KUOW News Code of Ethics and Practices
KUOW News Code of Ethics and Practices Revised June 2022
This code of ethics is drawn largely from the National Public Radio ethics handbook and the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. All KUOW/Puget Sound Public Radio (“KUOW”) professional staff are employees of the University of Washington (“UW”). This code conforms to University of Washington policies as set forth in the University Handbook, Volume Four, Part V, Chapter 2. UW employees are also expected to comply with the 1994 state ethics law (Chapter 42.52 RCW). Table of Contents
- Statement of purpose
- Statement of principles
- Conflicts of interest
- Giving credit
- Vulnerable groups
- Audio standards
- Photography standards
- Embargoes and non-disclosure agreements
- Politics, community and outside activities
- Fundraising, underwriting, marketing and public relations
1. Statement of purpose
KUOW is primarily a news organization. We are always testing and questioning the credibility of others. Whether we are functioning as reporters, hosts, newscasters, writers, editors, directors, photographers or producers of news, or other content, we have to stand that test ourselves. Our news content must meet the highest standards of credibility. The purpose of this code is to protect the credibility of KUOW's programming by ensuring high standards of honesty, integrity, impartiality and staff conduct. We accomplish this by (a) articulating the ethical standards we observe in pursuing and presenting material through our various distribution channels; (b) setting rules and policies that prevent conflicts of interest; (c) establishing guidelines for outside work and activities that may reflect on KUOW; and (d) establishing policies and procedures to ensure that the activities of KUOW that fall outside journalism and daily production — corporate underwriting, foundation funding, marketing and promotional activities — do not jeopardize our journalistic independence or involve KUOW journalists in activities inappropriate to their roles.
1.2 WHO IS COVERED?
1.2.1 KUOW STAFF
All KUOW editorial staff are bound by this guidance. Editorial staff are defined as staff members who play a role in shaping the journalistic or creative direction of KUOW content.
This includes, but is not limited to, leadership, managers, reporters, editors, newscasters, producers, visual journalists, data journalists, hosts and interns across the News and Programming divisions, as well as freelance editorial contributors and KUOW marketing staff who collaborate on editorial-focused engagement activities, including but not limited to social media, email newsletters, graphic design, video production and community events. All KUOW contributors should adhere to the same standards.
The code also applies to material provided to KUOW by the Northwest News Network (N3) and independent journalists or contributors. In cases where essayists or commentators make statements of fact in KUOW-published content, those statements must meet this Code's requirements. KUOW expects its outside contributors to be free of conflicts of interest on content they submit or to disclose those conflicts prior to the agreed upon work. We expect contributors to be fair and accurate in creating that material and to pursue coverage in a manner consistent with the ethical principles stated in this code. There will be rare instances where provisions of this code are not applicable to an outside contributor. Supervisors will make these judgments on a case-by-case basis and, if necessary, in consultation with the appropriate programming manager or their designee. Because contributors are not KUOW employees, the remedy for dealing with a conflict of interest or other violation of the principles of this code is rejection of the offered material, or of any future programming proposals similarly affected by the conflict or other violation of the ethical principles. KUOW may also terminate any ongoing contract with the freelancer. As with KUOW employees who produce content, outside contributors must disclose potential conflicts of interest or other issues under this Code when they accept an assignment or make a story pitch, and KUOW editors and producers must make sufficient inquiries of those persons to satisfy themselves that the outside contributors have complied with this code. See more in Section 3: Conflicts of Interest.
1.2.3 ACQUIRED CONTENT
KUOW evaluates adherence to these ethical principles when acquiring outside programming from NPR, APM or other media organizations. There may be instances in which an acquired program may not demand the application of a particular principle in this code. In such a case, the program producer should confer with the person at KUOW who is responsible for managing the program acquisition and determine that KUOW agrees that the principle need not be applied. Otherwise, KUOW expects producers of acquired standalone programming to adhere to the same level of ethical standards
1.3 APPLICATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF THIS CODE
Application and enforcement of this Code is the responsibility in the first instance of every KUOW journalist. This responsibility extends to both themselves and to every other KUOW staff member with whom they work on creating editorial content. We should feel free to guide ourselves by offering suggestions to our peers to help them comply with their obligations under this Code, and KUOW journalists should welcome any such suggestions and discuss the issues with professionalism and respect. Editors and producers have special responsibility for application of this Code to matters they are editing or producing. For each story that is produced, they should be satisfied that the standards of this Code have been met. KUOW journalists and applicable staff who do not comply with the Code may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.
2. Statement of principles
At KUOW we are expected to conduct ourselves in a manner that leaves no question about our commitment to these principles. Our coverage must be fair, independent, transparent, excellent, impartial, accurate, wide in breadth, honest, respectful, and accountable.
We place a high value on earning the respect and trust of the public when reporting on complex or controversial subjects. At all times, we report for our readers and listeners, not our sources. So, our primary consideration when presenting the news is that we are fair to the truth. That means we stick to facts and to language that is clear, compelling, and neutral. We avoid loaded words preferred by a particular side in a debate. We write and speak in ways that will illuminate issues, not inflame them. If our sources try to mislead us or put a false spin on the information they give us, we tell our audience. If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports. We strive to give our audience confidence that multiple sides and perspectives have been considered and represented fairly.
To secure the public's trust, we must make it clear that our primary allegiance is to the public. Any personal or professional interests that conflict with that allegiance, whether in appearance or in reality, risk compromising our credibility. We are vigilant in disclosing to both our supervisors and the public any circumstances where our loyalties may be divided — extending to the interests of spouses/partners and other family members — and when necessary, we recuse ourselves from related coverage. Under no circumstances do we skew our reports for personal gain, to help KUOW's bottom line or to please those who fund us. Decisions about what we cover and how we do our work are made by our journalists, not by those who provide KUOW with financial support.
To inspire confidence in our journalism, it is critical that we give the public the tools to evaluate our work. We reveal as much as we practically can about how we discover and verify the facts we present, including the aggregate diversity of sources we consult. We strive to make our decision-making process clear to the public, especially when we find ourselves wrestling with tough choices. We disclose any relationships, whether with partners or funders, that might appear to influence our coverage.
Our journalism is most valuable when we marry important truths with engaging narrative. We take enormous pride in the craftsmanship of our storytelling and in the quality of the words, sounds and images we use to help illuminate the world. When we edit, it is to add impact and clarity to our journalism — never to slant or distort. We don't allow what is sensational to obscure what is significant. We aspire to tell stories that rise above the maudlin and mundane, avoiding shallow sentimentality. Above all, we do our best to faithfully and powerfully convey the world as it is.
Our experiences and perspectives are valuable assets to our journalism. We enjoy the right to robust personal lives, yet we accept some unique professional obligations and limitations. Because our words and actions can damage the public's opinion of KUOW, we comport ourselves in ways that honor our professional impartiality. We have opinions and implicit biases like all people, but the public deserves factual reporting and informed analysis without our opinions unduly influencing what they hear or see. So, we strive to recognize and acknowledge our biases when we report and produce stories, and treat multiple perspectives fully and fairly. We aggressively challenge our own perspectives and implicit biases and pursue a diverse range of other views and life experiences, aiming always to present truth as completely as we can tell it.
When making a general assertion of fact in a story, the reporter and editor should be able to immediately identify the source and explain why that person or organization is credible and authoritative. Clear source attribution is essential to the editing process, and it also lets us stand by our reporting in a clear and convincing way if a story comes under question. We should never be in the position of looking for corroboration after a report has been published or broadcast.
KUOW needs to cover a broad range of stories that will interest all sorts of people. So while it's natural to notice news that relates to events or issues we're personally interested in, it's also crucial to ask ourselves what other people — people who would disagree with us, who live in other parts of the region, who have had vastly different life experiences from ours — would consider news. This is especially critical if we and our colleagues share similar backgrounds and points of view; a lack of diversity among employees will lead to less varied story lineups. For our coverage to be truly diverse, it needs to reflect the views of many different groups. We seek out people from different political, socioeconomic and racial groups, as well as from different parts of the region. We factor the prominence we give certain stories into our thinking; regularly ask ourselves which themes we might be overplaying and which we might be overlooking.
Journalists who conduct themselves honestly prove themselves worthy of trust. In the course of our work, we are genuine and candid. We attribute information we receive from others, making perfectly clear to our audience what information comes from which source. We avoid hyperbole and sensational conjecture. We may sometimes construct hypotheticals to help explain issues and events, but we reveal any fabrication and do not otherwise mix fiction with our news reporting. We avoid repeating misinformation. We use the “truth sandwich” when we have no choice but to repeat a falsehood stated by a source: We make an accurate statement, we characterize the falsehood, and then repeat the accurate statement. We edit and present information honestly and without deception.
Journalism should be conducted in the open, and KUOW journalists do not misrepresent themselves. KUOW journalists don’t lie about who they are and don't pose as cops, investigators or other such officials. Only in the rarest of instances — such as when public or personal safety is at issue or when lives are at stake — might we disguise our identity or intent when reporting. Before we take such a step, we engage in rigorous deliberation, consider all alternatives, and obtain the approval of the news director. Then, when we tell the story, we fully disclose what we did and why.
KUOW journalists do not record phone calls without permission. KUOW journalists do not use hidden microphones, recorders or cameras. If there is any question of legality in pursuit of a story, KUOW journalists should consult their supervisors.
Everyone affected by our journalism deserves to be treated with decency and compassion. We are civil in our actions and words, avoiding arrogance and hubris. We listen to others. When we ask tough questions, we do so to seek answers — not confrontations. We are sensitive to differences in attitudes, power relations and culture. We minimize undue harm and take special care with those who are vulnerable or suffering. And with all subjects of our coverage, we are mindful of their privacy as we fulfill our journalistic obligations. KUOW journalists think carefully about the boundaries between legitimate journalistic pursuit and an individual's right to privacy. We recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need to know can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy.
We take full responsibility for our work, so we must always be ready and willing to answer for it. Just as careful attention to our sources makes a story stronger, careful listening to our public makes our journalism better. So, we welcome questions or criticisms from our community and to the best of our ability, we respond. Mistakes are inevitable. When we make them, we correct them forthrightly, reflect on what happened, and learn from them. See more in Section 9: Corrections.
3. Conflicts of interest
To inspire confidence in us as independent and fair, we must avoid actual and apparent conflicts of interest or engaging in outside activities, public comment or writing that calls into question our ability to report fairly on a subject.
A conflict of interest is most simply described as a conflict between the private interests and the professional responsibilities of a person in a position of trust. The operative word in this sentence is "trust". All of us are in positions of trust with our audience. To maintain that trust requires that there be no real or perceived overlap between the private interests and opinions of KUOW journalists and their professional responsibilities.
An employee or contractor covered by this Code has the responsibility to disclose potential conflicts of interest. Revealing a conflict of interest after an individual has already participated in coverage where such a conflict exists or appears to exist can be extremely damaging to the reputation of KUOW. KUOW content creators must, at the time they are first assigned to cover or work on a matter, disclose to their immediate supervisor any business, commercial, financial, or personal inter
ests where such interests might reasonably be construed as being in actual, apparent or potential conflict with their duties. This would include situations in which a spouse/partner, family member or companion is an active participant in a subject area that the KUOW journalist covers. In the financial category, this does not include an investment by a KUOW journalist or their spouse/partner, family member or companion in mutual funds or pension funds that are invested by fund managers in a broad range of companies.
We encourage conversation with a supervisor any time there is a potential conflict in question. The supervisor will decide whether the interests create an actual conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict. In making these decisions, supervisors should consult with senior managers and/or the KUOW Counsel.
3.2 COVERAGE OF KUOW
On occasion, KUOW itself takes action that is newsworthy. In these cases, our goal is simple: to cover the story just as we would if it involved another organization and to take all actions necessary to ensure accurate, fair and independent coverage. Any coverage of KUOW itself is handled by journalists with no previous knowledge or involvement in the issue at hand. When possible, KUOW will request that an outside editor handle the story in order to insure impartial reporting.
3.3 COVERAGE OF OUR LICENSE HOLDER OR BOARD MEMBERS
KUOW journalists cover our license holder, the University of Washington, as they would any other organization. Editorial decisions are made based on the news value of events at the University of Washington just as editorial decisions are made regarding the news value of events at other large institutions and employers in the Puget Sound region. No University of Washington employees from departments outside KUOW — especially those who have had a hand in developing any official response to an issue involving KUOW — play any role in the station’s coverage of the situation.
KUOW journalists must disclose if a news source in a story is also a member of the Puget Sound Public Radio Board.
3.4 OUTSIDE WORK, FREELANCING, SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
The primary professional responsibility of KUOW journalists is to KUOW. They should never work in direct competition with KUOW. An example of competing with KUOW would be breaking a story or contributing a feature for another broadcast outlet or website before offering the work to KUOW.
KUOW journalists must get written permission for all outside freelance and journalistic work, including writing articles and self-publishing in blogs or other electronic media, whether or not compensated. Requests should be submitted in writing to the employee's immediate supervisor. Approval will not be unreasonably denied if the proposed work will not discredit KUOW, conflict with KUOW's interests, create a conflict of interest for the employee or interfere with the employee's ability to perform KUOW duties. Supervisors must respond within seven days of receiving a request. KUOW facilities and resources, including studios, computers and e-mail, may not be used in outside work.
KUOW journalists may not engage in public relations work, paid or unpaid. Exceptions may be made for certain unpaid and nonpartisan activities, such as participating in the work of a church, synagogue or other institution of worship, or volunteering with a charitable organization, so long as this would not conflict with the interests of KUOW in reporting on activities related to that institution or organization. When in doubt, employees should consult their supervisor. See more on this in Section 11: Politics, community and outside activities.
In general, KUOW journalists may not, without prior permission from their supervisor, do outside work for government or agencies principally funded by government, or for private organizations that are regularly covered by KUOW. This includes work that would be done on leaves of absence.
KUOW journalists may not ghostwrite or co-author articles or books or write reports — such as annual reports — for government agencies, institutions or businesses that we cover or are likely to cover.
KUOW journalists must get approval from the News Director or that person's designee before speaking to groups that might have a relationship to a subject that KUOW may cover. Generally, KUOW journalists may not speak at corporation or industry functions. KUOW journalists also may not speak in settings where their appearance is being used by an organization to market its services or products, unless it is marketing KUOW and then only as permitted. KUOW journalists are permitted to engage in promotional activities for books they have written (such as a book tour), although they are expected to get approval from their supervisors on scheduling.
KUOW journalists may only accept speaking fees from educational or nonprofit groups who are not engaged in significant lobbying or political activity. Determining whether a group engages in significant lobbying or political activity is the responsibility of the KUOW journalist seeking permission, and all information must be fully disclosed to the journalist's supervisor.
KUOW journalists may not speak to groups where the appearance might put in question KUOW's impartiality. Such instances include situations where the employee's appearance may appear to endorse the agenda of a group or organization. This would include participation in some political debates and forums where the sponsoring group(s) or other participants are identified with a particular perspective on an issue or issues and KUOW journalist's participation might put into question KUOW's impartiality.
KUOW journalists must get permission from the News Director or that person’s designee to appear on TV or other media. It is not necessary to get permission in each instance when the employee is a regular participant on an approved show. Permission for such appearances may be revoked if KUOW determines such appearances are harmful to the reputation of KUOW or the KUOW participant. In appearing on TV or other media including electronic web-based forums, KUOW journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as a KUOW journalist. They should not participate in shows electronic forums or blogs that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.
Any KUOW journalist intending to write a non-fiction book or TV or movie script or other guiding documents for non-radio productions based in whole or substantial part on assignments they did for KUOW must notify KUOW in writing of such plans before entering into any agreement with respect to that work. KUOW will respond within 30 days as to whether it has any objections to the project.
KUOW journalists considering book projects or TV or movie productions based on stories that they have covered must be careful not to give any impression they might benefit financially from the outcome of news or program events. They should seek guidance from the Chief Content Officer before taking any actions with respect to such matters.
KUOW journalists may not accept a gift, gratuity or additional compensation for personal services rendered as part of their duties as a KUOW employee. Such services include, but are not limited to, producing content for NPR and other national news organizations. If the journalist is compensated for a national story during work time they must produce a local version as well.
3.5 COVERAGE OF OUTSIDE WORK BY KUOW STAFF
KUOW coverage of projects or work created by KUOW staff members must be of greater or equal news and editorial value as similar works. It must be judged against current and past similar works. Furthermore, the proposed interview or story must not be a conflict of interest, as defined in this section. Interviews, pre-interviews, etc. must be done with the creator of the work (author, playwright, composer, etc.) outside of their regular working hours. As an alternative, interviews can be done during regular working hours, but the creator of the work must take leave. The pitch for the interview or story must be approved by the program director before any further research or work is conducted.
3.6 COVERAGE OF FAMILY MEMBERS
KUOW journalists shall not interview immediate family members. Immediate family members are spouse/partner, siblings, parents and children. KUOW journalists must check with the News Director before interviewing extended family members.
Generally, KUOW journalists may not endorse products or provide blurbs for books, movies or performances using their KUOW identification. The Chief Content Officer may make exceptions to this rule, such as when the author of a book is a colleague of the blurb-writer. However, permission will be denied in other circumstances. Blurbs drawn accurately and in context from material that has been on our air are permissible.
3.8 GIFTS, FREEBIES, LOANED EQUIPMENT OR MERCHANDISE, ETC.
KUOW journalists may not accept compensation, including property or benefits of any kind, from people or institutions they cover or put on the air. KUOW journalists may accept gifts of token value (hats, mugs, t-shirts, etc.). Unsolicited items of significant value will be returned with a letter thanking the sender but stating our policy on gifts.
KUOW journalists pick up the check for themselves when they can (i.e., they are not wined and dined by sources). KUOW journalists pay for their own travel in accordance with KUOW's travel policy. There are certain instances — such as conferences and conventions — where food is provided as a convenience for the press as a whole, and in such instances, it is acceptable to take advantage of this. In addition, KUOW journalists may accept paid travel and meals for speaking engagements and awards ceremonies that are approved under the standards in Section 3.4 of this document. KUOW journalists pay their own way in newsgathering, except in unusual circumstances. The News Director must approve all exceptions to this. KUOW journalists may accept free passes to movie screenings, performances or similar activities that are attended for the purpose of doing reviews or stories for the air.
KUOW journalists and other program staff cannot sell items that are received at KUOW for review, such as books, etc. They belong to KUOW. They may be distributed to staff for their personal use after they are no longer needed.
KUOW journalists cannot keep any equipment or items of value provided by a company for test-use for story purposes. Such items must be disclosed to the journalist's supervisor and are to be disposed of in accordance with the ethical practices stated in this document, which usually means returning such items to the provider.
3.9 PERSONAL GAINS
KUOW journalists must conduct themselves at all times in a manner that leaves no grounds for belief, or even the appearance, that information they have gathered on the job has been used for personal gain, financial or otherwise.
KUOW journalists may not use any nonpublic information acquired at work for personal gain, or use their association with KUOW for personal gain. No KUOW journalist may disclose information acquired by KUOW to anyone inside or outside of KUOW if the intent is to use that information for personal or institutional gain. This prohibition does not apply to accepted journalistic practices, such as sharing information as a member of a news "pool".
4.1 SOURCES AND CONTRIBUTORS
KUOW journalists do not pay for information from sources or newsmakers. They do not allow sources or interviewees to dictate how a topic will be covered, or which other voices or ideas will be included. They do not agree to submit questions in advance unless the assigned editor approves a specific instance. If questions are submitted in advance, this will be disclosed in our coverage.
KUOW journalists do not show subjects or other third parties scripts of stories in advance of their broadcast or posting, or preview pieces with any person not affiliated with KUOW. A KUOW journalist may review portions of a script or read back a quotation to assure accuracy. A KUOW journalist may also play audio or read transcripts of an interview to a third party if the purpose is to get that party's reaction to what another person has said. We favor a “no surprises” philosophy when it comes to sensitive information, particularly for vulnerable groups.
KUOW may pay regular contributors who are asked to prepare content for KUOW or to external moderators or hosts. Paid contributors must not be used as a source of news or to reflect the views of KUOW and must disclose any conflicts of interest in advance.
KUOW journalists make sure actualities, quotes or paraphrases of those we interview are accurate and are used in the proper context. An actuality from an interviewee or speaker should reflect accurately what that person was asked or was responding to. If we use tape or material from an earlier story, we clearly identify it as such. We tell listeners about the circumstances of an interview if that information is pertinent (such as the time the interview took place, the fact that an interviewee was speaking to us while on the fly, etc.). Whenever it's not clear how an interview was obtained, we should make it clear. The audience deserves more information, not less. The burden is on KUOW journalists to ensure that our use of such material is true to the meaning the interviewee or speaker intended.
4.3 UNNAMED SOURCES
Although KUOW journalists do agree to talk to sources on background when necessary, KUOW's strong preference is to have people on the record. Before any information is accepted without full attribution, reporters must make every reasonable effort to get it on the record. If that is not possible, reporters should consider seeking information elsewhere.
The grant of anonymity should be a last resort. When KUOW journalists use anonymous sources to obtain information necessary for a story, the editor or producer of that story has an obligation to satisfy him/herself that the source is credible and reliable, and there is a substantial journalistic justification for using the source's information without attribution. This obligation also pertains to situations where individuals ask that their real names be withheld. The editor or producer has a twofold responsibility to (1) make a judgment about whether it is editorially justified to let the person speak anonymously; and (2) satisfy him/herself that this person is who the piece says they are. An editor should never be in the position of having to verify these things after a story has aired and a question is raised about it. We should not grant anonymity if a person makes pejorative comments about the character, reputation, or personal qualities of another individual, or derogatory statements about an institution. When anonymity is granted, pseudonyms should not be used.
When KUOW journalists attribute information in a story to a "source" or "sources," it is assumed that these are the journalists' sources and that they have obtained the information firsthand from them. If this is not the case, and the sources are ones quoted by other news organizations, then those sources must be attributed to those other news organizations.
5. Giving credit
KUOW journalists are generous in giving credit to other media organizations for stories that demonstrate enterprise or contain exclusive information. If their story inspires us to replicate it, we should give credit even if we use different sources and materials. If there is any doubt about whether to credit another news organization, KUOW journalists should ask a senior manager in their department.
Plagiarism is an offense that will result in disciplinary action. KUOW journalists do not take other people’s work and present it as our own.
In newsgathering, KUOW puts its highest value on firsthand newsgathering and confirmation of facts, as opposed to relying on material from other sources (AP, other newspapers and networks, etc.). Wire service material may be more appropriately used in online and other specialized content presentations where firsthand newsgathering is significantly more difficult. In such instances, KUOW journalists shall adhere to the practices described in the following item.
5.2 WIRE SERVICES
KUOW journalists must take special care in the use they make of information from wire service stories, reports by other broadcast news organizations, newspaper clips or articles in other publications. No material from another source should ever be included verbatim, or substantially so, without attribution.
KUOW journalists may only use quotes without attribution from a wire service if it is an AP or Reuters story about a public event — such as a press conference, speech by a public official in a public setting, an official statement of a government agency, a congressional hearing, and the like. In those cases, we reasonably expect that AP and Reuters are reliable conveyors of those quotes in the same way we regard the transcript services we use for these events.
6. Vulnerable groups
Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as fellow human beings deserving of respect.
- Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm. Ask, “Is this in the public interest? Is there a safety issue? Is there a larger systemic issue this story highlights?”
- Show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage. Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, refugees and undocumented people, sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent, and other vulnerable populations. Consider cultural differences in approach and treatment.
- Recognize that legal access to information differs from an ethical justification to publish or broadcast.
- Realize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than public figures and others who seek power, influence or attention. Weigh the consequences of publishing or broadcasting personal information.
- Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.
- Balance a suspect’s right to a fair trial with the public’s right to know. Consider the implications of identifying criminal suspects before they face legal charges, as well as the structural biases and narratives that perpetuate racism.
- Consider the long-term implications of the extended reach and permanence of publication. Provide updated and more complete information as appropriate.
KUOW journalists are mandatory reporters in accordance with RCW 26.44, Abuse of Children law, and RCW 28B.10.846, Report of Child Abuse or Neglect—Reporting Responsibilities. Journalists who have reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered abuse or neglect must immediately report the suspected abuse or neglect to law enforcement or the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
Dealing with minors (generally defined as anyone under the age of 18) always invokes legal issues. An interview of a minor about a sensitive subject requires a KUOW journalist to secure permission from the minor's parent or legal guardian. (Permission forms can be found in the "Policies" subfolder located in the GINFO shared directory.) An interview of a minor in a special custodial situation, such as foster care, juvenile detention, or holding facilities for undocumented immigrants, requires the consent of the person who has custody of the minor.
An interview on a non-sensitive topic (normal childhood activities, sports, books, movies, trips to the zoo, baseball and the like) does not require consent. Generally, however, any interview on school premises will require the consent of the school authorities. If a minor is a witness to a crime, the KUOW journalist must weigh carefully whether we are exposing the minor to physical risk by identifying them by name as a potential witness, emotional trauma, and whether there is potential for the minor to be accused as a participant.
Situations like school shootings require special care when interviewing visibly distressed minors who may have witnessed horrific scenes. Witnesses such as teachers or students over 18 are preferable interviewees. If continued interviewing substantially increases the distress of a minor who is a witness, the KUOW journalist should carefully balance the importance and quality of the information being obtained with the interviewee's emotional state and decide whether respect for the witness requires the interview to be ended. The KUOW journalist must also discuss with the editor whether that interview should be aired.
In cases where there is even a hint of doubt about whether to get consent, the KUOW journalist or supervisor should discuss with the KUOW News Director and then call the KUOW Counsel, if warranted.
6.3 SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS
KUOW does not name victims of sexual assaults. There will at times be exceptions — such as certain instances when a victim goes public with their identity — and KUOW editors will judge these instances on a case-by-case basis.
7. Audio standards
7.1 SIGN OFFS
KUOW's SOC policy is either to SOC out from the place where the reporter is filing or, if the reporter is no longer there, to SOC out generically ("'Joe Smith, KUOW News") and establish the "place" of the story in the intro and body of the story itself. We don’t misrepresent location.
7.2 ARCHIVAL AUDIO
Archival audio or audio that was obtained from a past story must be identified as such if it is used in a new piece. The listener should not be left to think that any archival or previously obtained audio was gathered in the context of the current piece. As an example, a story updating a controversy surrounding an individual would be misleading if it included new assertions of fact but only used past statements by that individual and failed to identify them as such. 8. Photography standards
Photographs associated with KUOW content must, individually or collectively, show the events they depict truthfully, honestly and without bias. This requirement applies whether they are taken by KUOW journalists or come from other sources (such as freelancers or photo agencies). KUOW has the following policies in place to ensure our use of photography does not confuse or mislead.
8.2 EDITS AND ENHANCEMENTS
We do not manipulate the circumstances of photographs for purposes of enhancing the story the photograph portrays. Exceptions may be made for studio photography (such as portraits, fashion, food, etc.) where the nature of the studio photograph is either obvious or explained in accompanying verbal content or to creative social content where, for example, an explainer graphic may use parts of an image.
We may enhance photographic images for technical clarity — including minimal amounts of dodging and burning or digital manipulation, such as color correction or contrast enhancement — so long as a photo is not deceptive as to the original setting and scene being photographed.
We do not create fictional images or designs from photographs using computer and laboratory techniques for news content unless the accompanying explanation makes clear that the image is fictional or the design is associated with content related to art or creative activity. We do not use composite photographs on news content.
We assure that captions and labels of photos accurately describe the events in the photograph paying special attention to stereotypes and misrepresentation of marginalized groups. We note when we are using archival or stock images and do not try to misrepresent visual events. Our photo captions are subject to ethics outlined in this Code.
8.4 PHOTO DATE
We do not use outdated photographs to portray a current news event unless we make clear the date the photograph was taken at a different time.
Our corrections policy is to correct substantive errors of fact in a timely way. If a KUOW journalist believes KUOW got something wrong — or that there was a serious defect in a piece or is misleading to the point of doing harm — they have an affirmative responsibility to get that on the table immediately for investigation and possible correction. KUOW journalists should in such cases also check language of any corrections, clarifications, editor’s notes or retractions with the Chief Content Officer before they are broadcast or posted.
KUOW Programming or Online personnel learning of material errors in stories shall inform the affected department as soon as they are discovered. The Chief Content Officer will inform internal stakeholders and senior management when there is impact to the audience or the station.
Changes to a first-person narrative or to a story that caused harm due to limited perspectives or a lack of breadth should be used cautiously, and with approval of the Chief Content Officer.
10. Embargoes and non-disclosure agreements
KUOW journalists do not sign non-disclosure agreements, except in the rarest of circumstances. The Chief Content Officer and the KUOW Counsel must approve exceptions to this rule. KUOW journalists respect embargoes on news unless the circumstances surrounding the embargo make adherence to it inappropriate, such as where the information has already surfaced elsewhere or a strong public interest requires the disclosure or it may place other news in the proper context
11. Politics, community and outside activities
11.1 CIVIC, CULTURAL AND COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES
KUOW journalists may participate in civic and cultural events that do not pose conflicts of interest. However, it is always wise to anticipate ahead of time what political or partisan issues or causes might emerge within a civic or cultural event to avoid ethical problems. We let our supervisors know about any such civic and cultural organizations we do actively engage with, so that any potential conflicts of interest can be headed off.
We can sit on community advisory boards, act as trustees at educational institutions and serve on the boards of religious organizations and nonprofit groups — so long as those organizations do not engage in significant lobbying or other political activity. We tell our supervisors about such activities and understand that KUOW may revoke its approval if there are actual or perceived conflicts of interest.
We have the same right to practice religion — or not — as other Americans. But we do not let our religious or personal beliefs distort our coverage of events or other faiths.
11.2 FAMILY MEMBERS
Some of our family members — including spouses/partners, parents and children — may be involved in politics or advocacy. We are sensitive to the perception of bias this can create. KUOW journalists should inform their supervisors of close family members involved in politics or advocacy, and work to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest.
KUOW journalists recuse themselves from covering stories or events related to their family members' political activities. We may go so far as to change job responsibilities (for instance, moving off the "politics desk" to an area of coverage well removed from that subject).
11.3 POLITICS AND ADVOCACY
KUOW recognizes that our journalists have personal and political beliefs and can exercise their rights to vote and participate in our democratic process. However, as journalists, it is vital that our personal and political beliefs do not impact our journalism or create a perception of bias.
KUOW editorial staff may not run for office, nor may they publicly endorse nor oppose political parties, elected and appointed government officials, candidates for public office, referendums or pending legislation. They should not donate money or time to candidates or political campaigns, sign petitions, or attend public events expressly in support of those candidates, campaigns, or specific political issues. They should also not display political signs in their yards or bumper stickers on their cars. City of Seattle residents may not direct their city-provided Democracy Vouchers to political campaigns.
KUOW journalists who run for office, endorse candidates or otherwise engage in the items described above will be reassigned to other work or placed on unpaid leave (in the case of running for office.) Since many of such activities are part of the public record, doing so would call into question a journalist's impartiality.
These policies extend to moments when KUOW as an organization has taken a position on issues that affect us and our industry, such as federal funding for public broadcasting. Even when our organization takes a stance on an issue, we, as journalists, remain dedicated to reporting on the issues with journalistic rigor and impartiality.
11.4 EXCEPTIONS TO ADVOCACY POLICY
KUOW editorial staff may express support for democratic, civic values that are core to KUOW's work, such as, but not limited to: the freedom and dignity of human beings, the rights of a free and independent press, the right to thrive in society without facing discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, disability, or religion. For example: If journalists wish to march in a Pride parade or Black Lives Matter march, they shouldn't have to abstain merely because they work in journalism.
We recognize that the line between standing up for human rights and being "political" is a fine one that looks different from different perspectives. A march for racial equality may be non-political in principle, for instance, but that may not hold true if the march is for a specific piece of legislation or where organizers or speakers include politicians aligned only with one party. On the other hand, the fact that others may attempt to politicize social issues or the way people live their lives does not mean that journalists are engaging in political activity. Decisions on participation will have to be case-by-case as a result.
Journalists should also generally be able to sign petitions for sidewalks in their neighborhoods, ask for funding for local concerns, and otherwise participate in non-political community matters as long as they are not responsible for covering the issues and are not interfering with coverage by colleagues at KUOW or across the network.
These exceptions should be discussed prior to any advocacy with our supervisors. In most cases, permission need only be given once. But if there's a change in such an organization's mission or we're asked to take on leadership roles that would put us in the public eye, we consult with those supervisors again.
11.5 GOVERNMENT BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS
KUOW journalists may not serve on government boards or commissions. Generally, we avoid serving on boards, and we don't hold offices that would create conflicts of interest between our work for KUOW and our responsibilities to the other institution. We have sometimes made exceptions to allow journalists to serve on the boards of institutions where such conflicts are unlikely, such as other journalism organizations, educational institutions, or community advisory boards (see above “Civic, Cultural, and Community Activities” section). All such exceptions require approval from supervisors. And of course, if a KUOW journalist serves on the board of an institution that becomes the subject of KUOW's reporting, that journalist should be recused from any related coverage.
11.6 SOCIAL MEDIA
KUOW journalists should refrain from advocating for or engaging with political issues on social media. This extends to joining online groups or using social media in any form (including your Facebook page or a personal blog). Don't express personal views on a political issue that you could not write for the air or post on KUOW.org. These guidelines apply whether you are posting under your own name or — if the online site allows pseudonyms — your identity would not be readily apparent. In reality, anything you post online reflects both on you and on KUOW.
Your simple participation in some online groups, no matter the reason, could be seen to indicate that you endorse their views. Consider whether you can accomplish your purposes by just observing a group's activity, rather than becoming a member. If you do join, be clear that you've done so to seek information or story ideas. And if you "follow" or join a group representing one side of an issue, also do so for groups representing other viewpoints.
Members of the editorial staff should apply these principles to their day-to-day work on air, online and in social media. There inevitably will be questions of participation that land in gray areas of this guidance. Editorial leadership has established a standing committee of journalists to regularly review and advise on questions regarding social media and other activity. The News Director, in consultation with editorial leadership, will also issue specific guidance ahead of large news-making events.
KUOW's editorial leaders trust journalists to exercise their best judgement and do not anticipate routine disciplinary action for missteps in applying guidance. However, deliberate and continued disregard for KUOW's core values and guidance may result in disciplinary action.
12. Fundraising, underwriting, marketing and public relations
12.1 FUNDERS AND UNDERWRITERS
A firewall will be maintained between KUOW journalists and funders. While staff may talk to experts and officials who work at foundations that fund us (and their grantees), we may not discuss specific coverage planning with grant-making officials. Regardless of collaborations internally or externally with those who contribute to or influence our news product, editorial oversight remains in the newsroom. A KUOW editor or the News Director must approve collaborative work prior to broadcast or publication. There are occasions when KUOW journalists may work with KUOW development or underwriting officers on editorial projects that are financially supported by a funder. This may involve a meeting with a funder to communicate KUOW’s passion for a topic or issue. It could also be for the development of case statements for future funding opportunities. In these cases the Chief Content Officer will be briefed and will communicate any concerns about influence, real or perceived.
KUOW reporters may not read funding credits on air or online. If KUOW reports on an organization or individual who funds us, we will disclose that relationship on air and online if the subject of the report is directly related to the thrust of the grant we received.
12.2 KUOW MARKETING AND FUNDRAISING
KUOW journalists may take part or be asked to take part in promotional activities or events involving supporters of KUOW, such as fund drives and public radio audience-building initiatives.
12.3 EXTERNAL CONTESTS
We do not enter journalism contests or competitions when groups that have an interest in influencing our coverage sponsor them. All entries for contests or competitions must be approved by the Chief Content Officer or their designee.
12.4 EXTERNAL RELATIONS
KUOW journalists should not speak on behalf of KUOW, or its activities, policies and practices, unless authorized to do so by appropriate station officials. All press inquiries about KUOW activities, policies and practices received by journalists must be redirected to KUOW management.
Additionally, KUOW journalists may not provide any notes, audio or written outtakes, unedited raw recorded audio, or working materials from their stories, interviews or productions, nor provide information they have observed in the course of their production activities to anyone making a request. If such materials or information are requested pursuant to governmental, administrative or other legal process, KUOW journalists should immediately consult their supervisors and the KUOW Counsel.
KUOW owns material that has been collected or produced by KUOW journalists in the course of their duties, irrespective of whether it has been distributed on our air outright or included on our website , and it may not be reproduced elsewhere without the permission of KUOW.