The following represent the principles, standards and practices that the Fourth Estate aspires to in our stewardship of journalism and the public trust.
We do not intend these as an additional legal burden on anyone working within the Fourth Estate, but rather as guidelines for all of us — consumers of journalism as well as its producers — in an evolving media landscape.
Our thinking has been informed by a number of sources, especially guidelines framed by these three: Society of Professional Journalists, the Poynter Institute, and The New Ethics of Journalism, Principles for the 21st Century, a 2014 book edited by Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel.
What follows adopts the three main categories proposed by McBride and Rosenstiel. For each, the Fourth Estate has drafted its own principles, standards and practices that we believe are most relevant to our circumstances.
We do our best to report the truth in as much complexity, diversity and clarity as possible.
Inherent in that approach is accuracy, with a first allegiance to the facts as opposed to any particular point of view.
We report and edit with truth as our most important consideration, and correct our failures to meet that standard as quickly and as fully as possible
We provide detailed attribution of ideas and language not original to us. We link as thoroughly as possible to sources that we’ve used to assemble our journalism and that we believe will be useful to consumers in learning more about relevant topics.
As much as we strive to be as independent as possible (with a first allegiance to truth), we bend over backwards to be transparent about our biases and/or vested interests whenever relevant.
We regard transparency about how we work as the best evidence of the reliability of our journalism.
Transparency is a key ingredient in achieving a number of our objectives, including accuracy and accountability to the communities we serve.
Consumers of our journalism are able to assess its worth by evaluating its foundations.
Articles published on our platforms are edited by at least one person (in addition to the author). Social media posts to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are usually published without such review.
Our publishing platforms contain prominent links to a description of these guidelines, along with clear instructions on how to hold us accountable and help us correct our mistakes.
We seek to equip individuals and communities with the news and information they need to make wise decisions.
This service-oriented approach includes a commitment to minimize harm, especially to vulnerable stakeholders, in the course of telling as much of the truth as possible.
We report the news in ways that reflect its importance to the community and the news consumers that we serve.
In practical terms, this means we don’t content ourselves with shining light on problems but also work hard to uncover solutions useful to the communities we serve
As a solution-oriented organization and we only increase our value to our members, our communities and the news consumers that we serve.
The Fourth Estate’s Core Journalism Principles, Standards and Practices is an evolving statement and by its very nature cannot be a complete articulation of all ethical obligations. These precepts are the result of an on-going dialogue between the journalism profession and society, and as such, is subject to continuous review.
Although journalism ethics and the law are closely related, they are not the same. Journalism’s ethical obligations may—and often do—exceed legal duties. In resolving any ethical problem not explicitly covered by these precepts, journalists should consider the ethical principles, society’s needs and interests, and any applicable laws.