These guiding principles for Grady Newsource were created in conjunction with the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s partnership with Trusting News and with inspiration from the Reynolds Journalism Institute and USC Annenberg Media.
Although “what is news?” is a complex question that often leads to vigorous newsroom debate, the guiding principles that lead Grady Newsource reporters to cover a story include: timeliness, proximity, impact to audience, consequence, prominence, rarity, human interest, relevance, and conflict. First and foremost, our mission is to serve the residents of Northeast Georgia by informing them in a way that helps them make decisions about and understand their lives and communities.
Getting the facts right is of premiere importance. Reporters will check and double-check for accuracy. Our reporters will report only that which comes from verified sources, which includes on-the-record interviews and documents that are primary sources. Our reporters work to confirm all information through multiple channels and sources, and they strive to gain information from as many sources as possible within deadline constraints.
In breaking news, we will attribute information to official sources like local police and/or sheriffs departments, the UGA Department of Public Safety, or local fire departments. We don’t use reporting from other stations or publications without independent verification.
Corrections and Clarifications
Any factual errors will be followed by a prominent, public correction. Corrections replace the incorrect facts along with a description of the type of error made. If the error is on a platform that prevents editing, the reporter will reply to or comment on the post with corrected information, unless the error is so serious it must be deleted (see Deletions). If content was unclear or misleading but not incorrect, Newsource will craft a clarification that describes the information clearly and adds a note about how the original was unclear. Whenever possible, the nature of the correction or clarification will be equal in prominence to the original: as a caption or post on social media, using our red highlight at the top of an article on our website, read aloud on a podcast or broadcast, etc.
Part of the significance of publishing is that work becomes part of the historical record of both our news organization and Northeast Georgia. Whether on our website, broadcast or other digital or social media channels, a story should only be deleted if it contains severe factual errors that undermine the basis of the reporting and a correction cannot remedy the issue — or unless there is a legal or ethical reason to pursue deletion, such as moving on from past arrests/misdeeds or instances where facts disclosed are harmful to sources. If there are concerns, contact the Newsource Managing Editor, Dr. Amanda Bright, and/or the Director of Newsource, Prof. Dodie Cantrell-Bickley. Newsource reserves the right to deny the request if it determines compliance will impede the public well-being by denying the public the right to know the information.
Privacy Rights for Sources, Victims, Minors and Suspects
Grady Newsource reporters work by the axiom that, in the end, all any of us owns is our good name. Our dictum is like that of the physician: First, Do No Harm. We will not publish someone’s name unless there is real news value. We believe in individuals’ right to privacy, and we should not infringe on those rights without good reason in the public interest.
Particularly with victims, unless the individual is otherwise well-known or newsworthy, we will not publish names or overtly identifying information.
We take special care to protect the privacy of minors, which could mean not publishing names or showing faces. We follow the Associated Press’s guidance by not identifying minors who are accused of crimes or are witnesses to them.
In reporting about those who have been accused of committing a crime, we will not refer to said individuals as “criminals” nor say they committed a crime without official attribution. We will use information from official and public record sources to clearly explain the specific status of the charges.
Use of Mugshots
Grady Newsource will no longer use mugshots of individuals accused or arrested for criminal activity. The exceptions:
- Police are searching for and requesting the public’s assistance to locate the person for questioning in connection with a crime.
- Police have made an arrest but there could be additional victims, and a mugshot could aid those additional victims in coming forward.
Reporters will only use mug shots after discussion with the faculty of record and the digital managing editor of Grady Newsource.
Verification of Sexual Assault Accusations
Grady Newsource will act with intentional caution when reporting on accusations of sexual assault, in conjunction with our guiding principles on anonymous sources and privacy rights. We will cover accusations when the accused is a figure of specific prominence and only after we have taken steps to verify the accusers’ accounts through both personal and official sources and documents.
Race, Ethnicity, and Other Descriptions of Identity
Descriptions of identity include race, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation and identity, disability, and immigration status. There are times where these identity descriptions add specific news value, such as “the first female president.” In circumstances that involve the search for a missing person or suspect, or an issue involving civil rights, specific use of descriptors makes sense. However, in all other instances, we will avoid using such descriptors when they do not hold specific news value.
In general, we will not report on suicide unless it involves a well-known or important person in the campus community or is significantly disruptive to regular campus or community activities. If so, our reporting will treat suicide as a public health issue, rather than a crime.
Profanity and Graphic Content
We will not use profane language unless part of a direct quote and with clear news justification. We will not broadcast or post nudity, pornography, excessive blood, corpses, or depictions of violence or abuse, although art or human rights issues may lead to exceptions. If we decide to report with profane or graphic content, we will use a warning detailing what is to come, so our audience will know the what and why.
Interviews and Quote Approval
All interviews conducted by Grady Newsource reporters are on-the-record (unless otherwise decided by both the reporter and the source) and for publication on any of our news products (broadcast, website, social media platforms, email newsletter, app, etc.). We do not pay sources for interviews under any circumstances. We do not submit questions in advance to sources. We do give interviewees a general idea what we will be asking them about, but if a source insists on a reporter submitting questions ahead of time, we will find someone else to interview. We don’t provide interview subjects with transcripts or recordings of their interview, and we never provide a final version of a story before it is published or broadcast. The premise of this is protecting editorial independence, which is a hallmark of the First Amendment.
Recording of Interviews
All Grady Newsource reporters will request permission and notify sources that quotes and information could be published before audio or video recording an interview of a source, and reporters will memorialize that permission by having the source verbally give permission on the recording itself.
All quotes from sources used for Grady Newsource must be attributed. Sometimes, sources will request to remain anonymous, but Newsource does not do this unless there is a specific, compelling need. For instance, if the information is of strong public need and cannot be gained from other sources with attribution, our reporters will work with the faculty instructor of record and the Director of Newsource to provide anonymity. Although use of anonymous sources is extremely rare, any content that uses anonymous sourcing must explain why it is doing so.
We follow the ONA Ethics and RTDNA Code of Ethics as guides when deciding to cover a threat of any kind (bomb threats, etc.). There must be a clear disruption to the community and identifiable, contextualized news value as weighed against possible consequences or other harm that could be connected to the decision to report.
Conflicts of Interest
Reporters should not cover stories that include organizations, teams, clubs, or classes to which they belong. We know Newsource reporters are involved throughout the University of Georgia, but the work they do should not be for personal or affiliated organizational gain. Reporters should not quote those they already know well unless such a source is vital and there are not alternatives. In the event that a reporter does have a personal connection to reporting, Newsource will disclose that connection.
Students are often politically active, and because students join the Grady Newsource newsroom as part of a class, we allow them to express affiliations or ambitions as long as they don’t represent themselves as Grady Newsource reporters while doing so. Our Newsource reporters, therefore, may work on political campaigns, make donations, attend rallies, etc., but our reporters may not produce stories about political candidates or any of the organizations with which they are affiliated. We do encourage our reporters to be aware that activism or affiliations could jeopardize their credibility with an audience. Grady Newsource will never endorse candidates.
Social networks are a way to disseminate journalistic information to an audience. When using their own social media accounts, regardless of the context, our reporters should not share information that is untrue, misleading, or one-sided. We must maintain integrity in order to maintain trust with our audience and communities. Posts on social networks are public, and any social media content on Grady Newsource accounts is subject to our Deletions and Corrections policies.
We will use direct sourcing, and not social media posts, in our reporting. If we do feel that social media content is of specific news value, the reporter will verify the source of the post using direct contact in person or through phone or email, and if that is not possible, the reporter will use internal messaging systems within the social platform in combination with research to verify source identity. We will only use social content that is within a public social media space, not from closed groups or direct messages, unless that content is placed on the record directly. Journalists will then default to screenshots and links instead of direct embedding on digital platforms, due to the often temporary nature of social media content.
Grady Newsource engages with its audience, in part, with the use of user-generated content, which is coverage produced by those outside of our newsroom. Before it is used, we will verify the source of the content and its authenticity. We follow the guidelines of the Online News Association’s Social Newsgathering Ethics Code, giving credit to originators and being transparent about how we acquired the content.
Requests for Content
We ask that content from Grady Newsource would not be republished without our knowledge and clear credit to the Newsource reporter. If an organization requests access to our content, we also ask that the organization let us know that our reporting has been republished.
© 2023 Grady Newsource
To apply Our Guiding Principles to specific scenarios, see Our Guiding Principles Scenarios.