What you need to know:
- News organisations publish editorial policies typically to keep their editors, writers and reporters accountable to their readers.
- Editorial policies subscribe to core values — including truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and public accountability.
The Nation Media Group puts its editorial policy on the internet for all to see.
This is what we call transparency. It tells readers: These are our journalism ethics and standards. Hold us to account.
Editorial policies include principles of ethics and of good practice, which guide editors and reporters in making editorial decisions.
The NMG policy, whose official title is "The Nation Media Group Editorial Policy Guidelines & Objectives”, is over 10,000 words, the size of a short novel.
It covers practically every aspect of journalism codes and canons — from avoidance of conflicts of interest and political affiliations to being comprehensive and accurate in reporting. It is available at here
News organisations publish editorial policies typically to keep their editors, writers and reporters accountable to their readers. The policies also provide frameworks for self-regulation and self-correction.
In Kenya, only the NMG’s is publicly available. The others may or may not have them.
But, experience shows news organisations that don’t have a publicly available editorial policy are less restrained in publishing reports that don’t meet professional standards.
Editorial policies subscribe to core values — including truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and public accountability.
They also respect the “limitation of harm” principle, which requires leaving out certain details of a story if they might cause harm. For example, victims of rape and children involved in crime are not identified, and accused persons are presumed innocent until found guilty.
Editorial policies require journalists to be honest — not to fabricate news or give the wrong impression of a news event.
They should be fair, not harbour bad intentions towards news sources and subjects, and be accountable and accept responsibility for their reports.
They should serve the public with integrity and honesty, truthfulness, fairness and independence from commercial, political and other vested interests and pressure groups.
NMG’s core values require that its news and information outlets remain independent of vested interests or external influences.
“NMG is publicly quoted; its structure, ownership and editorial policies known to all,” the policy says.
“Its news and information outlets are committed to being comprehensive and accurate in content and their commentaries fair and considered. Their constant objective is to ascertain and verify the truth of what they publish insofar as this can be established.”
Veracity and accuracy in reporting are an integral part of it. Editors are required to only publish that which they believe to be true, fair and accurate. “Every effort will be made to ascertain the factual accuracy of articles …”
NMG editors are expected to select all editorial content for its inherent news value and not to appease, augment or respond to political, commercial or any other interests.
“In this respect, all advertisements and advertising-related material will be signposted as such. Editors and journalists must test the value of each story, report or article by interrogating the extent to which it satisfies the ‘so what?’ element,” it adds.
NMG’s news and information outlets are required to differentiate between views and opinion on one hand and news and reportage on the other.
Opinion articles must carry a biographical line setting out the writer’s qualifications and, if appropriate, political affiliation.
Many news organisations also maintain an ombudsman, whose role is, in part, to keep the organisation honest and accountable.
He/she is known variously as the news ombudsman, public editor, readers’ representative, readers’ editor or standards editor. The NMG’s is the “public editor”.
The public editor strives to maintain accountability to the public on the news published, to foster self-criticism and encourage adherence to editorial policies and standards.
He is independent of the Editorial department, so as to be able to handle readers’ complaints objectively and mediate effectively between journalists and news consumers.
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