Dennis Wagner’s ethical checklist

At the ethics panel discussion at Saturday, April 30’s SPJ Western Regional Conference, Dennis Wagner, investigative reporter of The Arizona Republic, was asked for his list of topics that he presented. Here it is:

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Basic principle: Journalism must be pursued with integrity or there is no credibility.

Basic question: Do I have any involvement, history or relationship that would prevent me from being fair and accurate, or would make others believe I am biased. If the answer is yes, or maybe, that’s a red flag.

Following is a partial list of ethical considerations drawn from experience, The Arizona SPJR11CONF_Logo-1-revisedRepublic‘s policy and other sources. (See links below) These principles are to be applied when considering a story, during reporting, while writing and after publication:

  • No conflict of interest, or appearance of a conflict
  • No monetary or business connections to the news issue or person
  • No acceptance of gifts, cash, travel, meals, perks or anything else of value
  • No improper use of journalistic status
  • No personal ties, whether through family, friendships or organizations
  • No public activities (including political involvement, organization membership, social media use) that reflects bias or creates an appearance of bias
  • No dishonesty, to include lying, undercover reporting, stealing, encouraging theft, trespassing or other violation of law
  • No collaboration with sources; maintain and clarify independence
  • Exercise due diligence as to fairness, balance and adequate research
  • Correct all significant errors
  • Seek comment from any negatively impacted subject
  • Clarify off-the-record agreements; protect source confidentiality
  • No prepublication agreements as to content without senior editor approval
  • No anonymous sources without senior editor approval, and only where life or livelihood is threatened
  • No advertiser influence
  • No plagiarism, copyright violation, pirating, photo-shopping
  • No staged photograph

Republic policy:

Gannett policy: