Independence

Independence is the essence of our reputation as a “stateless” global news organisation and fundamental to the trust that allows us to report impartially from all sides of a conflict or dispute. It is crucial to our ability to report on companies, institutions and individuals in the financial markets, many of whom are also our customers, without regard for anything other than accuracy, balance and the truth. Our independence stems not only from the structure of Reuters but also from our duty as journalists to avoid conflicts of interest or situations that could give rise to a perception of a conflict. What follows is not an exhaustive list of conflicts that might arise. If you think that there is a potential for conflict in any of your activities you should raise this with your manager.

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Personal Investments

You must not allow any investments held by you or your immediate family to influence you in your work for Reuters. Except under any arrangements made for employees by Reuters, you must not use any of Reuters transaction or communications facilities for your own – or any other individual’s – personal investment purposes. This does not apply to use of a Reuters product which is directed to the consumer market.

Declaring financial interests

Whether you are reporting news, financial information or other subjects you should ensure that no circumstances exist which could give rise to a suspicion of bias on the part of Reuters. The section in the Reuters Code of Conduct that deals with personal investments reflects the standard acceptable at the time the Code was written. The changing industry and regulatory environments make it clear that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard in order to protect and grow the reputation of Reuters for accurate, unbiased journalism. That standard applies to all journalists in editorial and supplements the Code, which should be read in conjunction with it. The standard is detailed in the section of this Handbook Personal investments by Reuters journalists. Failure to adhere to the standard will be subject to the disciplinary procedures in force in the location where any infraction occurs.

Work outside Reuters

You may not engage in paid work outside Reuters unless your manager has given you permission in advance. This would include, for example, writing a book or articles, addressing a conference or commercial or news photography. Permission will be routinely granted if the activities do not affect Reuters. (Guild members in the United States are not required to seek permission to take a second job unless it could be considered in competition with Reuters).

Checking back with sources

Reuters never submits stories, scripts or images to sources to vet before publication. This breaches our independence. We may, of our own volition, check back with a source to verify a quote or to satisfy ourselves about the reliability of factual information but we also need to ensure that in doing so we do not give sources an opportunity to retract or materially alter a quote or information to their advantage.

Interview subjects or their organisations or companies sometimes ask to see the quotes we plan to publish or broadcast before they are issued. We should resist such requests where possible. If we do have to submit quotes for approval, we should not agree to a quote being materially changed. It is often effective to give the source a tight deadline for approval.

Gifts and entertainment

The Reuters Reuters Code of Conduct reminds journalists that they must not accept any payment, gift, service or benefit (whether in cash or in kind) offered by a news source or contact. In some societies it is traditional to offer or receive gifts on special occasions, such as secular or religious holidays. To refuse such a gift may cause offence and in weighing what to do, a journalist must be mindful of a society’s culture and traditions. A good test of whether to accept the gift or politely decline is the value of the item. A traditional gift of purely nominal value may be appropriate to accept. A gift of more than nominal value should be declined, using an explanation of our policies. If a gift of some value proves impossible to decline, it should be surrendered to the journalist’s manager for donation to a suitable charity. If you cannot decide whether the gift is of greater than nominal value, assume that it is. Staff in any doubt about how to behave should discuss the appropriate action with their manager.

In the course of gathering news, journalists are often invited to breakfasts, luncheons or dinners. As long as such occasions are newsworthy, it may be appropriate to accept the hospitality provided it is within reason. We do not accept “junkets” – events that have little if any value to our newsgathering such as an invitation to a free holiday, an evening’s entertainment or a sporting event at the expense of a news source. Accepting such hospitality when there is no news value might well be seen to create an unreasonable obligation to the source. Reuters has a company-wide policy on bribery, corruption, gifts and entertainment which also applies to journalists and is accessible via the corporate Reuters Policy Gateway.

Travel and accommodation

News sources, often companies, will sometimes offer journalists free transport or accommodation to get to cover a story. Our standard position is that we pay our own way and make our own travel arrangements. If that is impractical or will restrict access to sources, you must consult your manager about the offer. Permission will normally be given only if the story warrants coverage and to insist on paying would be impractical. In this case, a donation equivalent to the costs Reuters would have incurred should be made to a suitable charity and the donation logged.

In exceptional circumstances, it may be impossible to get to the news without accepting free travel or accommodation. Such cases might include flying to a remote location to cover a famine story with an aid organisation, taking a military flight to a war zone or interviewing a company CEO on a private jet. Again, journalists must obtain permission from their manager to proceed. The manager needs to weigh such factors as access, newsworthiness and the potential for a conflict (what if there is no story out of the trip?) and may need to escalate.

Bribes and other inducements

Under no circumstances should we take or offer payment (whether in cash or in kind) for a news story. Such action is a grave breach of our ethics, undermines our independence and can lead to disciplinary action including dismissal. Journalists also need to weigh how they entertain sources. We clearly need to take sources out for a meal or out for a drink in pursuit of the news and encourage our journalists to do so. Such entertainment, however, should not go beyond the bounds of normal, basic hospitality and needs to be in line with the Reuters policy on bribery, corruption, gifts and entertainment.

Reuters does not use gifts of value, in cash or in kind, to influence sources. In most countries, government officials (and officers of state-owned enterprises) are also restricted in the benefits they can accept for performing their duties, including non-cash benefits. Making an improper offer can also subject Reuters and its employees to fines or imprisonment. Journalists must inform themselves of the relevant restrictions before offering a gift of even nominal worth and seek approval from their manager.

Limited potential exceptions exist to the Reuters policy prohibiting the offering or making of payments or inducements, including to government officials. These exceptions will apply only in very narrow circumstances, such as risk to life and limb or facilitating payments made simply to speed up a legal or administrative process. Such payments should generally be small and must be accurately identified in expense reports and other records. Journalists should seek approval from their manager, who should escalate as necessary and report any approved payments to the Reuters Area General Counsel, unless circumstances require an on-the-spot decision, in which case the journalist should act within the spirit of these guidelines.

Independence Within Reuters

The Reuters Trust Principles and the Board of Trustees exist to guarantee the independence of Reuters and also the editorial independence of journalists within Reuters. We do not write stories, take photographs or film events to help clinch a sales contract or alter our coverage of a company, government or institution to suit Reuters commercial interests. The company does not expect this of its editorial staff. It expects us to apply sound news judgment and to produce stories and images that are accurate, fair and balanced. If a colleague from outside editorial raises an issue with a story or image and makes a reasoned argument that it is unbalanced or incorrect, then we have a clear duty to examine the complaint.

Entering competitions and receiving awards

Reuters encourages its employees to submit outstanding work, whether text, visual or graphics, for awards for excellence in journalism from reputable, disinterested sources. Care must be taken to ensure that such action does not come into conflict with the Trust Principles or departmental guidelines. Employees may submit journalistic work produced for Reuters for an award with the approval of their manager. Unsolicited awards need similar approval before they can be accepted, as do invitations to sit on a competition jury as a Reuters journalist. No work for Reuters, whether text, visual or graphics, should be produced primarily for submission for an award, nor should it be altered, except to conform to the rules of the competition (e.g. submitted as a Word document).

Employees will normally be given approval to submit work produced for Reuters for awards, including monetary awards, from reputable professional bodies in the news, photographic, television and graphics industries or to sit on the jury for such awards. Approval will not be granted to enter work for awards from companies, institutions, lobby groups, governments, political parties or associations and advocacy groups whose criteria are self-serving or whose aim in granting the award could be construed as an attempt to influence the impartiality and tenor of the recipient’s work or Reuters coverage.

Any unsolicited award for work done for Reuters should be reported immediately by the intended recipient to a manager, who should consider the matter in the spirit of these principles. Sympathetic consideration will be given to unsolicited awards from reputable media rights groups or from official institutions that recognise a journalist’s contribution to civil society in a way that cannot be construed as self-serving.

This page was last modified 12:32, 21 September 2009.

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