Trusting News: WITF's guidelines for editorial integrity

Written by Tim Lambert, WITF Multimedia News Director | Dec 17, 2017 2:37 PM

FILE PHOTO: State House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana speaks with members of the media at the Capitol in Harrisburg. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)


(Undated) -- Newsrooms across the country follow their own editorial and ethical guidelines

These are guidelines and best practices that journalists use as a starting point when it comes to things like attribution, corrections, identification of sources and  transparency.

As part of the Trusting News project, WITF wants to make it easier for you to understand how we operate, how our editorial decision-making works and how we approach fundraising as a public media organization.

Below, you'll find details on what we expect from our journalists throughout the editorial process:

Journalism that reports events and issues with accuracy and integrity

We pursue facts about events and issues in our communities and other important matters that affect people's lives with accuracy and integrity.

We aim to foster an informed and engaged public that, in turn, enables a strong and effective democracy, and to support individuals in making good decisions for themselves and their families and in their pursuit of a high quality of life.

We take responsibility for the validity of the content we present. We operate within a system of defined professional principles, ethics and practices in gathering data and perspectives. We are transparent about editorial decision-making processes.

Here are some key principles that guide our reporting and editing:


We make every effort to assure that we are accurate. We use consistent standards and approaches in verifying the facts we present and the sources of information we use.


Whenever feasible we attribute the sources of our information. We resist anonymity, especially with respect to opinion, speculation, or personal attacks, and permit it only if we are without other means to gather compelling, verifiable information.

Context and impartiality

We place the facts we report in context. In our coverage of politics and controversial topics, we emphasize not only accuracy and full attribution, but also an impartial, non-partisan approach and attention to competing views.


When we make mistakes we admit and correct them, either in the same venue in which they were made, such as an on-air broadcast, in the enduring version of a report or program, such as the online version of a story or on-demand version of a program, or both.

We welcome comments and additional facts; if they add to the precision of what we present, we are committed to timely modifications.


We present a full range of views on controversial subjects - sometimes in a single story and sometimes over the course of a series of programs or set of commentaries presented in a timely fashion.

We seek out individuals and organizations mentioned in our coverage and reports when others have made unfavorable or critical allegations about them so that they have an opportunity to respond to such assertions and our audiences are more fully informed about the controversy.

We avoid stereotyping, with particular attention to race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, and social status.

In our reporting we make a distinction between the accountability of public officials, business and non-profit leaders and others who serve the public or seek power and influence, and the greater rights and expectations of privacy for private individuals, which we endeavor to respect and protect.

Identification of sources

We are straightforward with our audiences. When we present the work of others we say so, but all media content produced by WITF on any platform shall be the sole editorial responsibility of WITF.

Audiences shall never be in doubt about the origin of any materials included in a WITF program, whether video used as "background" or sound bites from a press conference. The source of all such elements shall be identified in a way appropriate to the medium (e.g., in the credits of television program, in the intro to a radio story, in the cutline of a photograph.) No WITF programs of any kind (news or non-news) shall distribute complete, pre-produced video or audio stories or segments from corporate, government or third-party non-news sources.

WITF may distribute pre-produced video or audio stories or segments only from other news organizations (commercial or public) whose news judgment is trusted by WITF news and public affairs professionals. However, before use by WITF, such stories must be evaluated by the staff and deemed to meet our editorial standards.

Note that this policy does not apply the use of pre-produced video or audio stories or segments from our national news suppliers (i.e., PRI, NPR, the Associated Press), as these content elements are the product of an editorial partner whose editorial standards are known and approved by WITF. If a national news supplier does not meet WITF's editorial standards, it will be replaced.


When we edit interviews and other material we strive to preserve the original meaning. When we process audio, video, or images electronically, we do so only to enhance clarity and not to distort meaning or mislead audiences as to how or when the content was obtained.

We tell the people and the organizations we cover who we are and what we are doing unless public or personal safety is at serious risk and this open approach will not produce vital information.  We will generally avoid an undercover approach, but will disclose when we have done so.

We work to include individuals who help provide balance among the main positions on important issues, although not always in a single program, online discussion or event.

We ask participants in our forums to create a level of clarity by providing details, examples, and evidence to support their contentions. We give them opportunities to respond to criticism and seeming inconsistencies. 


Hazel Diaz discusses Election day logistics at a meeting with volunteers for the Lebanon Democratic Committee at Hoss's Restaurant. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

Transparency in Content Creation:

Selecting stories and issues for news and public affairs programs

 Topics we cover for broadcast and online delivery are selected at regular editorial meetings of our professional staff. We welcome suggestions about what to cover and encourage comments, criticisms, and corrections of our work. We publish the names, position, and contact information for senior members of our staff on our website.

Several criteria influence topic selection, beginning with the importance to our community and the fit with our organization's public service priorities. Other factors include relevance to our audience, timeliness, potential impact, our capacity to bring something new or unique to the topic, and our ability to take on the topic or issue in a way that meets our defined editorial standards.

Showing how we gather and report information

We work to verify and authenticate the information we present in ways that are visible and understandable to the public.

We use and cite public records, publications and databases whenever possible. We identify the individuals or organizations that are sources of our information unless such disclosure jeopardizes the livelihood or safety of the source or it is otherwise impossible to obtain information that we believe to be newsworthy and reliable.

We identify the locations where we gather facts and from which we report

We offer opportunities for audiences to learn more about the matters we cover through providing sources of additional information and views, such as fuller versions of interviews from which we have quoted, original documents used in our research and reporting, or places to find the views of those we consulted or considered in preparing our report.

We engage with our audiences on all these matters, including in settings in which editorial decision-makers discuss our broad principles, policies, and practices as well as specific editorial decisions with the public.

*The above is excerpted from WITF's Principles and Guidelines for Organizational Ethics and Editorial Integrity.*

*If you ever have any comments, questions or concerns about a story you hear on WITF, you can reach me on Facebook, through email ( or at my desk (717-910-2907).

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