BEST PRACTICES AT AMN
We at AMN recognize our roles in safeguarding readers’ trust and the values and responsibilities of our profession. The following guidelines help us maintain that trust. These are recommended practices for editorial staffers and are not the last word on these issues. As a result, these guidelines cannot establish standards of conduct for every situation. However, violations are considered serious actions and could lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal.
AMN staff members do nothing dishonest or illegal to obtain or alter content. We do not use the words, photos or illustrations of another person or publication without attribution. We do not fabricate quotes, sources or information and then represent them as fact. We do not alter photographs beyond minimal adjustments of color or stage news photographs.
We work first for AMN and at all times respect and protect its reputation. Outside activities, paid or unpaid, must not endanger our journalistic independence, infringe on work obligations nor assist competitors. In all cases, we do not accept honoraria for any activity that results from our affiliation with AMN nor do we accept payment from any individual or organization that we might cover or make news judgments about.
Freelance: Staffers always need prior written permission to write books and articles, graphics, or other content for other publications regardless of the subject matter. AMN retains the first right of refusal of any freelance idea by staff members.
Speaking engagements/media appearances: Opportunities to represent AMN in public appearances or other media are governed by the rule that we remain as neutral and objective during an outside appearance or interview as we do when creating content. All appearances on TV, even those secured through AMN LIVE, must be approved by a manager. Staffers are encouraged to speak only on topics they cover and should speak about the information they have gleaned from reporting, not share an opinion.
Appearances on TV and radio programs that showcase the media and add to the publication’s reputation are considered outside employment for which payment can be accepted with the written approval of a supervisor.
Speaking engagements to students, journalists or other media professionals are also encouraged, but any honoraria received should be donated to a charity of choice. We generally can accept reasonable reimbursement for travel expenses for speeches to approved organizations.
Resale of work: All work produced by staff members for use in AMN or while on assignment are the property of the company and may not be sold or reproduced without the written approval of the publication.
Blogging or Social media: Personal opinions that could cause readers to question the credibility of the publication should not be expressed on the Web. The perceived cloak of anonymity associated with usernames can be easily pierced. Information posted on the Web under any name can be traced to its originator.
Community activity: Even in our private lives, we refrain from participating in activities that could compromise our integrity or damage our credibility. Staff should not openly support political campaigns or causes through the display of bumper stickers, signs, pins or donations. Personal opinions about social issues should remain personal.
Our main goal when creating content is, to tell the truth as accurately and justly as possible. The following guidelines can help us, but decisions that jeopardize our credibility should not be made in a vacuum. Supervisors should always be consulted whenever questions arise.
Accuracy guidelines and procedures for making clarifications and corrections are attached. Random, regular questionnaires are sent to sources identified in stories to assess the accuracy and are shared with appropriate staffers.
Readers have a right to know where the information in the publication comes from. The use of information and quotes obtained from unnamed sources can erode the confidence of readers and endanger the credibility of the publication. For that reason, we use unnamed sources sparingly. The full policy for the use of information obtained from sources is attached to this document.
Readers have a right to know the origin of information in each story, photo and graphic. It is best to attribute within the body of the story all facts and information from the wires and other media not confirmed by a second source. We do not attribute events we witness, information considered common knowledge or information confirmed by multiple sources.
In general, we state the origin of information gleaned from a document or e-mail but explain that reporting was done by telephone only when it helps the reader better understand the content or logistics of the interview.
Bylines, datelines and taglines
Datelines help us give readers the most accurate accounting of where information for a story was gathered. Bylines and taglines explain who wrote the story or contributed to it. We would use datelines on single byline stories only if the reporter were at the location cited in the dateline. We would not use a dateline if someone credited only in the tagline were there. For stories with multiple bylines, at least one person cited in the byline must be on site for the dateline to be used. At the end of the story, the location and roles of all reporters should be stated. We do not use datelines without substantial contributions from a reporter at the scene.
Quote marks tell the reader that the words of the speaker will follow. We do not alter quotes in any way except to mark with ellipses parts not used and to correct grammar mistakes, slang or dialect for clarity.
The AMN stylebook contains a section on writing without bias. It offers guidelines on preventing inadvertent slurs, stereotypes or misrepresentations regarding any individual or group.
Readers must trust us to present photos honestly. We use photo illustrations sparingly and in such ways that do not confuse or deceive the reader. We explain through clear captions and credit lines when two or more images are combined and try never to merge two people into a single image, so it implies they were photographed together. The Executive Editor approves all photo illustrations.
Everyone who creates or edits content for AMN is subject to these content best practices.
These best practices have been established to remind us of our responsibilities to the publication and our profession. We are mindful that our actions not only reflect on us but the publication and journalism as well. We hold ourselves accountable and may find ourselves in the awkward position of questioning the conduct of colleagues as well. Concerns about breaches of these guidelines should be brought to the Editor, Executive Editor or the department Managing Editor who will deal with each situation confidentially.
Internal conflicts are brought before and arbitrated by the Ethics Board.
GUIDELINES FOR USING UNNAMED SOURCES
The use of unnamed sources erodes our credibility and should be avoided. When there is no other way to obtain information that is crucial to the reader’s understanding of the story, these guidelines apply:
The identity of an unnamed source must be shared with and approved by a managing editor before publication. The managing editor must be confident that the information presented to the reader is accurate, not just that someone said it. This usually will require confirmation from a second source or documents. When a single confidential source is cited without further support in the story, the editor must be confident that information presented is based on first-hand knowledge and is authoritative.
The same principles apply to the use of confidential documents. It is not enough to know and sign off on the identity of the source of the documents. The managing editor must be satisfied that the documents are authentic and trustworthy and the chain of custody of the documents can be traced to their originators.
Anonymous sources must be cited only as a last resort. This applies not just to direct quotes but to the use of anonymous sources. Before accepting their use for publication, an editor must be confident that there is no better way to present the information and that the information is important enough to justify the broader cost in reader trust. This is not to be taken lightly.
Anonymous sources may only be used to report facts. Anonymous accusations and speculation are not acceptable.
Sources should understand that if information is attributed to them anonymously in the publication, an editor will know their identity. They should also understand they may be identified if their information proves to be false or unfounded.
Reporters may not enter into agreements with sources that specify when information will be used in AMN or under what circumstances without the direct participation of a managing editor. This includes committing to a specific publication date, location in the publication or any other understanding that limits AMN’s independent news judgment.
Extreme care should be taken not to identify unnamed sources in a way that exposes their identity. However, unnamed sources should be described as precisely as possible. Additionally, reporters and editors should explain why the source could not be identified and if possible, add any information that establishes the credibility of a source on the subject matter in question.
The number of sources or their standing must never be exaggerated.
Sources should be pushed to accept the lowest possible level of confidentiality. The agreed-upon level of confidentiality should be understood by both parties.
Sources cited in wire reports or by other media should be used only when necessary. When using sources from another media, they should be attributed to the appropriate organization, citing its description of the source.
Clarifications and corrections
If an error is discovered after publication the article must be corrected with an inline edit in connection with the error.
Formatting of inline edit shall be; [Editor Correction: Explanation of the correction]
If the entire context of an article is proven to be in error, the original article must be marked with; [Editor: Parts or whole of this article has been proven to be wrong and it’s therefore replaced with (link to correction article)] at the top. The correction article should be clearly prefixed with “Correction:” or “Retraction:” in the title. Whilst the corrected article should have its title prefixed with “Corrected:“, “Updated:” or “Retracted:” to make any change very clear.
If editing for clarification; i.e. expanding the article to be clearer, that can be done in the article body and a note at the bottom of the article stating [Article has been updated with clarifications].