Ethics in Journalism (New York Times Policy)

Employees of the New York Times are expected to follow these guidelines for ethical online activity.

B5. Web Pages and Web Logs

126. Web pages and Web logs (the online personal journals known as blogs) present imaginative opportunities for personal expression and exciting new journalism. When created by our staff or published on our Web sites, they also require cautions, magnified by the Web’s unlimited reach.

127. Personal journals that appear on our official Web sites are subject to the newsroom’s standards of fairness, taste and legal propriety. Nothing may be published under the name of our company or any of our units unless it has gone through an editing or moderating process.

128. If a staff member publishes a personal Web page or blog on a site outside our company’s control, the staff member has a duty to make sure that the content is purely that: personal. Staff members who write blogs should generally avoid topics they cover professionally; failure to do so would invite a confusion of roles. No personal Web activity should imply the participation or endorsement of the Times Company or any of its units. No one may post text, audio or video created for a Times Company unit without obtaining appropriate permission.

129. Given the ease of Web searching, even a private journal by a staff member is likely to become associated in the audience’s mind with the company’s reputation. Thus blogs and Web pages created outside our facilities must nevertheless be temperate in tone, reflecting taste, decency and respect for the dignity and privacy of others. In such a forum, our staff members may chronicle their daily lives and may be irreverent, but should not defame or humiliate others. Their prose may be highly informal, even daring, but not shrill or intolerant. They may include photos or video but not offensive images. They may incorporate reflections on journalism, but they should not divulge private or confidential information obtained through their inside access to our newsroom or our Company.

130. Bloggers may write lively commentary on their preferences in food, music, sports or other avocations, but as journalists they must avoid taking stands on divisive public issues. A staff member’s Web page that was outspoken on the abortion issue would violate our policy in exactly the same way as participation in a march or rally on the subject. A blog that takes a political stand is as far out of bounds as a letter to the editor supporting or opposing a candidate. The definition of a divisive public issue will vary from one community to another; in case of doubt, staff members should consult local newsroom management.

131. A staff member’s private Web page or blog must be independently produced. It should be free of advertising or sponsorship support from individuals or organizations whose coverage the staff member is likely to provide, prepare or supervise during working hours. Care should be taken in linking to any subject matter that would be off limits on the Web page itself.