The Chronicles Editorial Code
Updated January 2021
“A newspaper’s primary office is the gathering of news. At the peril of its soul it must see that the supply is not tainted.”
The most important currency of The Chronicles is trust. This currency is sustained by our commitment to gathering and reporting news and information truthfully and objectively.
The purpose of this code is, above all, therefore, to protect and foster the bond of trust between The Chronicles (in all its formats) and its readers; and in the process, to protect the integrity of this media outlet and of the editorial content it carries.
As a set of guidelines, this will not form part of a journalist’s contract of employment, nor will it form part of the editorial management or journalists’ disciplinary, promotional or recruitment procedures. However, by observing the code, journalists working for The Chronicles will be protecting not only the media but also the independence, standing and reputation of themselves and their colleagues. It is important that freelancers working for The Chronicles also abide by these guidelines while on assignment.
Serving the truth: The Chronicles is based on a deep belief in the importance of democracy and a democratic culture watered by a shared future for all Rwandans and humanity, freedoms, peaceful co-existence and equal access to justice. To sustain this, Rwandans and all our leaders need not only to openly and freely express themselves, but also to hear views from others; know the truth of what is going on in their society; read and hear about what is being done in their name by public officials and how it is being done. It is through access to such news and information that Rwandans take and will continue to take informed decision about their lives and their country. The Chronicles and its just commit therefore to serving the truth, reporting objectively and fairly.
Anonymous quotations: We recognise that people will often speak more honestly if they are allowed tospeak anonymously where, by revealing their identities in very sensitive stories may endanger their lives or their families and professions. Anonymous sources will therefore be used only where the information involved is critical for our readers and yet revealing the identity may endanger the source.
We promise to be honest about our sources, even if we can’t name them.
There may be exceptional circumstances when anonymous pejorative quotes may be used, but they will be rare — and only after consultation with the senior editor of the day. In the absence of specific approval we should paraphrase anonymous pejorative quotes.
Children: Special care should be taken when dealing with children (under the age of 16). The editor must be informed when children have been photographed or interviewed without parental consent or guidance.
Copy approval: The general rule is that no one should be given the right to copy approval. In certaincircumstances we may allow people to see copy or quotes but we are not required to alter copy. We should avoid offering copy approval as a method of securing interviews or co-operation.
Direct quotations should not be changed to alter their context or meaning.
Errors: It is the policy of The Chronicles to correct significant errors as soon as possible. Journalists have aduty to cooperate frankly and openly with the Editor and to report errors to him/her whenever there is a complaint. All complaints should be brought to the attention of a line editor, the Editor and the senior most head of The Chronicles.
Fairness: The more serious the criticism or allegations we arereporting the greater the obligation to allow the subject the opportunity to respond.
Grief: People should be treated with sensitivity during periods of grief and trauma.
Language: Respect for the reader demands that we should not casually use words that are likely to offend.Use swearing words only when absolutely necessary to the facts of a story, or to portray a character in an article accurately; there is almost never a case in which we need to use a swearword outside direct quotes. The stronger the swearword, the harder we ought to think about using it. Avoid using in headlines, pull quotes and stand-firsts and never us asterisks, which are just a cop-out.
Legal: Our libel and contempt laws are complex, and constantly developing. The consequences of losingactions can be expensive and damaging for our reputation. Staff should a) familiarise themselves with the current state of the law and seek training if they feel unconfident about aspects of it; b) consult our in-house lawyers about specific concerns on stories.
Payment: In general, The Chronicles does not pay for stories, except from bona fide freelance sources. Theeditor or his deputies must approve rare exceptions.
Photographs: Digitally enhanced or altered images, montages and illustrations should be clearly labeled assuch.
Plagiarism: Staff must not reproduce other people’s material without attribution. The source of publishedmaterial obtained from another organisations should be acknowledged including quotes taken from other media outlets articles. Bylines should be carried only on material that is substantially the work of the bylined journalist or author. If an article contains a significant amount of agency copy then the agency should be credited.
Privacy: We should avoid intrusions into people’s privacy unless there is a clear public interest in doing so. Caution should be exercised about reporting and publishing identifying details, such as street names and numbers, that may enable others to intrude on the privacy or safety of people who have become the subject of media coverage.
Ethnic profiling: In general, we do not publish someone’s race or ethnic background or religion unless thatinformation is pertinent to the story. We do not report the race of criminal suspects unless their ethnic background is part of a description that seeks to identify them or is an important part of the story (for example, if the crime was a hate angle).
Sources: Sources promised confidentiality must be protected at all costs. However, where possible, thesources of information should be identified as specifically as possible.
Subterfuge: Journalists should generally identify themselves as The Chronicles employees when working on astory. There may be instances involving stories of exceptional public interest where this does not apply, but this needs the approval of the editor.
Suicide: Journalists should exercise particular care in reporting suicide or issues involving suicide,bearing in mind the risk of encouraging others. This should be borne in mind both in presentation, including the use of pictures, and in describing the method of suicide. Any substances should be referred to in general rather than specific terms where possible. When appropriate a helpline number should be given. The feelings of relatives should also be carefully considered.
Personal behaviour and conflicts of interest
The Chronicles values its reputation for independence and integrity. Journalists clearly have lives, interests, hobbies, convictions and beliefs outside their work. Nothing in the following guidelines is intended to restrict any of that. It is intended to ensure that outside interests do not come into conflict with the life of this media outlet in a way that either compromises The Chronicles editorial integrity or falls short of the sort of transparency that our readers would expect. The code is intended to apply to all active outside interests which, should they remain undeclared and become known, would cause a fair-minded reader to question the value of a contribution to the paper by the journalist involved.
These are guidelines rather than one-size-fits-all rules. If you are employed as a columnist — with your views openly on display — you may have more latitude than a staff reporter, who would be expected to bring qualities of objectivity to their work. (The Washington Post’s Code has some sound advice: “Reporters should make every effort to remain in the audience, to stay off the stage, to report the news, not to make the news.”) If in doubt, consult the Editor, and the most senior editorial personality.
Commercial products: No staff journalist or freelance primarily associated with The Chronicles shallendorse commercial products unless with the express permission of their Editor.
Confidentiality: Desk editors with access to personal information relating to other members of staff arerequired to treat such information as confidential, and not disclose it to anyone except in the course of discharging formal responsibilities.
Conflicts of interest: The Chronicles staff journalists should be sensitive to the possibility that activities outsidework (including holding office or being otherwise actively involved in organisations, companies or political parties) could be perceived as having a bearing on — or as coming into conflict with — the integrity of our journalism. Staff should be transparent about any outside personal, philosophical or financial interests that might conflict with their professional performance of duties at The Chronicles, or could be perceived to do so.
Declarations of interest
It is always necessary to declare an interest when the journalist is writing about something with which he or she has a significant connection. This applies to both staff journalists and freelances writing for The Chronicles. The declaration should be to the Editor during preparation. Full transparency may mean that the declaration should appear on our platforms as well.
A connection does not have to be a formal one before it is necessary to declare it. Acting in an advisory capacity in the preparation of a report for an organisation, for example, would require a declaration every time the journalist wrote an article referring to it.
Some connections are obvious and represent the reason why the writer has been asked to contribute to the paper. These should always be stated at the end of the writer’s contribution even if he or she contributes regularly, so long as the writer is writing about his or her area of interest.
Generally speaking a journalist should not write about or quote a relative or partner in a piece, even if the relative or partner is an expert in the field in question. If, for any reason, an exception is made to this rule, the connection should be made clear.
The Commissioning editor should ensure that freelancers asked to write for The Chronicles are aware of these rules and make any necessary declaration.