Editorial Code of Conduct for OTR

The code of conduct for OTR helps us define the ethics under which we operate and is a living document meant to adapt to the changing requirements of the journalistic field. The ideas of “honour” and “ethics” can be hard to define and can differ from individual to individual, so we’ve done our best through this document to clarify the ways we intend to operate as a newsroom that changes in its very makeup every 6-12 weeks.

JOURNALISTIC PRINCIPLES

  1. Sourcing
  2. Confidential sources
  3. Original Content
  4. Attribution
  5. AI content
  6. Fact-checking
  7. Gifts and favours
  8. Impartiality and independence
  9. Opinion writing vs News reporting
  10. Corrections
  1. Sourcing

We will always identify ourselves as journalists before starting our interviews, and we will respect the dignity and rights of everyone we interview, exercise informed consent, and actively seek out sources who bring a diversity of cultural, racial, religious, age, gender, sexual orientation and differing abilities to our stories.
As outlined in the School of Journalism handbook, we will be “particularly cautious with vulnerable people including:

  • Children
  • Seniors
  • Persons with mental health issues
  • Persons suffering trauma”

It is not OTR’s policy to send versions of stories to sources before the story is published. If a source asks for this, the policy should be linked to, and if the source presses, their quotes should be removed from the story prior to publication (this is part of informed consent, and in this case, withdrawing consent) and they should be alerted to that fact.

Like most newsrooms, we have a high bar for anonymity and confidential sources whom we do not identify within the story, and will work hard to double source facts obtained from sources we don’t identify. We are guided by the CAJ’s recommendations on the use of anonymity and only use confidential sources “when there is a clear and pressing reasonto protect anonymity, the material gained from the confidential source is of strong public interest, andthere is no other reasonable way to obtain the information. When this happens, we explain the need for anonymity.”

We will lean heavily towards capturing and creating original visual content and we will properly identify (in captions) the images and videos we publish, and attribute them correctly to the source, including the use of Creative Commons images and videos.

Direct quotes and paraphrased quotes used in publication will be attributed, and we will not represent other people or media groups work as our own. We will identify and link out to sources if our research comes from outside reporting.

It is not the policy of OTR to use AI software to generate content, but we may use AI software in assisting in the creation of content (like using Otter.ai for transcription or Grammarly for spell-check and grammar checks). It is not our intention to generate content using AI, but if that changes, we will clearly indicate which parts of the content were created by AI within the body of the story.

The editorial team at OTR will do its best to verify all facts with more than one source.

While covering stories, students may be offered snacks, food, and other consumable items, students can accept. If a student contacts an event planner to get media access to an event that has paid tickets, that is also acceptable under the OTR’s working journalist policies as long as they are covering the event for a story. Gifts or in-kind favours that exceed $25 in value should be run past the instructors at OTR to ensure there is no potential for story bias.

While we don’t expect our reporters or editors (or instructors) to be without political or cultural opinions of their own, we do expect that those personal biases do not influence either the choices we make in the stories we publish or the sources we approach. This also pertains to the OTR social media accounts. When it comes to personal social media accounts, we do not take responsibility for the opinions independently expressed by our reporters, editors or instructors, even if they link to OTR stories.

In its current iteration, the OTR editorial team does not green-light or publish opinion pieces. If that changes, we will identify opinion pieces with clear tagging/section titles as earlier iterations of OTR have in the past: https://ontherecordnews.ca/category/opinion/

If we discover factual errors or errors of omission (or are alerted to an issue from outside the newsroom), we are committed to correcting with public comment (so that it’s clear the story has been corrected since its original publication date). There is a high bar for unpublishing a story once it has been published, and we have an editorial committee that includes our chair that reviews all requests for removal and makes decisions on behalf of OTR and the School of Journalism.

If you would like to recommend the removal of a published story, please fill out this form.