Editorial Ethics and Guidelines
Executive leadership at Ideastream Public Media has adopted the Code of Editorial Integrity for Public Media. The Editorial Integrity Project, a collaboration of public television’s Affinity Group Coalition and public radio’s Station Resource Group, created a list of principles, policies and practices. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting provided funding and the National Educational Telecommunications Association provided organizational support.
In mid-2018, content leadership at Ideastream began a process of creating new editorial ethics and guidelines specifically for content creators. To create these new guidelines, team members drew heavily from their own experiences in journalism (more than 150 combined years) and from three source documents: the aforementioned Code of Editorial Integrity for Local Public Media, the NPR Guiding Principles and Ethics Handbook, and the PBS Editorial Standards and Practices. Ideas and, in some cases, exact language from these sources were used in the creation of Ideastream Public Media’s new editorial ethics and guidelines. This is a “living document” with updates expected when needed. When updates are made to these ethics and guidelines, they will be shared and discussed with Content Department staff and made public.
The following are Ideastream Public Media’s editorial ethics and guidelines. Each tenet contains a summary explanation. This document will apply to all forms of content presented on any platform, including events inside and outside of the Idea Center, the home of Ideastream Public Media.
Updated December 2022
It’s Ideastream Public Media’s goal to be Northeast Ohio’s most trustworthy source for in-depth news and information. Our priority is to create content that is reliable and accurate, that is gathered with integrity and professional care and that is presented with precision and respect for the intelligence of our audience. These ethical principles form the foundation of those efforts.
We have a public service mission. We assess community needs and interests to inform and guide editorial decisions. Just as careful attention to our sources makes our content stronger, careful listening to our public makes our work better. We take full responsibility for that work, so we must always be ready and willing to answer for it, and we welcome and respond to questions and criticism. When we err, we will correct the error and make it clear to our audience that we have done so.
Content creators pursue information about events and issues in our communities with accuracy and integrity. Diligent verification is critical. Accuracy includes more than simply verifying whether information is correct; facts must be placed in sufficient context to ensure that the content is as fair and complete as possible. We will operate ethically, with independence and impartiality. Content creators devote resources and skills to presenting the fullest version of the truth they can deliver, placing the highest value on information they have gathered and verified themselves. Our commitment to accuracy also requires gathering, updating and, if inaccurate, promptly correcting information as it develops.
Ideastream Public Media, and all other producing organizations from which we receive content, must be – and must be perceived as – free from undue influence of special interests or other outside pressures. Funding from any individual donor, corporation or other organization does not give the funder any right or expectation that they will have a role in editorial decision-making, nor will they have such a role. It is imperative that Ideastream management makes donors or potential donors aware of the editorial firewall that separates content creation from funding. Management also must remind content creators that their professional judgments are not to be influenced by the opinions, desires or interests of those who provide financial support to the organization. While we are diligent about fact-checking, we do not allow sources or others outside of the Ideastream editorial process to review our content prior to distribution on any platform.
Content creators must consider all relevant facts and perspectives on a particular subject. We need to be open-minded when evaluating the merits and assessing the credibility of all information, opinions or viewpoints, while also recognizing personal opinions and biases. Content creators must be mindful of the culture, history and social customs of people when presenting their views. In all content creation endeavors, we must treat those we interview, interact with and report on with fairness and professionalism. All of the content we create is edited for length and clarity. Whenever we quote, edit or otherwise interpret what people tell us, we aim to be faithful to their meaning without favoritism or discrimination. In all of our work, especially matters of controversy, we strive to consider the strongest arguments we can find on all sides. Our intent is to help people make sense of important issues, not merely to create the appearance of balance.
Ideastream Public Media is committed to becoming an anti-racist organization, which means continuously identifying and removing barriers to:
- Cultivating an internal culture of inclusion that understands and values our unique differences;
- Providing a breadth of programming that reflects and appeals to our diverse audiences;
- Offering services, news and information that cater to the full diversity of our community.
Our content needs to reflect the views and priorities of people from different racial and ethnic groups and political and socioeconomic groups, as well as from different parts of the region we serve. We seek out and utilize the expertise and wisdom of people from different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences to be sources and subjects of our content. We aim to make our content accessible in various formats, platforms and community settings so all sectors of our diverse communities can benefit from it.
The actions of Ideastream Public Media employees, even when “off the clock,” affect public trust. We require integrity, credibility and impartiality in our personal and professional lives, as well as on digital platforms, including social media accounts. We all have many interests and activities outside of work. In all of these outside activities, we need to be careful not to compromise Ideastream’s reputation and public trust, nor our own.
Partnerships and Collaborations
Ideastream Public Media maintains our defined editorial standards when partnering with other entities. We identify and articulate our principles, policies and practices to all stakeholders in our partnerships and other collaborations. We require our partners to adhere to the same standards for any shared content, including transparency in the editorial process and the disclosure of content funders. We disclose all of Ideastream’s editorial partners. The form and frequency of these acknowledgements and disclosures will vary with the character of the relationship and the editorial content or activity that it produces.
Transparency means producing content that allows audiences to evaluate the credibility of the work and determine for themselves whether it is trustworthy. We are transparent about how we discover and verify the facts we present and strive to make our decision-making process clear to the public. We disclose relationships, such as with partners or funders, that might appear to influence our coverage.