The Independent Weekly's Code of Ethics policy extends to all Indy editorial staffers and freelancers, unless noted below. This code is based on Indy staffer input, research of other publications' codes—primarily The New York Times—and the Society of Professional Journalists. The SPJ code (PDF, 63 KB) is part of the Indy's code.
As media and technology changes, this code will need to be reviewed and updated. Nor can it cover every conceivable circumstance or situation that may confront us as journalists; however, it is intended as a general guide. If you have any questions, ask our editor.
Indy editorial employees and freelancers treat news sources fairly and professionally. We do not threaten to damage uncooperative sources, nor do we promise favorable coverage in return for cooperation. We do not pay for interviews or unpublished documents: to do so would create an incentive for sources to falsify material and would cast into doubt the genuineness of much that we publish.
Indy editorial employees and freelancers should disclose their identity to people they cover, though they need not always announce their occupation when seeking information normally available to the public. Those working for us as journalists may not pose as anyone they are notfor example, police officers or lawyers.
Critics and other writers who review performances or goods and services offered to the public may conceal their press identity, but they may not normally assert a false identity or affiliation. As an exception, restaurant critics may make reservations in false names to avoid special treatment. For that same reason, restaurant critics and travel writers should conceal their affiliation.
Indy editorial employees and freelancers must obey the law in gathering news. They cannot steal documents or electronic property, including databases or voicemail messages. They cannot break into property, private or public. Regarding phone calls, it is legal in North Carolina to record phone calls as long as one person is aware of the recording. It is the Indy's policy not to use hidden cameras unless it has been cleared with an editor
Indy editorial employees and freelancers cannot use their press credentialspress cards or parking decalsto gain access off the job.
Indy editorial employees cannot provide public relations work, paid or unpaid, for any organization or individual. This extends to editing, copyediting or reviewing an organization's or individual's documents, either internal or for publication.
Freelancers cannot provide public relations work, paid or unpaid, for areas they cover, or may cover, for the Indy.
Indy editorial employees and freelancers may not serve as ghostwriters or co-authors for people or organizations they cover, or may cover.
Romantic involvement with a source would create the appearance and probably the reality of partiality. Staff members who develop close relationships with people who are likely to figure in coverage they prepare or oversee must disclose those relationships privately to a section editor, managing editor and editor.
Indy editorial employees may not run for office. Nor may they campaign or raise money for political candidates, or contribute to those campaigns, including referenda. Indy editorial employees cannot serve on government boards or commissions or boards of trustees.
Indy editorial employees should not belong to nonprofit groups (e.g. the Sierra Club). If there is a special circumstance (a health-related group, such as the Komen Foundation) the employee must receive permission from the editor, in which case the employee won't be allowed to cover activities or issues pertaining to that organization.
Spouses of editorial employees are obviously not bound by these restrictions. However, political contributions by spouses should not be made on a joint checking account with the Indy employees. An Indy employee whose spouse is a member of any organization, political, profit or nonprofit, cannot cover that organization.
Indy editorial employees and freelancers who belong to community or neighborhood, organizations cannot cover those organizations or their issues.
Indy editorial employees and freelancer should always avoid any conflict of interest, perceived or real. If an employee or freelancer cannot avoid the conflict, he or she should tell the managing editor and editor; the employee may be reassigned a different story or coverage area.
Many staffers (including those in other departments), freelancers and other contract employees are involved in artistic endeavors in their personal lives. Any coverage calendar mentions, write ups of less than 500 words, photographsmust be accompanied by a disclosure stating the relationship of the person/group to the paper.
Any coverage beyond that mentioned above must be cleared by the section editor and the editor, and must be accompanied by a disclosure. Cover stories are strongly discouraged, and would be written only in the rare occasion that the newsworthiness rises to that level.
Coverage of spouses, partners and family members of editors, writers and freelancers must also be accompanied by a disclosure, and cleared by the section editor and editor.
Editors, writers and freelancers whose work or company is being covered in the paper cannot edit or write the piece.
No coverage preference can be given to any Indy employee or other contractor based on their relationship to the paper.
In general, editorial employees, including freelancers, may accept an item or consideration worth $5 or less, but only one time per source. When declining an offer, gracefully explain that the Indy's Code of Ethics prohibits our accepting free meals, gifts or considerations. If for some reason the situation makes it difficult or rude to decline, reimburse the person within two weeks. Staffers and freelancers may either reimburse by cash or check, or in the case of meals, buy the person a meal of similar price.
Regarding CDs, DVDs, books and other review material: These items may be accepted, as it is the industry standard for promotional items to be provided to media outlets. However, when accepting free items, it is the editor's/ writer's responsibility to ensure that the source understands there is no guarantee of good coverage or coverage at all, as a result of the free item(s).
The reviewer/writer/editor who receives the free items is not allowed to resell them. These items must be given away, preferably to charities, libraries, etc.
Regarding concert tickets: Free concert tickets (reviewer +1) may be accepted under the same conditions as above. Free tickets are not allowed for shows if we have no plans to review them or to provide any coverage.
Regarding fashion shoots: The Indy accepts no free items for fashion shoots. Items may be borrowed for the story and photography, and then must be returned.
Regarding food coverage: The Indy does not accept free meals for food coverage. Writers and editors can attend media events related to food, but only if they are open to all media and there is no expectation of coverage, good or bad. Considering the range of food events some situations may require decisions on a case-by-case basis, made by the food editor and cleared with the editor.
Regarding lodging and transportation: We do not accept free or discounted transportation and lodging unless the circumstances give little or no choice. (Military, scientific expeditions, interviews with political candidates on buses or jets.)
While we do not restrict outside work except for in the cases listed below, it is important that Indy employees keep their freelance ventures separate from their Indy jobs.
Indy employees may not freelance for local (Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham counties) print, radio, TV or web-based publications, or for newspapers, magazines, radio or TV stations that circulate or air in this market.
Indy employees must ensure that their freelance work does not interfere with their normal responsibilities. Freelance work cannot be done on company time or using company resources (telephone, fax, Internet.) Employees should keep a separate email for freelance work and should not use the Indy's email address.
Indy employees should not use their position at the paper to gain favors or work from potential freelance outlets, other than listing dates of employment, job title and responsibilities on a personal rsum.