WUNC's Commitment to Editorial Integrity
WUNC strives to inform and educate the public by focusing on civic and cultural issues. Our goal is to connect with the community. The station provides high-quality public service content with integrity. WUNC produces news and creates original content that reflects the demographic diversity and range of experiences in North Carolina.
Maintaining the integrity of WUNC is the responsibility of every staff member. This public document articulates the staff’s shared values, standards and aspirations to serve our audience ethically.
WUNC Guiding Principles for Journalists:
Journalism is at the center of WUNC’s mission. We are a news organization dedicated to producing content that accurately informs and educates our audience. We embrace the role of the watchdog in a democratic society, holding to account those in power. In that pursuit of truth, we dedicate ourselves to the principles of honesty, accuracy, transparency, respect, fairness, independence and impartiality. At the core of our mission is a commitment to serving and representing all of our community, prioritizing inclusivity and the coverage of diverse voices, including those who are the most vulnerable or marginalized.
Social Media Guidelines:
WUNC uses social media to engage our audience, sources and communities. We expect ethical behavior on social media both on station and personal platforms. We are responsible for the content we post or share.
We conduct ourselves online as we would in any other public circumstance as a representative of WUNC. We aspire to treat those we encounter online with respect, honesty and fairness, just as we would offline. We verify information before passing it on. We are honest about our intent when reporting. We avoid actions that might discredit our professional impartiality. We remember these common-sense practices:
- Think before posting.
- Respect proprietary information and confidentiality.
- When disagreeing with someone, keep engagement appropriate and polite.
THESE ARE OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES:
Trust is at the core of our mission. Our audience must trust the content we produce, and that trust hinges on practicing honesty through the entire editorial process.
- We identify ourselves as journalists working for WUNC when reporting. We do not pose as someone else or use deception.
- We are transparent about how information is collected and our intentions to use it in content. (Could include but not limited to news stories, podcasts, digital posts). We do not gather data or information in a manner that is deceptive or misleading.
- Plagiarism and fabrication violate our core principles.
Our credibility with the audience and the public is based on the trust that WUNC journalists will deliver truthful and verifiable news. In our reporting, we challenge not only the claims of others, but assumptions and biases of ourselves. We pursue the most complete version of the truth by gathering and verifying accurate information.
- We seek multiple sources.
- We check our facts.
- We avoid speculation.
- We attribute information.
- We strive for accuracy above the desire to break news first.
We approach social media while keeping the following in mind:
- We are transparent about what we’re posting and why. We tell our audience what information is confirmed and what may still be fluid about a news story or situation.
- When resharing someone else’s information, we often add context and point out that WUNC is pointing to information posted by another person or news outlet.
- We challenge information that might be inaccurate.
- We proceed with caution when news is breaking and accounts of what is playing out vary widely.
- When posting, we do everything possible to verify and fact check what we are sharing. If there are doubts or inconsistencies, we reconsider our decision to share.
- We don’t feed the trolls and we encourage our audience to do the same.
We are transparent about our process, especially when we find ourselves wrestling with tough choices. We disclose any involvement or partnership with sources or organizations that could potentially cast doubt about the accuracy or honesty of our content.
- If anyone alleges factual errors in our content, we will investigate those claims. If we make an error, we will acknowledge it and correct it on WUNC platforms.
- We strive to interview sources on the record* and identify them in stories.
- We are transparent about decisions not to identify a source in our content.
- There are times when WUNC reporters must speak to sources on background and use information without attribution, but we make every effort to communicate with sources on the record.*
*Not everyone understands "off the record" or "on background" to mean the same things. Before any interview in which any degree of anonymity is expected, WUNC reporters discuss these terms with sources and set explicit ground rules. These are WUNC’s definitions:
On the record. The information can be used with no caveats, quoting the source by name.
Off the record. The information cannot be used for broadcast or publication.
Background. The information can be broadcast or published, but only under conditions negotiated with the source.
We lead with civility and compassion in pursuit of truth. We avoid arrogance and seek answers rather than confrontations. We listen. We pay special attention to those who are at risk or in distress and consider their privacy.
- We show sensitivity when engaging with sources who are dealing with trauma and grief or who might be victims of sexual assault.
- We weigh potential consequences when talking with a source whose safety and security might be compromised.
- We consider legal and ethical issues when interviewing minors.
- We allow individuals who allegedly have suffered sexual assaults to remain anonymous.
- We make our audience aware when a story contains potentially disturbing material.
We approach social media platforms while keeping the following in mind:
- Civility is at the center of any communication or interaction with a large audience or individual.
- Tone and intent are important. When in doubt, we ask these questions: “Would I say it to a person? Would I say it in front of my co-workers? How would I feel if it was said to me in public?”
- We acknowledge that the internet is not private and what we say and do online can reflect on WUNC.
We make every effort to gather information and reaction from all parties to a story, especially those who are subjects of disparaging allegations or criticism. We consider and include the strongest arguments. Our goal is never to appease but to always seek the truth.
- Sources participating in a WUNC story should never feel misled or surprised by the way they are portrayed.
- We present facts, not speculation.
- We give sources the opportunity to respond to accusations, and promptly update our work if a response comes in after the reporting's initial distribution.
We pledge allegiance to the public and are guided by the principles of a free and unbridled press as established by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Any personal or professional interest that conflicts with that allegiance, whether in reality or appearance, risks damaging our credibility. Decisions about what we cover and how we do our work are made by WUNC journalists, not by any other entity, especially not by those who provide financial support to WUNC.
- We disclose funding relationships in stories when appropriate.
- Sources do not dictate coverage.
- We do not pay sources.
- When interacting with sources, we pay our own way. We don't accept gifts, including property or benefits of any kind from people or institutions we cover, except items of token value (food, books, hats, mugs, T-shirts, etc.).
- When WUNC or related entities become part of the story, we take steps to ensure impartial coverage. This might include reporters or editors recusing themselves from participation in the story or might require hiring outside journalists to cover the story.
Our experiences and perspectives are valuable to our journalism and WUNC. We have the right to live our lives as we choose, but we understand that our choice to practice journalism presents us with some unique obligations and limitations. We endeavor to produce stories that transcend our personal biases. We challenge ourselves to pursue diversity and equity in the journalism we practice.
- We have a diverse range of political, religious and ethical beliefs and we are stronger for that diversity. It is important to participate in civic life and express values as long as the causes and organizations we support do not participate in significant political lobbying.
- We may show support for democratic or civic values that include but are not limited to the freedom and dignity of human beings, the right to live safely and freely in society free of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, disability or religion – and – the rights of a free and independent press.
- We are not advocates. We don’t run for political office, endorse or financially support political candidates.
- We are sensitive to perceptions of bias and conflicts of interest that might appear when a partner or close relative engages in political activity.
We approach social media platforms while keeping the following in mind:
- Participation in advocacy groups could be seen by some as an endorsement of the views of that group or cause. We consider whether we can meet our needs by observing the group rather than becoming an active member.
- We add context and are transparent about decisions we make. If we engage with a group to seek information or story ideas, we make that clear. For balance, we may engage the group that presents the opposite point of view on that particular subject.
We acknowledge that we live in an evolving world and that staff might feel compelled to take a stand on certain issues. WUNC supports staff who stand up for values that are at the core of the journalistic work we do. These include but are not limited to: the freedom and dignity of human beings, the rights of a free and independent press, the right to thrive in society without facing discrimination.
WUNC Guiding Principles for Non-Journalist Staff Members:
We as employees of WUNC understand that we represent the station in our community. As such, we are aware that our professional and personal actions can affect public trust in WUNC’s integrity, credibility and impartiality. We aspire to high standards of integrity and ethics in our personal lives including our public behavior and use of social media. We make a distinction between communications that are part of our professional public media responsibilities and all other communications.
In conclusion, the committee that assembled this document drew on language and examples from the NPR Ethics Handbook, which can be found here: NPR Ethics Handbook. We also referenced ethics documents from the following organizations: Michigan Radio, ProPublica, KUER, and Colorado Public Radio.