As journalists, we are called to be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting, and interpreting information. We have a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government, seeking to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open and that public records are open to all. It is our job to report without fear or favor, monitoring powerful institutions and people and offering a voice to the voiceless.
Our goal in doing so is to provide the residents of New Jersey with reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context. It is our job to help our readers make order out of information and verify what is reliable. Our allegiance is to the truth, and that requires an independence of mind that assumes nothing.
As an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization, we report on government, businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations in our state, but we do not provide opinion or commentary. We believe it is up to us to provide our readers with information and let them form their own opinions based on what has been reported.
Accuracy is the foundation of our work and verification is central to that work. We strive to seek primary source documents whenever possible and look for real people who were witnesses to events. We work to be as transparent as possible about our sources and reporting methods so our readers can make their own assessments about the information we give them.
We strive to communicate clear standards to the public, and must never deceive readers or mislead sources.
Acccuracy and fairness
It is our job as journalists to take responsibility for the accuracy of our work. We must verify information before releasing it, using original sources whenever possible. Neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy. It is our job to gather, update, and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
We don’t plagiarize.
Nothing in our work should be fabricated. We don’t use pseudonyms, composite characters or fictional names, ages, places, or dates.
No story is fair if it omits facts of major importance or significance. Fairness includes completeness.
No story is fair if it misleads or deceives the reader.
We must diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing. Whenever we portray someone in a negative light, we should make a real effort to obtain a response from that person. We should give them a reasonable amount of time to get back to us before we publish. What is “reasonable” may depend on the urgency and competitiveness of the story. If we don’t reach the parties involved, we should explain in the story what efforts were made to do so.
We strive to identify all the sources of our information. We must consider sources’ motives before promising anonymity, and reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere.
To the extent that we can, we identify in our stories any important bias such a source may have. If the story hinges on documents, as opposed to interviews, we describe how the documents were obtained, at least to the extent possible. We do not say that a person declined comment when he or she is already quoted anonymously.
Editors have an obligation to know the identity of unnamed sources in our stories so that editors and reporters can jointly assess the appropriateness of using their information. Sources need to understand this practice. Reporters are not allowed to shield a source from being identified to an editor. At the same time, we must do everything in our power to protect confidential sources who provide us with information. These sources sometimes risk their jobs and careers to alert the press of potential wrongdoing.
We don’t misidentify or misrepresent ourselves to get a story. When we seek an interview, we identify ourselves as Vindicator journalists. We avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
We don’t pay for interviews, information, or documents.
Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues, and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.
We must balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness. We must have compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage, and use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent.
Correcting the record
Journalists should respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity, and fairness.
It is our responsibility to acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently, explaining corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.
We must also expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within our organizations, when it takes place.