Ethics Guidelines

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.

Field Support

  • 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: