Macon Sense is an independent, objective newspaper owned and managed by a Christian nonprofit, Kavod Family, and our newspaper may include opinion pieces professing and supporting our faith and policy positions.
Macon Sense joins the growing national family of nonprofit news publications owned and managed by local supporters dedicated to local, community-driven journalism.
Like every news organization, our newspaper will consist of hard news, alongside opinion pieces discussing issues such as government policies, community, faith, and more. Our overall mission will support free speech, tradition, history, and family values.
News versus Opinion versus Advertising
There is a difference between hard news and opinion. The same goes for the separation of news and advertising. There is an important firewall to be maintained between each. We are open about that and will operate with that separation.
Neither advertisers, donors nor opinion leaders will influence how we cover the news. Our hard news stories will be objective and fact based. Just the facts. Period.
In addition, there are reports that some journalism schools are now training student journalists to be advocates, not the traditional definition of a reporter. Our hard news journalists and editors will operate as those institutions originally taught the trade of journalism: Just the facts. Objective, fact-based, questioning, and independent.
However, there will be space for individuals, opinion leaders, faith leaders, politicians, business leaders and citizens in general to share their opinions. Those sections of the paper are clearly delineated.
We believe in the application of the First Amendment in its traditional sense. That goes for our employees. Clearly, news reporters and editors will need to conduct themselves accordingly, and we attempt to explain it below so our readers can trust that we are reporting the news professionally and objectively – the way the public has always believed the news should be reported.
Just the Facts
According to The American Heritage Dictionary, Hard News is news or investigative journalism that deals with serious topics and events. Factual reportage of events which are socially or politically significant and of a serious nature, as opposed to the reporting of entertaining, humorous, or gossipy accounts of relatively inconsequential events. And, News that deals with serious topics or events.
Our hard news reporters and hard news editors will conduct themselves with a commitment to objective, factual content. Their role at Macon Sense is reporting the facts. To earn and keep the public trust, they must perform their news reporting and editing duties for the public with integrity, independence, and accountability.
Macon Sense’s news reporting and news editing ethical standards are based on the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, inspired by the Code of Ethics from the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1926, revised in 1973, 1984, 1987, 1996 and 2014. The code is observed by journalists worldwide.
Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics
Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society’s principles and standards of practice.
Seek Truth and Report It
Journalists should be honest, fair, and courageous in gathering, reporting, and interpreting information.
- Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
- Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
- Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
- Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
- Make certain that headlines, news teases, and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites, and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
- Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.
- Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it.
- Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story.
- NEVER plagiarize.
- Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
- Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
- Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, or social status.
- Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
- Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
- Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
- Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
- Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.
Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.
- Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
- Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
- Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
- Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
- Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
- Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
- Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
- Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real, or perceived.
- Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
- Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel, and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office, and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
- Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
- Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
- Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
- Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers, and each other.
The SPJ Code of Ethics is a statement of abiding principles supported by additional explanations and position papers that address changing journalistic practices. It is not a set of rules, rather a guide that encourages all who engage in journalism to take responsibility for the information they provide, regardless of medium. The code should be read as a whole; individual principles should not be taken out of context. It is not, nor can it be under the First Amendment, legally enforceable.
- Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
- Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
- Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
- Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
- Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.
More information about SPJ and its Code of Ethics is available at www.spj.org.
Generally, Macon Sense expects all its employees to operate with the highest ethical standards. Additional guidelines for our employees engaged in news gathering, news reporting, and news editing are stated below.
More Just The Facts
First, we are not re-inventing the wheel. These goals can be found listed in various forms on hundreds of nonprofit news organization websites. That said, we understand and accept that these are guidelines. Unexpected and extraordinary circumstances may require judgement calls. As necessary, this will be a living document. Readers and supporters can expect changes when circumstances require.
The most important goal for our news reporting team is to tell the truth, without bias or slant. Just the facts. With each word written and fact reported, we will strive to be accurate, objective and fair. Analysis will be independent. Personal beliefs will be assigned to pages such as Opinion, Health, Recipes, and Faith & Family.
News: How We Operate With Just The Facts.
Unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as a case involving a whistleblower or a life-or-death situation, we will identify all sources. If stories require a focus on documents instead of interviews, we will reveal how the documents were obtained. Finally, we will not claim a source declined comment if they are quoted anonymously.
If a source must be unnamed, news editorial employees must divulge their source to the editors. Sources must understand this process. All editorial staff also will make extra efforts to identify any material provided to Macon Sense anonymously before using the information.
Otherwise, all sources will be identified with their full name. Using a pseudonym requires approval from Macon Sense’s top editorial leadership.
Children will be handled differently. Because of the long-term impact of news coverage on children, we will generally lean from using their names in hard news.
We will give sources as much time as possible to respond to inquiries.
Our editorial staff will always identify ourselves for interviews and information gathering.
We will not pay for sources or interviews.
Someone operating as a freelance journalist will be paid for their services.
Photo editors and video producers may improve the technical quality of photos and video or audio recordings, but may not alter the substance and meaning of that media.
Plagiarism is unacceptable.
Any information available to the general public is “fair game” for our news reporting.
In terms of fairness, we will be as complete as possible given time constraints and source availability. If the integrity of our news reporting is questioned by sources or the public, our editors and reporters will discuss the situation and determine if a response is necessary.
We are all human, and reporting the news and information from sources rarely is a perfect science. Everyone makes mistakes. Claims of inaccuracy should be made to the editors. When mistakes are made, they will be corrected.
On/off the record
For our sources, there are general terms they must understand before conducting an interview with our journalists:
- “On the record” means that the information provided is able to be used, including in quotes, with the person’s name attached as a source.
- “Not for attribution” means that the information can be published and can be used in quotes but not with the source’s name attached to it. This has to comply with the rules for anonymous quotes.
- “On background” means that the information can be published as general contextual information, but it cannot be used in quotes and cannot have the source’s name attached to it. When using such sourcing to describe events, we demand exhaustive due diligence to prove or disprove the source’s story.
- “Off the record” means that the information provided cannot be published or used in quotes and cannot have the source’s name attached to it.
Macon Sense reporters and editors should explain these terms to sources and agree to them prior to the interview. More deference is given to people who don’t often deal with the press.
However, we strongly recommend sources avoid going “off the record” and we will avoid it whenever possible.
Conflicts of Interest
As a nonprofit, we accept gifts, grants, and sponsorships from foundations, individuals, businesses, and members of the community; however, hard news decisions will be made independently and not on the basis of donor support.
Our news gathering, news reporting, and news editing staff will not be influenced by donors. We do not intentionally accept donations from sources who present a conflict of interest with our hard news gathering and reporting work, or compromise our independence.
For our editorial staff, conflict of interests must be avoided as best as possible. When starting a new assignment, editorial personnel must confirm that they have no investments, business dealings, or political leanings that would create a conflict and biased reporting. Such personnel also must affirm that to the best of their knowledge no spouse, family member, or partner has financial, business, or political holdings or leanings that could raise doubts about the impartiality of the employee’s work. All personnel have a duty to raise potential concerns with their managers whenever they might be relevant.
All Macon Sense employees are required to consider the repercussions of their actions in the public arena. While we respect our employee’s freedom of speech, they must operate knowing they work for an influential platform that requires public trust. For instance, personal statements on social media may create the potential for a conflict of interest or a lack of trust in our work.
All employees may participate in issue-oriented activities. For instance, an employee could support or participate in a Right to Life March – as long as the employee is not representing Macon Sense while participating.
In terms of gifts, Macon Sense employees may not offer prospective donors, sources, or vendors any gifts of any financial nature or in terms of favorable coverage or treatment. Macon Sense employees may not solicit or accept any gifts, payments, loans services, or anything of value costing more than a nominal value or that exceeds customary courtesies from any company, individual, or institution that furnishes or seeks to furnish news, information material supplies, or services to or from Macon Sense.
Our journalists may moderate panels and speak at events underwritten by corporate sponsors as long as the content presented by the staff is completely independent. The only gifts or gratuities accepted for such participation, such as a mug or pen, must be of nominal value and available to all every speaker or panelist. Further, our goal will be to pay for our own meals whenever possible.
We will always pay our own way for trips, meals, and services.
Donors and Board Members
Donors and Kavod Family board members support the faith-based mission of Kavod Family and, in turn, our mission of reporting Macon County news and opinion-based information. They do not buy special considerations.
As a result:
- Donors and board members will not have access to our stories prior to publication.
- Donors and board members should not pitch news stories to editorial staff. All conversations along these lines should begin with the publisher/executive director. If staff is approached by donors or board members regarding stories, they should be directed to the publisher/executive director.
- We will not accept donations in return for special access or exchange of services provided.