Policies and Standards
(This constitutes all the policies of SDGLN and is not meant to be all-inclusive)
These ethics policies are meant primarily to assist SDGLN journalism as we deliver news and information without compromising on following the rules of ethical journalism. These rules and guidelines are an honest document of our working standards that we will continually modify and update through feedback from our crew, and the readers, as well as based on our requirements. As the coverage and reporting of news vary depending on each event or situation, these policies should not be considered fixed rules. These guidelines are flexible based on any situation that might arise.
Conflict of Interest
At SDGLN, we make sure to keep away from conflicts of interest or the popping up of any conflict of interest in any situation possible. Concerning such issues, we have adopted strict policies and strategies.
We do not accept any gifts or free trips from any news sources or organizations. We are completely against preferential treatment that might be given due to the position we hold. However, there are some exceptions to such rules like invitations to meals that are occasional and not calculated or one with an ulterior motive. We also do not accept free entry to any event that is not free for the public. Here also, the only exception is when seats are not sold to the public such as tickets or entry given for a critic’s review. If possible, payment facilities will be looked for such seats.
Our ethics policy also includes the rejection of any payment, either honoraria or expenses from governments, groups of government officials, government-funded organizations, political groups, or organizations that might get into controversial positions. A reporter at SDGLN also cannot accept any monetary benefits from an organization, company, or individual. We should also never accept money from any organizations, trade associations, companies, or individuals that try to influence any of the issues and problems that the newspaper covers. The exceptions, in this case, include educational institutions, social organizations, broadcast organizations, and many professional organizations unless the coverage is done by the reporter or editor.
At SDGLN, we make every reasonable effort to avoid disguised gratuities and to be free of obligation to any news sources and any special interests. We ensure not to mix our private behavior and professional behavior so that they do not cause any discredit to our profession. We avoid involvement in political affairs, community affairs, demonstrations, or social action that might interfere with our ethics or cause any trouble in reporting and editing fairly.
The entire crew of SDGLN, the reporters and the journalists are committed to fair coverage and reporting. Fairness is a concept that is easy to follow and understand, and our team believes in this. As part of this, we make sure to cover news from different angles and perspectives. Leaving out the most significant facts is in and of itself unfair, and we are completely against it. Fairness to us is completeness.
Fairness is about keeping the most relevant information at the forefront. There is no use if irrelevant facts are present by omitting significant information. Stories are never true if they tend to misguide the readers or deceive them in any way. Fairness is all about honesty and reliability. A story will not be fair if the individuals or any organizations mentioned in it are not given the opportunity to address their side. Fairness is all about seeking the truth by all means and taking the comments genuinely into account.
SDGLN gives importance to the taste of the society that keeps changing with time. To cite an example, something that has been a taboo or offensive thing for one generation might be common usage by the next generation. We make sure to avoid profanities and obscenities unless news coverage seems meaningless without such usages. In order to use such words or expressions, we seek the permission of the executive or managing editors.
While including any content with any offensive material or data, editors are required to include visual or text warnings. While directing users to content, we inform them what they are about to see beforehand as warning notes. At last, we do not lead our readers to any sites or content that involve illegal activities.
Editorial pages are separated from the news columns with solemnity and completeness. This separation is intended for the readers, who have the right to read and interpret the news in the news columns as well as in the editorial section and “op-ed” pages. The labels are organized and designed as listed below:
- Analysis: Analyzing and interpreting the news based on the available data and evidence and calculating how events might unfold depending upon past happenings.
- Perspective: Involving and discussing news topics with a point of view and including the narratives of people who share their first-hand experiences.
- Opinion: The opinion section always includes a column or blog
- Review: An artistic or literary work, service, product, or performance being assessed by a professional critic.
The National and Community Interest
SDGLN is seriously concerned with both national and community interests. We respect both these interests and make sure to do justice to them by delivering honest information. At SDGLN, we make sure that every reader has something to go through that helps them make wise decisions.
A Journalist’s Role
The duty and responsibility of journalists is to remain amid the audience, cover the events as a stagehand, and report the news with complete precision. While gathering information, the journalists will not be in a disguise or misrepresent their stories’ identities in any way.
Verification and Fact-Checking Standards
SDGLN reporters and journalists are responsible for reporting, writing, and fact-checking their stories. After this, the stories are reviewed by one or more editors. SDGLN has a well-organized structure for reviewing and editing, which might also include fact-checking. The process includes assignment editors who interact with the respective reporters about the origin of the story and provide an initial review of the story; multiplatform or copy editors who deliver an initial review of breaking news stories and also provide a second-level review of less time-sensitive stories; and finally, the senior editors who handle all the news stories of the website. This complex process of verification and fact-checking depends upon various factors like sensitivity, complexity, and the pressure of time.
SDGLN focuses on providing an accurate, precise, clear, and complete news report. We keep reviewing the published content and make corrections promptly. Through correction, clarification, or editor’s note, we intend to inform the readers what is right and what is wrong. Any person reading a story should be able to understand why a correction was made.
Updating a Digital Report
We update a digital report and let the readers know the corrections made. There is no use stating that a story is updated unless the news additions or modifications are valuable. The time stamp indicates that a story is developing so that readers can remain informed.
Whenever correcting a photo caption, article, headline, graphic, video, or any other material, we are responsible for prompt publishing of the corrections or modifications that are made.
If the news story that we have published is factual but if the language used to convey the facts is not clear and precise, the story should be rewritten and a clarification note should be included in it. A clarification note can also be used to inform that we have added facts regarding a response or comment that was lacking in the article before or the new reporting has changed our account of an event or situation.
Editor’s note is required for any correction that questions the entire content of an article, brings up a serious ethical concern, or addresses whether a story does not meet our standards. This editor’s note is followed by an explanation of what the issue is. This addition of an editor’s note to a story should get the approval of the senior editor.
Other Correction Policies
- When a reader adds in the comment section that an article contains an error, the audience engagement team should mention in the comments section that the article is corrected
- In case, in an alert we announce incorrect information, we should put another alert stating that the data in the previous alert was incorrect and also provide accurate information
- When we publish erroneous information on any social network, we should correct it on that particular platform itself
- We never put blame on individual editors or reporters for any reporting or editing error. Instead, we might note that the error was caused due to a production problem or the false information came from a trusted source
Take-Down or Unpublish Requests
In this digital era, all the published content can be searched and retrieved with ease and because of this, we get frequent requests in taking down articles. Following the editorial policy, we never grant take-down requests. In case the subject of the story claims that the information is inaccurate, we will investigate the matter and if found true, we will make corrections. So, we take necessary editorial actions but never remove the published articles. We will consider a take-down request only if the person involved in it is exposed to any physical harm due to the existence of the content.
Policy on Sources
To the maximum extent, SDGLN is committed to revealing to the readers the sources of information in its stories. We believe in complete transparency so that our readers are aware of how and from where we collect data.
Often, sources seek the need to keep interactions with them confidential. At SDGLN, we are reluctant to such requests as an unnamed source indicates that our readers have to think twice before trusting the information. We uphold the principle of credibility with our primary focus on benefiting the readers.
That being said, in some cases, we might have to grant confidentiality to certain sources. Such situations include exposing the corruption and unjust practices in their own institutions or organizations that might harm them in any way. At SDGLN, we vastly prefer named sources to unnamed sources. When certain sources seek to remain confidential, reporters should collect data from other sources that are ready to reveal their identities.
Editors should be well aware of the unnamed sources used in a story so that they can assess the appropriateness of using data from such sources. Whenever unnamed sources are used, we should let the readers know the seriousness and pressing need for confidentiality. At the end of the day, our responsibility is to serve the readers and not the sources.
Dealing with Sources
We give respect and importance to the sources we use. We make sure to be fair in using the data provided by the sources. We quote controversial statements made by public figures and others in the right context. While seeking comments from people who are the subject of a story, we ensure that they get a reasonable opportunity to respond to us.
At SDGLN, we do not promise sources that we will not do additional reporting to verify the data that they provide us. We should keep away from blind quotations. We never use false identities to misguide our readers. Also, we do not fool or mislead any source. SDGLN reporting should be honorable and responsible to the readers.
At SDGLN, our reporters and editors should be truthful about the source of the information. If facts and quotations used are not produced by our reporting, we make sure to give the attributes. Plagiarism of content is not permitted in any way. While reading an article, a reader should be able to identify what the reporter saw and what the reporter collected from other sources.
Original reporting is what we believe in. We expect that SDGLN reporters see in detail the story they are reporting and interact with as many subjects as possible. Reconstructing statements based on what the participants recollected and informed should be clearly attributed. If reporters are unclear or unaware of such guidelines, discuss them with the editors.
Any significant reporting by an SDGLN member should be credited in the byline or tagline at the end of the story.
The journalistic ground rules mission is to maintain clarity in dealing with sources and readers. This includes explaining our grounded rules to sources and explaining as much as possible to the readers about how we came to know about the details given in our story. The following are the grounded rules for attribution followed by SDGLN:
- On the record- Quotations attributed to the source from where it is collected
- On background: While dealing with sources that seek confidentiality, we should make sure that statements can be used and so on. We should focus on the readers’ interests and work accordingly
- Deep background: Deep background information can be used in a story but not attributed
- Off the record: This is a tricky situation where we should discuss with the source what they actually mean.
Quoting Sources and Sharing Information
While quoting people, we aim to capture both their words and what they intend to convey through their words. We do not allow sources to compromise with the rules and once a quote is used, it remains there. We can permit sources to add to a quotation and then explain the sequence to the readers. Consulting your editor is the wise choice in such situations.
After drafting a story, certain reporters share sections of it with the sources to ensure technical clarity and precision. But, it is against our policies to share entire drafts of stories with sources. Clarity, precision, and straightforwardness are our guiding principles and we should make sure to uphold them without making any compromises.
We quote a lot of people in SDGLN, and it is important to think about who we are quoting, for the reaction of citizens or to get expert opinion and guidance. At SDGLN, we must strive to gather a rich variety of voices into our content. This implies avoiding dependence on the same sources or public figures. We must consult with different categories of society like women, people of color, younger people, and so on through consistent efforts. So, it is necessary that reporters expand their channels of sources. The voice of ordinary citizens should be the voice of our news stories and we should try to see an event from different angles.
Diversity is one of the basic principles that SDGLN upholds. Reporting honest and reliable news from the United States and around the world is possible only by engaging with a wide range of voices. At the same time, capturing the essence of everyday happenings is possible only with the help of a workforce that comes from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. Asking for feedback from all those who are willing to give it is also of equal importance.