, reimbursements or other inducements from any individuals or organizations covered by Create! or likely to be covered by the magazine. (Exceptions may be made for trinkets of nominal value, say, $25 or less.) Staff members may not accept employment or compensation of any sort from individuals or organizations who figure or are likely to figure in coverage they provide, edit, package or supervise.
Staff members may not accept anything that could be construed as a payment for favorable coverage or as an inducement to alter or forgo unfavorable coverage. Staff members may accept any gifts or discounts available to the general public. And staff members may accept free admission at museums or other benefits extended to all employees by virtue of our support of various cultural institutions.
Staff members must be mindful, however, that large discounts may create the appearance of partiality, especially by those who have a hand in the coverage of the company or industry offering the discount. If any such discounts do raise doubts, staff members should bring them to the attention of their supervisor before accepting.
The Use of Borrowed Equipment
Staff members may keep for their own collections — but may not sell or copy — books, recordings, tapes, compact discs and computer programs sent to them for review. Such submissions are considered press releases. Recorded or digital media, such as tapes or disks, must be destroyed or returned to the provider if not retained by the journalist; they may not be copied, given away or left where they could be carried off for illicit copying or reuse.
Create! treats advertisers as fairly and openly as it treats readers and news sources.
Obligations to Create! Magazine
Staff members may not use Create! affiliation for purposes not connected with Create! employment.
Employment may not be used to obtain special treatment or advantage from governmental, commercial or other organizations (except for entrance to museums and other cultural institutions).
Staff members may not use Create! stationery, business cards, forms or other materials for any purpose except the business of the magazine.
Speaking for Create! Magazine
Staff members must not disclose confidential information about the operations, policies or plans of Create! Magazine. Department heads and executives may authorize other staff members to comment publicly on policies or plans within the staff members’ areas of responsibility and expertise.
If staff members are approached by other media or other outsiders to discuss Create! content or policy, they should refer the questioners to a masthead executive.
Staff members are free to discuss their own activities in public, provided their comments do not create an impression that they lack journalistic impartiality or speak for Create! Magazine.
None of these restrictions should be interpreted as barring a staff member from responding openly and honestly to any reasonable inquiry from a reader about that staff member’s work. If a reader asks for a correction, that request should be passed promptly to a supervisor. If the request threatens legal action or appears to be from a lawyer, the complaint should be promptly referred to the editor.
At no time may a staff member turn over notes, interviews, documents or other working materials to any third party, including agents, producers, studios or outside production agencies, or share those materials with them unless legally compelled to do so.
Appearing on Broadcast Media
Staff members may participate in radio, television or Internet interviews or discussions, paid or unpaid, that deal with articles they have written or subjects that figure in the coverage they provide, edit, package or supervise. Such occasional appearances must not imply that they carry the sponsorship or endorsement of Create! (unless they do). Staff members should be careful about the use of their names and that of the magazine in materials promoting the appearances.
Disclosure of Possible Conflicts
Any staff member who sees a potential for conflict or a threat to the magazine’s reputation in the activities of spouse, friends or relatives must discuss the situation with his, her, or their supervising editor. In some cases, disclosure is enough. But if Create! considers the problem serious, the staff member may have to withdraw from certain coverage. Sometimes an assignment may have to be modified or changed. In a few instances, a staff member may have to move to a different department to avoid the appearance of conflict.
In all cases Create! depends on staff members to disclose potential problems in a timely fashion so that we can work together to avoid issues.
Dealing with Outside Contributors
Create! readers apply exacting standards to the entire magazine. They do not distinguish between staff written articles and those written by outsiders. Thus as far as possible, freelance contributors to Create!, while not its employees, will be held to the same standards as staff members when they are on Create! assignments. If they violate these guidelines, they will be denied further assignments. Any disagreement over whether a specific provision applies to outside contributors should be resolved before the assignment proceeds.