Energy News Network code of ethics

The Energy News Network is an editorially independent news and information service published by Fresh Energy. Fresh Energy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in the public interest to drive policy solutions advancing a clean energy economy, with a particular focus on Minnesota. One of Fresh Energy’s strategic imperatives is to elevate a fact-based conversation about energy.

The Energy News Network works toward that imperative but is a separate program area within Fresh Energy. Energy News Network staff members are professional journalists who are not involved in Fresh Energy’s advocacy or policy work. Fresh Energy staff, board and funders do not have access to or oversight of the Energy News Network’s editorial process.

What follows are our standards for ensuring our work is independent, fact-based and produced in accordance with the highest journalistic standards.

Journalistic practice

Energy News Network reporters are required to adhere to the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics while conducting work for ENN. The full text of the SPJ code is appended at the end of this document.

Energy News Network reporters are independent freelancers who often work for multiple clients. This work may include public relations or communications work. In such cases reporters shall recuse themselves from any stories that would involve a PR or communications client.

Energy News Network reporters shall disclose any financial conflicts of interest involving themselves or immediate family that may raise credibility questions about their journalism.

Relationship with Fresh Energy

Energy News Network staff are employed by Fresh Energy and work in the Fresh Energy office, reporting to the executive director and the Fresh Energy board of directors. Performance deliverables for Energy News Network staff are built around audience growth and capturing the impact of our journalism and do not determine how the news is covered.

Internal discussions among Fresh Energy staff involving policy issues are considered off the record and confidential unless those staff indicate otherwise.

Fresh Energy staff, management and board are encouraged to provide story tips and information to Energy News Network reporters or editors, but those journalists are under no obligation to pursue stories not deemed newsworthy to the readership.

The Energy News Network shall disclose whether Fresh Energy was involved in direct advocacy around the subject matter of a story.

Confidentiality will not be honored in the event of unethical or criminal activity.

Relationship with funders

Foundations and other donors to the Energy News Network have no oversight or input into the editorial process and may not influence stories even after publication. Donors may, like any other reader, pitch ideas for coverage as well as raise questions of accuracy and fairness, and Energy News Network editors will endeavor to treat these issues with the same weight regardless of their source.

The Energy News Network may accept funding to report on a particular geographic area or topic area provided the funder does not prescribe a particular outcome. The Energy News Network will refuse any funding that requires it to disregard its own ethical standards.

The Energy News Network will post the names of all supporting foundations along with any individual or corporate contributions in excess of $1,000 per year. Anonymity for funders may be granted under some circumstances.

Personal conduct

Energy News Network staff and contractors are allowed to participate in their communities, including the expression of opinion on matters of civil interest and participation in local politics, but should make clear in these instances that they are speaking as private citizens and not on behalf of the organization. ENN staff and contractors should avoid advocacy related to topics they will cover as journalists.

SPJ CODE OF ETHICS (revised 2014)

SEEK TRUTH AND REPORT IT

Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. Journalists should:

  • Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
  • Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
  • Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
  • Gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
  • Be cautious when making promises, but keep the promises they make.
  • Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.
  • Consider sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Explain why anonymity was granted.
  • Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.
  • Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
  • Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.
  • Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
  • Recognize a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government. Seek to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.
  • Provide access to source material when it is relevant and appropriate.
  • Boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience. Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear.
  • Avoid stereotyping. Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.
  • Label advocacy and commentary.
  • Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information. Clearly label illustrations and re-enactments.
  • Never plagiarize. Always attribute.

MINIMIZE HARM

Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect. Journalists should:

  • Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.
  • Show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage. Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent. Consider cultural differences in approach and treatment.
  • Recognize that legal access to information differs from an ethical justification to publish or broadcast.
  • Realize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than public figures and others who seek power, influence or attention. Weigh the consequences of publishing or broadcasting personal information.
  • Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.
  • Balance a suspect’s right to a fair trial with the public’s right to know. Consider the implications of identifying criminal suspects before they face legal charges.
  • Consider the long-term implications of the extended reach and permanence of publication. Provide updated and more complete information as appropriate.

ACT INDEPENDENTLY

The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public. Journalists should:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
  • Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not. u Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
  • Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.

BE ACCOUNTABLE AND TRANSPARENT

Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public. Journalists should:

  • Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.
  • Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.
  • Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.
  • Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.
  • Abide by the same high standards they expect of others.