WESTERN PRODUCER EDITORIAL CODE OF ETHICS
Many newspapers have developed written statements to clearly define the ethical standards and principles they follow in obtaining, selecting and publishing news.
Such codes of ethics acknowledge that professional journalists and responsible newspapers have a special obligation to help ensure the public is well informed in democratic societies.
The following Western Producer code of editorial ethics was developed in 1990 in consultation with editorial staff and approved by management as formal newspaper policy for the newspaper. In January 2002 it was reaffirmed with some revisions. It is published so that readers can be aware of the standards this newspaper sets for itself, and can call it to account if those standards are not met.
I. GENERAL PRINCIPLES
Western Producer journalists are individually and collectively committed to the highest ethical standards of professional journalism. Their role is to provide readers with reliable, relevant information. To ensure the greatest benefit to readers, editorial policies and procedures will be designed to support this goal.
Accurate, timely news reports and other informative articles are the foundation of The Western Producer.
Every effort will be made to provide readers with the latest news and to verify questionable information.
Articles will not be shown to sources prior to publication. However, reasonable efforts will be made to ensure information from the sources is factual and in context.
Complaints will be given full and prompt consideration. Significant errors will be promptly and prominently corrected.
Comments published within quotation marks must be exactly as written or spoken, except for occasional minor grammatical editing that does not change the sense or tone of the quotation. Similarly, photographs must not be electronically or otherwise altered to distort the actual scene.
The Western Producer will present balanced coverage of issues. Representatives of all major viewpoints will be given an opportunity to comment during continuing coverage, recognizing the constraints in covering all sides of an issue in each individual article.
Every effort will be made to present news reports in neutral, factual fashion, enabling readers to make up their own minds on the issues.
As far as possible, all sources of information will be disclosed to readers. Statements quoted in articles will be fully attributed to sources whenever possible. When there is no alternative to using anonymous sources to provide information needed by readers, the newspaper will make every reasonable effort to ensure the credibility of those sources.
Authorship of articles will be prominently identified, including whether the article was prepared by a staff writer or an outside source. Opinion and analysis will be clearly identified as such, to distinguish it from news reports.
Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If any staff or outside writer is found to have deliberately copied someone else’s work without attribution, the infraction will be publicly noted.
Advertising copy will be clearly identified and displayed so as not to be confused with editorial content.
V. CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Readers should be confident stories are printed in The Western Producer because journalists have judged them to be of value to readers, not because special interests are promoting the stories.
All actual or apparent conflicts of interest involving writers of articles or columns will be disclosed to readers. For example, a member of a political party who writes political analysis will be identified as a party member.
Whenever practical, journalists with potential conflict of interest in a topic should avoid writing about that topic and should not be assigned to do so.
Many Western Producer reporters are members of the Grain Services Union. When GSU members are called upon to write stories involving the GSU, their membership shall be disclosed to readers.
Journalists cannot accept any substantive benefit from individuals or organizations they write about. The Western Producer will not accept free airline tickets or similar donations to assist news coverage. Scholarships and other programs not connected to news coverage, however, may be accepted with senior management approval.
Free lunches, drinks and similar favours should not be sought or routinely accepted. Western Producer staff are to pay their own way. This principle, however, should not be applied to the extreme extent of discourteous or disruptive refusal of normal hospitality, as in joining a farm family for lunch or coffee. Where such normal hospitality is accepted, there should be an attempt to reciprocate.
Business gifts should be discouraged, and no gifts may be accepted other than items of small intrinsic value like pens. If an employee receives a gift that cannot be returned for any reason, it must be turned over to the company so that it can be given to an appropriate charity or otherwise disposed of.
Western Producer news and business contacts must not be used by editorial staff to solicit prizes for any function or contest.
Editorial staff will not become involved in outside employment that compromises journalistic performance. Articles for non-competitive news media are acceptable so long as Western Producer subscribers get reports designed for them and available to them first.
Nothing in this section should discourage journalists from participating in organizations of journalists, agrologists or similar professional groups. So long as possible conflicts of interests are fully disclosed, Western Producer journalists should be free to develop their professionalism in both agriculture and journalism.
Ownership of The Western Producer by GVIC Communications Corp. shall be noted in the newspaper masthead. In keeping with the owner’s policy of encouraging and supporting independent, credible news coverage of agricultural issues for the benefit of Western Canadian farm families, GVIC Communications Corp. will be treated on the same basis as other news sources.
VI. NEWS SOURCES
Western Producer reporters will clearly identify themselves as reporters and will indicate that statements may be published. Any exceptions, as in the case of special investigative projects, must be cleared in advance with senior management.
Guarantees of confidentiality to sources will be respected, within limits set by Canadian law.
The Western Producer will provide a forum for all legitimate expressions of Western Canadian rural opinion on current agricultural issues, within the constraints of available space and Canadian law.
Editorials on the primary opinion page will focus on issues relevant to western Canadian farmers and ranchers. While the main editorial will reflect the opinions of the editorial board, additional topics and viewpoints will be welcome on other pages of commentary and analysis.
Selection and editing of reader letters for publication will be done with every effort to preserve the meaning and tone of the original letter.
The newspaper reserves the right to edit all articles on the basis of fairness, information value, taste, accuracy, grammar, clarity, style, length and other editorial considerations.
VIII. ADVERTISING RELATIONS
Advertising and editorial operations will be independent. Although total advertising volume necessarily influences the total pages available for editorial copy, the existence or non-existence of individual advertising orders will not influence editorial decisions on writing, selection, placement or editing of specific news stories and photographs.
Purely advertising features will be clearly identified as such, and reporting staff will not be responsible for preparing material appearing in them. Supplements and features originating in the department will be the responsibility of editorial staff.
IX. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Western Producer journalists will be encouraged to maintain high personal professional standards, seeking to improve their performance and knowledge by such methods as reading professional publications, participating in associations, attending seminars and making use of other opportunities for professional self-development.
X. FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
The Western Producer supports the principle of a free press as one of the foundations of democracy and individual liberty.