Herald’s Guidelines and Editorial Policy
The most important currency of the HERALD NEWS is truth.
The purpose of this code is, above all, to protect and foster the bond of trust between the paper and its readers, and therefore to protect the integrity of the paper and of the editorial content it carries.
As a set of guidelines, this will not form part of a journalist’s contract of employment, nor will it form part, for either editorial management or journalists, of disciplinary, promotional or recruitment procedures. However, by observing the code, journalists working for DSG Herald will be protecting not only the paper but also the independence, standing and reputation of themselves and their colleagues. It is important that freelances working for DSG Herald also abide by these guidelines while on assignment for the company.
This policy statement designed to illuminate a set of professional standards that should help us all in our efforts to protect the credibility of DSG Herald. Any editorial staff member who violates any provision of this policy statement will be subject to disciplinary action, including reprimand, suspension and/or termination. Any employee who has a question concerning this policy statement or becomes aware of a possible violation of this policy statement should promptly contact the CEO/Editor-in-Chief.
Organization and Responsibilities
DSG Herald is composed of three departments: Editorial, Advertising and Composing.
The Advertising department works independently from the Editorial department. The Composing department is responsible for compiling each paper’s layout, and for working closely with the Editorial department to do so.
The Editor-in-Chief is responsible for the coordination of the Editorial Board and staff in the production of the newspaper. He or she makes the final decision on the total number of pages per issue and the number and location of pages allotted to each department. He or she ensures all copy is properly edited and the layout of each page is satisfactory. The Editor-in-Chief makes the final decision on the content of each paper.
Section editors’ responsibilities include the assignment of articles to staff and writers, editing of copy, and selection and placement of stories within their appropriate section. For sensitive issues or where there is doubt or disagreement, the Editor-in-Chief’s decision is final.
1: PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE
Breaking News and Unpublished Information: If an employee obtains news, information or other material that might be published, distributed or broadcast by DSG Herald, the staff member should notify the Editor-in-Chief, whether the information directly relates to the staffer’s regular beat or duties or not. Staff members are forbidden from providing such material to any company or endeavor other than DSG Herald without approval from the Editor-in-Chief.
Outside Organization/Financial Matters: Involvement in one’s local community is encouraged for all editorial staff members. Participation in public activities and groups helps connect and explain the newspaper to the community, and demonstrates our commitment to community concerns. But participation can lead to real or perceived compromise of journalistic integrity. At issue is whether the public could believe DSG Herald coverage is influenced by a staff member’s outside activities.
The proper stance is firmly on the side of credibility and integrity, but dividing lines often can be unclear. To determine what levels and areas of participation are acceptable and what activities should be avoided, editorial staff must disclose to their supervisors any ongoing or proposed activities, relationships, dealings or investments that could damage the credibility of DSG Herald or conflict with its interests. If an actual or potential conflict arises, the staff member must discuss it immediately with the Editor-in-Chief, and should recuse himself or herself from editorial decisions that may involve the issue in conflict.
To further avoid conflicts, staffers should not use their position or the name of the newspaper to gain advantage in personal activities. (In applying for a loan for a house, car, business or anything of that nature, you will, of course, be expected to say where you work, what you do and how much you get paid. That is normal, acceptable practice, and should not be a conflict. But if you’re worried about some aspect of such a transaction, discuss it with the Editor-in-Chief. DSG Herald business card or stationery should only be used for company business. Staffers should not refer to their newspaper connections to try to resolve consumer grievances, to get quicker service or to seek discounts or deals.
Staff members should not write about, photograph, edit or make news judgments about any individual related by blood or marriage or others with whom they have a close personal or financial relationship unless they have made the relationship known and received a ruling from a the Editor-in-Chief that there is no cause for concern about a conflict or the perception of one.
Generally speaking, staff members will not receive permission to write, edit, illustrate, perform or provide pictures for any competing print, online or digital publication or broadcast.
Children* Special care should be taken when dealing with children (under the age of 16). Editor-in-Chief must be informed when children have been photographed or interviewed without parental consent.
Copy Approval The general rule is that no one should be given the right to copy approval. In certain circumstances we may allow people to see copy or quotes but we are not required to alter copy. We should avoid offering copy approval as a method of securing interviews or co-operation.
Direct Quotations Should not be changed to alter their context or meaning.
Errors It is the policy of the DSG Herald to correct significant errors as soon as possible. Journalists have a duty to cooperate frankly and openly with the Readers’ Editor and to report errors to him. All complaints should be brought to the attention of a department head, the managing editor or the Readers’ Editor.
Fairness “The voice of opponents no less than of friends has a right to be heard . . . It is well be to be frank; it is even better to be fair”. The more serious the criticism or allegations we are reporting the greater the obligation to allow the subject the opportunity to respond.
Grief* People should be treated with sensitivity during periods of grief and trauma.
Language Respect for the reader demands that we should not casually use words that are likely to offend. Use swear words only when absolutely necessary to the facts of a piece, or to portray a character in an article; there is almost never a case in which we need to use a swearword outside direct quotes. The stronger the swearword, the harder we ought to think about using it. Avoid using in headlines, pull quotes and standfirsts and never use asterisks, which are just a cop-out.
Legal Our libel and contempt laws are complex, and constantly developing. The consequences of losing actions can be expensive and damaging for our reputation. Staff should a) familiarise themselves with the current state of the law and seek training if they feel unconfident about aspects of it; b) consult our in-house legal department or night lawyers about specific concerns on stories; c) read the regular legal bulletins about active cases and injunctions emailed by the legal department.
Payment In general, DSG Herald does not pay for stories, except from bona fide freelance sources. The editor or his deputies must approve rare exceptions.
Photographs Digitally enhanced or altered images, montages and illustrations should be clearly labelled as such.
Plagiarism Staff must not reproduce other people’s material without attribution. The source of published material obtained from another organisation should be acknowledged including quotes taken from other newspaper articles. Bylines should be carried only on material that is substantially the work of the bylined journalist. If an article contains a significant amount of agency copy then the agency should be credited.
Race In general, we do not publish someone’s race or ethnic background or religion unless that information is pertinent to the story. We do not report the race of criminal suspects unless their ethnic background is part of a description that seeks to identify them or is an important part of the story (for example, if the crime was a hate crime).
Sources Sources promised confidentiality must be protected at all costs. However, where possible, the sources of information should be identified as specifically as possible.
Subterfuge Journalists should generally identify themselves as DSG Herald employees when working on a story. There may be instances involving stories of exceptional public interest where this does not apply, but this needs the approval of a the Editor-in-Chief.
Suicide Journalists are asked to exercise particular care in reporting suicide or issues involving suicide, bearing in mind the risk of encouraging others. This should be borne in mind both in presentation, including the use of pictures, and in describing the method of suicide. Any substances should be referred to in general rather than specific terms if possible. When appropriate a helpline number (e.g., DSG – 0808-376-6666) should be given.
2: PERSONAL BEHAVIOUR AND CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
DSG Herald values its reputation for independence and integrity. Journalists clearly have lives, interests, hobbies, convictions and beliefs outside their work on the paper. Nothing in the following guidelines is intended to restrict any of that. It is intended to ensure that outside interests do not come into conflict with the life of the paper in a way that either compromises the DGS Herald’s editorial integrity or falls short of the sort of transparency that our readers would expect. The code is intended to apply to all active outside interests which, should they remain undeclared and become known, would cause a fair-minded reader to question the value of a contribution to the paper by the journalist involved.
Commercial Products No DSG Herald journalist or freelance primarily associated with the DSG Herald should endorse commercial products unless with the express permission of their head of department or managing editor.
Confidentiality Desk editors with access to personal information relating to other members of staff are required to treat such information as confidential, and not disclose it to anyone except in the course of discharging formal responsibilities.
Conflicts Of Interest DSG Herald staff journalists should be sensitive to the possibility that activities outside work (including holding office or being otherwise actively involved in organisations, companies or political parties) could be perceived as having a bearing on — or as coming into conflict with — the integrity of our journalism.
Staff should be transparent about any outside personal, philosophical or financial interests which might conflict with their professional performance of duties at the DSG Herald, or could be perceived to do so.
Declarations Of Interest
(1) It is always necessary to declare an interest when the journalist is writing about something with which he or she has a significant connection. This applies to both staff journalists and freelances writing for DSG Herald. The declaration should be to a head of department or editor during preparation. Full transparency may mean that the declaration should appear in the paper or website as well.
(2) A connection does not have to be a formal one before it is necessary to declare it. Acting in an advisory capacity in the preparation of a report for an organisation, for example, would require a declaration every time the journalist wrote an article referring to it.
(3) Some connections are obvious and represent the reason why the writer has been asked to contribute to the paper. These should always be stated at the end of the writer’s contribution even if he or she contributes regularly, so long as the writer is writing about his or her area of interest.
(4) Generally speaking a journalist should not write about or quote a relative or partner in a piece, even if the relative or partner is an expert in the field in question. If, for any reason, an exception is made to this rule, the connection should be made clear.
(5) Commissioning editors should ensure that freelances asked to write for the DSG Herald are aware of these rules and make any necessary declaration.
Declarations of Corporate Interest
The DSG Herald is part of a wider group of media companies. We should be careful to acknowledge that relationship in stories.
(1) Staff should not use their position to obtain private benefit for themselves or others.
(2) DSG Herald and its staff will not allow any payment, gift or other advantage to undermine accuracy, fairness or independence. Any attempts to induce favourable editorial treatment through the offer of gifts or favours should be reported to the Editor-in-Chief. Where relevant DSG Hearld will disclose these payments, gifts or other advantages.
(3) We should make it clear when an airline, hotel or other interest has borne the cost of transporting or accommodating a journalist. Acceptance of any such offer is conditional on DSG Herald being free to assign and report or not report any resulting story as it sees fit.
(4) Except in some areas of travel writing it should never need to be the case that the journalist’s partner, family or friends are included in any free arrangement. When a partner, family member or friend accompanies the journalist on a trip, the additional costs should generally be paid for by the journalist or person accompanying the journalist.
(5) Staff should not be influenced by commercial considerations — including the interests of advertisers — in the preparation of material for the paper.
DSG Herald Connections Staff members should not use their positions at DSG Herald to seek any benefit or advantage in personal business, financial or commercial transactions not afforded to the public generally. Staff should not use DSG Herald stationery in connection with non-DSG Herald matters or cite a connection with the paper to resolve consumer grievances, get quicker service or seek discount or deals.
Outside Engagements or Duties DSG Herald accepts the journalist’s right to a private life and the right to take part in civic society. However, staff should inform the editor if, in their capacity as an employee of DSG Herald, they intend to:
- Give evidence to any court.
- Chair public forums or seminars arranged by professional conference organisers or commercial organisations.
- Undertake any outside employment likely to conflict with their professional duties at the DSG Herald.
- Chair public or political forums or appear on platforms.
- Make representations or give evidence to any official body in connection with material which has been published in DSG Herald.
Relationships Staff members should not write about, photograph or make news judgments about any individual related by blood or marriage or with whom the staff member has a close personal, financial or romantic relationship. A staff member who is placed in a circumstance in which the potential for this kind of conflict exists should advise the Editor-in-Chief.
- Newspapers and periodicals should take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted material including pictures.
- Whenever it is recognised that a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report has been published, it should be corrected promptly and with due prominence.
iii. An apology must be published whenever appropriate.
- A newspaper or periodical must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party.
2 Opportunity to Reply
A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given to individuals or organisations when reasonably called for.
- Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence. A publication will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent.
- The use of long lens photography to take pictures of people in private places without their consent is unacceptable.
Note — Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
- Journalists and photographers must neither obtain nor seek to obtain information or pictures through intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.
- They must not photograph individuals in private places (as defined by the note to clause 3) without their consent; must not persist in telephoning, questioning, pursuing or photographing individuals after having been asked to desist; must not remain on their property after having been asked to leave and must not follow them.
iii. Editors must ensure that those working for them comply with these requirements and must not publish material from other sources which does not meet these requirements.
5 Intrusion into grief or shock In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries should be carried out and approaches made with sympathy and discretion. Publication must be handled sensitively at such times but this should not be interpreted as restricting the right to report judicial proceedings.
- Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
- Journalists must not interview or photograph a child under the age of 16 on subjects involving the welfare of the child or any other child in the absence of or without the consent of a parent or other adult who is responsible for the children.
iii. Pupils must not be approached or photographed while at school without the permission of the school authorities.
- There must be no payment to minors for material involving the welfare of children nor payments to parents or guardians for material about their children or wards unless it is demonstrably in the child’s interest.
- Where material about the private life of a child is published, there must be justification for publication other than the fame, notoriety or position of his or her parents or guardian.
7 Children In Sex Cases**
1 The press must not, even where the law does not prohibit it, identify children under the age of 16 who are involved in cases concerning sexual offences, whether as victims or as witnesses.
2 In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child,
- the child must not be identified;
- the adult may be identified;
iii. the word “incest” must not be used where a child victim might be identified;
- care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.
8 Listening Devices**
Journalists must not obtain or publish material obtained by using clandestine listening devices or by intercepting private telephone conversations.
- Journalists or photographers making enquiries at hospitals or similar institutions should identify themselves to a responsible executive and obtain permission before entering non-public areas.
- The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar institutions.
10 Reporting Of Crime**
- The press must avoid identifying relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime without their consent.
- Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who are witnesses to, or victims of, crime. This should not be interpreted as restricting the right to report judicial proceedings.
- Journalists must not generally obtain or seek to obtain information or pictures through misrepresentation or subterfuge.
- Documents or photographs should be removed only with the consent of the owner.
iii. Subterfuge can be justified only in the public interest and only when material cannot be obtained by any other means.
12 Victims Of Sexual Assault
The press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and, by law, they are free to do so.
- The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to a person’s race, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
- It must avoid publishing details of a person’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability unless these are directly relevant to the story.
15 Confidential Sources
Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.
16 Payment for articles**
- Payment or offers of payment for stories or information must not be made directly or through agents to witnesses or potential witnesses in current criminal proceedings except where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and there is an overriding need to make or promise to make a payment for this to be done. Journalists must take every possible step to ensure that no financial dealings have influence on the evidence that those witnesses may give.
(An editor authorising such a payment must be prepared to demonstrate that there is a legitimate public interest at stake involving matters that the public has a right to know. The payment or, where accepted, the offer of payment to any witness who is actually cited to give evidence should be disclosed to the prosecution and the defence and the witness should be advised of this).
- Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, must not be made directly or through agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates — who may include family, friends and colleagues — except where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and payment is necessary for this to be done.
The Public Interest
There may be exceptions to the clauses marked ** where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.
(1) The public interest includes:
i. Detecting or exposing crime or a serious misdemeanour;
ii. Protecting public health and safety
iii Preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of an individual or organisation.
(2) In any case where the public interest is invoked, the Press Complaints Commission will require a full explanation by the editor demonstrating how the public interest was served.
(3) There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself. The Commission will therefore have regard to the extent to which material has, or is about to, become available to the public.
(4) In cases involving children editors must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to override the normally paramount interest of the child.