Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) Ethics and Editorial Standards
GPB News will serve the public interest by connecting the audience with information they need to participate fully in civic life and appreciate the rich culture of Georgia. The goals of GPB News are to stimulate thinking and serve as a catalyst for informed and responsible community action.
These editorial guidelines will serve as a foundation for GPB News. They have been created through research and by referencing ethical guidelines established by other journalistic organizations including the Radio Television Digital News Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Society of Professional Journalists, The Poynter Institute, National Public Radio and CNN, and with advice from individual journalists.
These guidelines set minimum standards for GPB reporters, editors, hosts, producers, interns and freelancers to ensure our coverage is fair, accurate, balanced and ethical. Listeners must be able to believe GPB News broadcasts unbiased and accurate reporting based on careful factual analysis.
These guidelines should help you make sound decisions as you practice the craft of journalism, but they do not cover every potential ethical pitfall. Please speak up whenever you have a question or concern about an ethical matter. Discuss general issues with your colleagues. Address specific concerns or issues to the News Director or your editor. Please refer to the GPB policy and procedures on Conflict of Interest, Political Activity, and Social Media.
Reporters and editorial staff will adhere to the highest standards of journalism, outlined below:
GPB reporters and anchors will treat all subjects with the integrity and respect we would expect from others. At its most basic level, GPB News staff will:
- Always strive to retain the spirit and context of those whom we quote
- Fact check all claims before they are broadcast;
- Respect 'off the record' agreements with background sources
- Provide attribution (or sufficient source identification) for every quote. Reporters will avoid using anonymous sources. In rare instances, a reporter may grant anonymity, but the reporter must reveal the identity of the anonymous source to the News Director upon request and the News Director will have final approval for airing information from the anonymous source. The information provided by an anonymous source must be confirmed with at least one other independent source. GPB News will aggressively protect the identity of sources granted anonymity. Reporters should be aware of the Georgia Shield Law, O.C.G.A. 24-9-30 and First Amendment Freedom of the Press, and should understand the legal consequences of protecting the identities of anonymous sources.
- Never exploit people in pain or immediate emotional distress; avoid antagonism for its own sake ("gotcha" journalism);
- Treat all stories and sources, including the State of Georgia and its interests, with equal respect and objectivity; apply the same standards of fairness, balance, accuracy, independence and integrity to stories about the State of Georgia and its interests, including Georgia Public Broadcasting, as any other stories we cover.
Balance assumes no monopoly of ideas and implies respect for the listener's interest in forming a well-rounded opinion, including the perspectives of subjects with less access to a public voice. GPB editorial staff will seek a diversity of opinion on issues and subjects covered.
At a minimum, GPB News staff will:
1. Pursue a plurality of perspective in its reporting. This includes not only ideological perspective, but also diversity of age, race, ethnicity, religion, geography, and socioeconomic status. Ask yourself: Do the voices in your story accurately reflect the community? Do those voices accurately reflect the diversity of the subject matter?
2. Offer an opportunity for subjects to respond to direct or indirect allegations;
3. Go beyond superficial bi-polarism ("he said/she said"; "Republicans say/ Democrats say") by giving a voice to people directly impacted – the roots of complex stories run in many directions;
5. Never offer an open forum to a single viewpoint without offering a similar opportunity for divergent or opposing viewpoints.
Balance is not exclusively measured by the length of opposing sound bites. Tone, focus, and subject matter are also factors. Often balance will be achieved by presenting a diversity of views in a single story; other times, balance may best be achieved over a period of time (a three day series, each with a different perspective).
GPB editorial staff will make every effort to ensure that all stories, whether broadcast or otherwise published, are factually accurate. At a minimum, GPB News staff will:
1. Verify any claim with two independent sources before broadcast/publication;
2. Be able to identify the source of every fact, even the ones that have been reported over and over. All too often, people report facts that come from some other news source, never knowing where that statistic originated and this leads to massive mis-reporting.
3. Certify to the editor prior to broadcast that all facts have been properly verified (while reporters or editors may check passages with sources for accuracy and clarity, no source has veto power or editing rights over GPB news stories);
4. Immediately inform the News Director of any mistake of fact and offer prompt retraction and correction;
5. Under no circumstances attempt to color or shade facts for impact or editorial effect.
Failure to properly check facts (or an attempt to distort facts) endangers the reputation of GPB News and may also expose it to legal liability. GPB News staff is expected to follow these guidelines without exception, to go 'the extra mile' to verify claims, and to seek the advice of the News Director on any question in this regard.
Independence will be a cornerstone of the GPB News product. GPB editorial staff will make every effort to ensure that all stories remain editorially independent of any outside influence.
At a minimum, GPB News staff will:
1. Research and report news based solely on editorial judgment without deference to outside influences including but not limited to the State of Georgia and its interests, GPB’s advisory council, advertisers or underwriters, political parties or special interest groups, business affiliations and/or any outside entity which would seek influence or control over GPB editorial content;
2. Clearly identify sources of support or funding for GPB either within any story or element that references such sources or by referring listeners to the GPB website for a list of funders; GPB News staff will avoid the use of funding sources as experts within any story;
3. Recognize that such funding or sponsorship will not in any way influence news product or style of reporting on any subject;
4. Immediately inform the News Director of any conflict, or appearance of conflict, between performance of job and any affiliation, business, financial, political or other interest;
INTEGRITY: Integrity is what results when honesty, fairness, balance and independence are thoughtfully applied. Integrity is the glue that holds GPB News’ editorial values together. GPB’s editorial staff should adhere firmly to GPB editorial guidelines and make every effort to honestly and conscientiously uphold those values.
GPB Conflict of Interest Policy
It is important that GPB News staffers, contractors and freelancers conduct themselves in a manner that reflects independence and fairness, thereby avoiding actual or apparent conflicts of interest. To that end, members of the GPB news team should not engage in outside activities or public comment that calls into question their ability to report fairly and accurately on a given subject.
All employees must disclose potential conflicts of interest to the News Director, who may consult with senior management. This disclosure must happen before a journalist covers a story, as revelations after the fact can damage the reputation of the reporter and the station. Reporters must disclose any business, commercial, financial or personal interests that might be construed as an actual or potential conflict of interest. This would include situations in which the journalist or his immediate family has or has had a business or personal relationship with the persons being interviewed or companies/organizations being covered.
The primary responsibility of GPB journalists is to gather, write, edit and produce news. Therefore, outside work, freelancing, and speaking engagements must be considered and approved on a case-by-case basis by the News Director and senior management. The following are some general guidelines:
- GPB staff journalists may not produce news stories for any other local media outlet (broadcast or print) without prior approval of the News Director. Similarly, GPB freelancers must notify the News Director if they intend to sell a similar re-versioned story to another local media outlet or if the story they are pitching for GPB has already been heard/read locally. The News Director will not unreasonably deny approval of the proposed work if it does not create a conflict of interest for the employee or GPB.
- Any commercial, non-profit, or educational organizations that wish to use GPB hosts or journalists as speakers, presenters, moderators, panelists, or in any way to be directly associated with a non-station event, must submit a written request to the News Director. This request must detail the organization’s plans for utilizing GPB staff for their event. New Director will make the determination of whether the potential exists for real or perceived conflicts of professional and/or personal interest and/or whether participation may harm the station's integrity. The News Director's decision will be final.
GPB staff journalists may not speak to groups where the journalist's appearance might put in question his or her impartiality. Such instances include situations where the employee's appearance may appear to endorse the agenda of a group or organization.
- GPB staff journalists may only accept speaking fees from educational or nonprofit groups not engaged in significant lobbying or political activity.
- GPB staff journalists may not engage in public relations work, paid or unpaid. Exceptions may be made for certain volunteer nonprofit, nonpartisan activities (i.e. working for a church or synagogue or charitable organization), so long as they do not conflict with GPB’s reporting on activities or issues in which the outside organization is active. Reporters must get prior approval for said activity from the News Director.
- GPB staff journalists should alert the News Director of any financial contributions to or affiliation with any political or public issue campaign.
- GPB staff and freelance journalists must alert the News Director if he/she is asked to report or edit a story about a subject or entity in which he/she has a personal or financial interest.
- GPB staff and freelance journalists must alert the News Director if he/she is involved with a group for which advocacy is a major purpose. In this case, staff can assume that such affiliation would be a conflict of interest.
Additionally, GPB staff and freelance journalists may not:
- Accept compensation from the people or institutions they cover or any groups or companies with a vested interest in GPB news coverage. This includes property or benefits of any kind. Unsolicited items of significant value must be returned to the sender with a letter stating our policy on gifts.
Exceptions to this policy include books or CDs provided by authors/publishers/promoters for potential review or stories; meals at conferences, meetings and conventions where food is provided as a convenience for the press as a whole and a staffer does not have opportunity to eat a meal during a reasonable timeframe either before or after the event; tickets to movie screenings, performances or similar events that are attended for the purpose of producing stories for air; and paid travel and meals for speaking engagements and awards ceremonies that meet the guidelines established in the previous section of this code.
- Sell items like books, CDs, etc. that they receive for review or potential stories. These items can be distributed to GPB staff for personal use or donated to charities when no longer needed.
All GPB employees must also adhere to the standards set forth in the State of Georgia Executive Order establishing a code of ethics. That order can be found here: https://tcsg.edu/tcsgpolicy/docs/Governor_Deals_2011_Ethics_Executive_Order.pdf
GPB Social Media Guidelines
When posting to GPB’s social media platforms or personal social media accounts that identify you as GPB employees, make sure your posts meet GPB’s editorial standards outlined above and the following specific guidelines for social media. Remember: If it can’t be said on GPB’s air or written on GPBNews.org/GPB.org, it likely shouldn’t be posted on social media. If you need clarification contact the News Director or your editor. Also refer to GPB policy and procedures on Social Media.
- Avoid taking public positions on the issues, people, governments or organizations on which GPB reports, unless you have been given specific approval from your editor or News Director to do so.
- When you retweet or quote posts from other users be clear that you are not endorsing that viewpoint. You can do this on a case-by-case basis or through a disclaimer in your bio (for example: “Retweets are not endorsements”)
- If you are breaking news on social media you must get approval from your editor or News Director. You must fact check to ensure the information you are sharing is accurate. If a story is developing quickly and you cannot confirm some information that you feel is important to share, you must clearly disclose that it is unconfirmed information.
- At no time should news or information about confidential matters regarding GPB business or those that impact colleagues you work with be tweeted or communicated about unless it has been authorized by the Executive or Human Resources Offices of GPB to protect the dignity and respect of those that have been impacted.
Guidelines for Personal Use of Social Media and Online Platforms:
You will likely be posting to GPB’s social media platforms and to your own personal social media accounts. Remember that despite privacy settings, nothing on the internet is ever truly “private.” In the interest of transparency, we ask that you disclose you are a GPB employee in your bio/profile or by adding “GPB” to your username.
You can generally write about anything that interests you, but there are clear exceptions:
- Given the nature of our business, you must avoid taking public positions on the issues, people, governments or organizations on which GPB reports. You cannot express political views. This includes making statements that endorse (or condemn) candidates, political parties or legislation.
- You should avoid expressing personal opinions about current events or controversial topics that are reported on or likely to be reported on by GPB. If you have questions about what is considered controversial, ask your editor or News Director.
The bottom line, especially for anchors and reporters, is don’t write anything online that you wouldn’t say on air or write on GPBNews.org/GPB.org.