At Right Wing News we are offering these standards to our staffers and to our readers as an attempt at articulating the goal of merging traditional media’s values with new shifts in the forms of media and communication. Our intent with this document is to provide context and support for Right Wing News employees in making smart, responsible, and ethical choices as we tell the most honest stories we can.
Right Wing News is still growing up too, and these are aimed at helping us on our way, and at reflecting the kind of media company we want to be. We are making this document public to keep our writers, reporters, and editors accountable to our readers.
The document is separated into three sections: 1) Sourcing, 2) Corrections, Updates, Deletions, and Errors, 3) Legal and Ethics
Finally, this guide is intended to provide principles rather than offer specific answers to every possible ethical question that arises. Writers and editors make tough editorial decisions every day, and the hardest and most important calls rarely have obvious answers.
We often embed Instagram images and tweets in news and entertainment. But in the case of sensitive subjects — sexual assault, LGBT issues, and racial bias, for example — we should be aware and respectful of the fact that many ostensibly public Twitter users consider themselves part of distinct communities. Outside of breaking news situations, writers are encouraged to contact Instagram and Twitter users when embedding a photo or a tweet on a sensitive subject. Contacting the user has the added benefit of giving the story more context for the reader. In cases where identifying the user is inappropriate but the content is still newsworthy, screenshots with the name and image blurred are fine.
Fact-checking can be provided for deep narrative features and investigative projects. Reporters are expected to be accurate, and editors are expected to flag any questions they have for their writers before publishing. Additional accurate information can always be added after publishing — removing bad information is more difficult (see Corrections and Updates for more information).
Information and Facts
Information — excluding common knowledge — should come from a verified source. Wikipedia, IMDb, and other websites that anyone can edit should never be used as sources in a story; they are places to begin research, not to finish it. Acceptable verified sources include interviews, legal documents, research by experts, academic journals, databases, and, with attribution, stories from trusted news organizations.
Reporters may quote from press releases and should make the source clear — “said in a press release.” With that said: Interviews are always better.
• Anonymous quotes: Anonymous quotes are permitted, though writers should always try to get a source on the record before agreeing to let them be anonymous. Staffers should spell out why their source is anonymous and include an explanatory line in the story that the reader will understand. When possible, writers should share the source’s identity with their editor, unless it’s a very extreme case, in which case the editor-in-chief should be consulted prior to publication. We don’t have an arbitrary number of anonymous sources required to verify a story: One well-placed anonymous source is worth more than four anonymous sources who are all repeating the same rumor.
Writers should also take precautions not to reveal the identity of confidential sources, including avoiding putting a source’s name in writing on unsecured channels.
• Attribution: All quotes are to be attributed. Quotes that have been given directly to a Right Wing News staffer should be noted as such by using the words “told Right Wing News” at least once in the story. Quotes from other outlets should be attributed to that outlet: “told the Guardian,” etc., with a link to the article. Quotes that come from the wire services we subscribe to should also be attributed: “told the Associated Press” or “the Associated Press reported.”
• Quote approval: As a general rule, Right Wing News writers are not permitted to have quotes approved by sources or share story drafts with their subjects. As a courtesy, or to double-check their work, a writer may choose to call or email a source and describe how they are quoted in a story. “No surprises” letters are also a welcome way of letting sources and subjects know what will be in a story: Sending a note to the subject that includes allegations or a description of what will be published is a reporting tool that also acts as a safeguard for the reporter. There are rare exceptions to the quote-approval rule, particularly in countries where that practice is the norm — but writers should push back as a first response, and discuss with an editor before agreeing.
• Quote disputes: If a source disputes a quote as published, the writer and their editor may review the writer’s notes and recordings to determine if the complaint is warranted. If warranted, the quote will be updated and a correction issued. If a source disputes the way their position was characterized, rather than a specific quote, an editor should determine whether the complaint is valid.
Corrections, Updates, Deletions, and Errors
Changes to body copy may require a notification to the reader via an update or correction. Stories that are ongoing with breaking news can be updated with information as it becomes available — by using either subheads with a manual timestamp or the breaking news template with an automatic timestamp to alert the reader to updates.
Corrections and Updates
There are a number of ways to add updates for clarity and context to written news articles, we publish corrections and or clarifications as promptly as possible. Typos will be corrected without notation, minor corrections will be noted at the bottom of the article and major factual corrections will be noted at the top, unless entire sections are changed then it will be noted at the bottom.
We should strive for clarity and transparency.
News items should not be deleted for reasons related to their content, or because a subject or stakeholder has asked you to do so. If a technical issue arises — like a duplicate post or an incorrect URL — email bugs or your manager. If a post was published ahead of schedule, remove it from all site promotion and ask bugs to unpublish it for you. If two people inadvertently created a post on the same subject, both posts should be left on the site.
If some information in a post is incorrect or obsolete, it is acceptable to delete that information and add a brief correction or update explaining what was removed.
There are three cases in which deletions may be necessary: First, editing content is not an option, in which case content may be deleted and in some cases edited and reposted, with an explanation on that platform in either case. Second, in some countries, the law requires the deletion of content in some cases. In those cases, we will comply with local law. Third, the content has been proven false by means of a third party fact checker.
The deletion process for community posts on Facebook differs from editorial standards.
Updating display copy — headlines, decks, and photo captions — for clarity, spelling, or style does not require a correction. Factual errors do require a correction.
For information on updating images, contact us.
Legal and Ethics
Legal counsel should review stories with serious or potentially damaging allegations in them; if there is any doubt, do not hesitate to contact them. Writers are also encouraged to send a “no surprises” letter to subjects of investigative reports prior to publication, giving them time to comment. Any questions on how to word the letter should be run by your editor. For information on libel or conducting privileged conversations, contact general counsel.
While it ultimately comes down to the calls of the newsroom managers on duty, we concluded that RWNOfficial.com is not an artificial wall between our readers and graphic content. Generally speaking, we will embed or link to the graphic content we are writing about. On our owned-and-operated platforms, we also have technical tools that give our readers the opportunity to opt in to view graphic content.
• Profanity: We speak the language of the internet — which is often hilarious and often profane. As such, profanity is permitted
• Sex and nudity: Nudity or sex should be avoided if it’s prurient or pornographic. Newsworthy or artistic nudity or instructional sexual content can be posted as long as the post has been clearly marked NSFW in the deck.
• Violence: Images that show blood, gore, or violent abuse should be covered with the graphic overlay tool, allowing readers to click if they wish to see the images. These posts should be marked “sensitive”
Giving a subject a general sense of the direction of the interview is fine, but we should decline to provide questions to subjects in advance of an in-person interview. Interviews conducted over email, Facebook Messenger, or Gchat are permitted — but in-person, video, and telephone interviews are often more valuable.
When Right Wing News publishes opinion pieces, they should be clearly labeled as opinion, both on the article page and in any social promotion. Our publication of these pieces does not mean an endorsement of the views contained within them. However, we seek to publish only opinion pieces that we believe were written in good faith, by people who we believe have a credible history of good-faith participation in the public sphere, and add a unique voice to the public debate around a topic of news value.
Our opinion section welcomes commentary from people with diverse political views, but it is not a place for trolls, dishonesty, or spin.
Freelancers and regular contributors should write under their own names or their professional pen names. We may make occasional exceptions for freelancers writing on important but sensitive topics, or for correspondents working on countries where journalism is dangerous or illegal. If you don’t feel comfortable publishing under your own name, there are likely problems with the story that need to be addressed.