This document provides ethical principles and guidelines for journalists working with the Global Reporting Centre. We realize that many of our collaborator’s organizations have their own ethical protocols. If these guidelines clash with those laid out by partner organizations, please raise concerns with the GRC Executive Director or Executive Editor.
Working with Sources
- Provide sources with a clear explanation of the purpose of your reporting project, and a verbal synopsis of the intended story.
- Do not submit pre-written interview questions to sources in advance. You may however submit topic areas, and likely discussion points.
- Reporters should strive to make it clear to sources that their information, interviews, or quotes may be published to large audiences, or may not feature at all in the resulting story. Make no promises of publication.
- Be respectful of the time and energy people invest to help, and let everyone who has assisted in the development of a story know when the final product is due to be published. Alert sources to any key changes – especially those that may be unwelcome, such as an interview being cut, or a shift in story focus – and stress how valuable their input was regardless.
- Make every effort to get sources on the record with their names published. In some circumstances, we may be willing to change the name of the source. In such instances, we should make these conditions and reasons transparent in the reporting.
- In some circumstances, we may agree to a source’s conditions limiting the use of information they give us (off the record). In such instances, we should make these conditions and reasons transparent in the reporting.
- Maintain a relationship of professional distance with sources. Whenever possible, avoid staying in their houses, sharing hotel rooms, or giving or receiving gifts. If gifts must be given or accepted to abide by local custom, they should not exceed USD $25 in value.
- Romantic or sexual relationships with sources are not permitted.
- Never accept payment from sources for reporting their side of the story.
- Make extra effort to ensure that vulnerable (e.g. sick, elderly, young, poor, or illiterate) people fully understand the implications of their participation in a story.
- Avoid reinforcing the stereotypes that can surround poor, sick, elderly, disabled, or indigenous people by insensitive interviewing or framing of their participation in a story.
- Consider the impacts that international publishing of a vulnerable person’s story might have on their health, safety, prosperity, and that of their family.
- When working in a country outside of your own, try to partner with local journalists, rather than hire them for subservient “fixer” roles
- While we try to avoid the correspondent-fixer methodology of global reporting, sometimes it is necessary to hire local professionals to assist with the logistical challenges of reporting a story in a foreign country, on a short-time scale. In such cases, draw up a written agreement or contract with the fixers in advance of their reporting trip. This should include the fixer’s responsibilities, the team’s expectations, how they will be credited, and agreed amount and method of payment for services and expenses.
- Fixers are paid at the market rate for the location, and all payments must be documented with receipts.
- Industry and advocacy groups should not be paid as fixers.
- Try to avoid using sources, or those with any stake in the story, as translators. In exceptional circumstances where this is necessary, reporters should be extra vigilant about checking the accuracy of the translation. Where possible, draw up a written contract or agreement with translators in advance of a reporting trip.
- After fieldwork all translations must be checked for accuracy by a second independent translator upon completion of the first draft.
The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics
The GRC also abides by the SPJ’s Code of Ethics, which lays out the following four principles as the foundation of ethical journalism and encourages their use in its practice by all people in all media: