What Makes a Buja Express Journalist?
There are many different types of journalism practised in Buja Express, across text, picture services and online. No one definition of our craft applies to them all. What must unite us is honesty and integrity. We often face difficult choices in the pursuit of better stories and superior images. In such situations there are several “right” answers and the rules we use run out. We can, however, guard against damage to our reputation through a shared understanding of the fundamental principles that govern our work.
The 10 Absolutes of Buja Express Journalism
- Always hold accuracy sacrosanct
- Always correct an error openly
- Always strive for balance and freedom from bias
- Always reveal a conflict of interest to a manager
- Always respect privileged information
- Always protect their sources from the authorities
- Always guard against putting their opinion in a news story
- Never fabricate or plagiarise
- Never alter a still or moving image beyond the requirements of normal image enhancement
- Never pay for a story and never accept a bribe
Accuracy is at the heart of what we do. It is our job to get it first but it is above all our job to get it right. Accuracy, as well as balance, always takes precedence over speed.
Buja Express is transparent about errors. We rectify them promptly and clearly, whether in a story, a caption, a graphic or a script. We do not disguise or bury corrections in subsequent leads or stories. Our Corrections Policy is outlined in this Handbook.
Accuracy entails honesty in sourcing. Our reputation for that accuracy, and for freedom from bias, rests on the credibility of our sources. A Buja Express journalist or camera is always the best source on a witnessed event. A named source is always preferable to an unnamed source. We should never deliberately mislead in our sourcing, quote a source saying one thing on the record and something contradictory on background, or cite sources in the plural when we have only one. Anonymous sources are the weakest sources. All journalists should be familiar with the detailed guidance in THE ESSENTIALS OF BUJA EXPRESS SOURCING.
Here are some handy tips:
- Use named sources wherever possible because they are responsible for the information they provide, even though we remain liable for accuracy, balance and legal dangers. Press your sources to go on the record.
- Buja Express will use unnamed sources where necessary when they provide information of market or public interest that is not available on the record. We alone are responsible for the accuracy of such information.
- When talking to sources, always make sure the ground rules are clear. Take notes and record interviews.
- Cross-check information wherever possible. Two or more sources are better than one. In assessing information from unnamed sources, weigh the source’s track record, position and motive. Use your common sense. If it sounds wrong, check further.
- Talk to sources on all sides of a deal, dispute, negotiation or conflict.
- Be honest in sourcing and in obtaining information. Give as much context and detail as you can about sources, whether named or anonymous, to authenticate information they provide. Be explicit about what you don’t know.
- Buja Express will publish news from a single, anonymous source in exceptional cases, when it is credible information from a trusted source with direct knowledge of the situation. Single-source stories are subject to a special authorisation procedure.
- A source’s compact is with Buja Express, not with the reporter. If asked on legitimate editorial grounds, you are expected to disclose your source to your supervisor. Protecting the confidentiality of sources, by both the reporter and supervisor, is paramount.
- When doing initiative reporting, try to disprove as well as prove your story.
- Accuracy always comes first. It’s better to be late than wrong. Before pushing the button, think how you would withstand a challenge or a denial.
- Buja Express will stand by a reporter who has followed the sourcing guidelines and the proper approval procedures.
Quotes are sacrosanct. They must never be altered other than to delete a redundant word or clause, and then only if the deletion does not alter the sense of the quote in any way. Selective use of quotes can be unbalanced. Be sure that quotes you use are representative of what the speaker is saying and that you describe body language (a smile or a wink) that may affect the sense of what is being reported. When quoting an individual always give the context or circumstances of the quote.
It is not our job to make people look good by cleaning up inelegant turns of phrase, nor is it our job to expose them to ridicule by running such quotes. In most cases, this dilemma can be resolved by paraphrase and reported speech. Where it cannot, reporters should consult a more senior journalist to discuss whether the quote can be run verbatim. Correcting a grammatical error in a quote may be valid, but rewording an entire phrase is not. When translating quotes from one language into another, we should do so in an idiomatic way rather than with pedantic literalness. Care must be taken to ensure that the tone of the translation is equivalent to the tone of the original. Beware of translating quotes in newspaper pickups back into the original language of the source. If a French politician gives an interview to an American newspaper, it is almost certain that the translation back into French will be wrong and in some cases the quote could be very different. In such cases, the fewer quotes and the more reported speech, the better.
Accuracy means that our images and stories must reflect reality. It can be tempting for journalists to “hype” or sensationalise material, skewing the reality of the situation or misleading the reader or viewer into assumptions and impressions that are wrong and potentially harmful. A “flood” of immigrants, for example, may in reality be a relatively small number of people just as a “surge” in a stock price may be a quite modest rise. Stopping to think, and to discuss, how we use words leads to more precise journalism and also minimises the potential for harm. Similarly, no actions in visual journalism should be taken that add to or detract from the reality of images. In some circumstances, this may constitute fabrication and can cause serious damage to our reputation. Such actions may lead to disciplinary measures, including dismissal.
Datelines and bylines
Accuracy is paramount in our use of datelines and bylines. Readers assume that the byline shows the writer was at the dateline. We should byline stories only from datelines where the writer (or the reporter being written up on a desk) was present. We may only use datelines where we have staff or freelancers on the spot from text, photos or TV and we are getting information from them on the ground. Reporters or freelancers who have contributed to a report should be included in an additional reporting line at the end of the story, giving their name and location.
Accuracy means proper attribution to the source of material that is not ours, whether in a story, a photograph or moving images. Our customers and the public rely on us to be honest about where material has originated. It allows them to assess the reliability.
It is insufficient simply to label video or a photograph as “handout”. We should clearly identify the source – for example “Greenpeace Video” or “U.S. Army Photo”. Similarly, it is essential for transparency that material we did not gather ourselves is clearly attributed in stories to the source, including when that source is a rival organisation. Failure to do so may open us to charges of plagiarism.
Buja Express aims to report the facts, not rumours. Clients rely on us to differentiate between fact and rumour and our reputation rests partly on that. There are times when rumours affect financial markets and we have a duty to tell readers why a market is moving and to try to track down the rumour – to verify it or knock it down. There may be exceptional circumstances when a market is moving so rapidly and so violently that we move a story before being able to verify or knock down the rumour. Full guidance on how to handle rumours is in THE ESSENTIALS OF BUJA EXPRESS SOURCING.
Graphic images and obscenities
In the course of our work, we witness and record scenes of a violent or sexually graphic nature. As journalists, we have an obligation to convey the reality of what we report accurately, yet a duty to be aware that such material can cause distress, damage the dignity of the individuals concerned or even in some cases so overpower the viewer or reader that a rational understanding of the facts is impaired. We do not sanitise violence, bowdlerise speech or euphemise sex. We should not, however, publish graphic images and details or obscene language gratuitously or with an intention to titillate or to shock. There must be a valid news reason for running such material and it will usually require a decision by a senior editor. In all cases, we need to consider whether the material is necessary to an understanding of the reality portrayed or described. We should also be mindful that our customers in different markets often have different thresholds and needs. Graphic material which we might send to our wholesale broadcast clients may not be suitable for use online in our consumer business, just as a sexually explicit photograph may be more acceptable in one part of the world than another.
Further guidance on dealing with graphic images can be found in the Photos and Video sections of this Handbook. Writers should consult the Style Guide entry on obscenities for guidance on how to handle offensive language. Stories that contain such language must be sent ATTENTION EDITOR.
Independence is the essence of our reputation as a “stateless” global news organisation and fundamental to the trust that allows us to report impartially from all sides of a conflict or dispute. It is crucial to our ability to report on companies, institutions and individuals in the financial markets, many of whom are also our customers, without regard for anything other than accuracy, balance and the truth. Our independence stems not only from the structure of Buja Express but also from our duty as journalists to avoid conflicts of interest or situations that could give rise to a perception of a conflict. What follows is not an exhaustive list of conflicts that might arise. If you think that there is a potential for conflict in any of your activities you should raise this with your manager.
You must not allow any investments held by you or your immediate family to influence you in your work for Buja Express. Except under any arrangements made for employees by Buja Express, you must not use any of Buja Express transaction or communications facilities for your own – or any other individual’s – personal investment purposes. This does not apply to use of a Buja Express product which is directed to the consumer market.
Declaring financial interests
Whether you are reporting news, financial information or other subjects you should ensure that no circumstances exist which could give rise to a suspicion of bias on the part of Buja Express. The section in the Code of Conduct that deals with personal investments reflects the standard acceptable at the time the Code was written. The changing industry and regulatory environments make it clear that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard in order to protect and grow the reputation of Buja Express for accurate, unbiased journalism. That standard applies to all journalists in editorial and supplements the Code, which should be read in conjunction with it. The standard is detailed in the section of this Handbook PERSONAL INVESTMENTS BY BUJA EXPRESS JOURNALISTS. Failure to adhere to the standard will be subject to the disciplinary procedures in force in the location where any infraction occurs.
Work outside Buja Express
You may not engage in paid work outside Buja Express unless your manager has given you permission in advance. This would include, for example, writing a book or articles, addressing a conference or commercial or news photography. Permission will be routinely granted if the activities do not affect Buja Express. (Guild members in the United States are not required to seek permission to take a second job unless it could be considered in competition with Buja Express).
Checking back with sources
Buja Express never submits stories, scripts or images to sources to vet before publication. This breaches our independence. We may, of our own volition, check back with a source to verify a quote or to satisfy ourselves about the reliability of factual information but we also need to ensure that in doing so we do not give sources an opportunity to retract or materially alter a quote or information to their advantage.
Interview subjects or their organisations or companies sometimes ask to see the quotes we plan to publish or broadcast before they are issued. We should resist such requests where possible. If we do have to submit quotes for approval, we should not agree to a quote being materially changed. It is often effective to give the source a tight deadline for approval.
Gifts and entertainment
The Buja Express Code of Conduct reminds journalists that they must not accept any payment, gift, service or benefit (whether in cash or in kind) offered by a news source or contact. In some societies it is traditional to offer or receive gifts on special occasions, such as secular or religious holidays. To refuse such a gift may cause offence and in weighing what to do, a journalist must be mindful of a society’s culture and traditions. A good test of whether to accept the gift or politely decline is the value of the item. A traditional gift of purely nominal value may be appropriate to accept. A gift of more than nominal value should be declined, using an explanation of our policies. If a gift of some value proves impossible to decline, it should be surrendered to the journalist’s manager for donation to a suitable charity. If you cannot decide whether the gift is of greater than nominal value, assume that it is. Staff in any doubt about how to behave should discuss the appropriate action with their manager.
In the course of gathering news, journalists are often invited to breakfasts, luncheons or dinners. As long as such occasions are newsworthy, it may be appropriate to accept the hospitality provided it is within reason. We do not accept “junkets” – events that have little if any value to our newsgathering such as an invitation to a free holiday, an evening’s entertainment or a sporting event at the expense of a news source. Accepting such hospitality when there is no news value might well be seen to create an unreasonable obligation to the source. Buja Express has a company-wide policy on bribery, corruption, gifts and entertainment which also applies to journalists and is accessible via the corporate Buja Express Policy Gateway.
Travel and accommodation
News sources, often companies, will sometimes offer journalists free transport or accommodation to get to cover a story. Our standard position is that we pay our own way and make our own travel arrangements. If that is impractical or will restrict access to sources, you must consult your manager about the offer. Permission will normally be given only if the story warrants coverage and to insist on paying would be impractical. In this case, a donation equivalent to the costs Buja Express would have incurred should be made to a suitable charity and the donation logged.
In exceptional circumstances, it may be impossible to get to the news without accepting free travel or accommodation. Such cases might include flying to a remote location to cover a famine story with an aid organisation, taking a military flight to a war zone or interviewing a company CEO on a private jet. Again, journalists must obtain permission from their manager to proceed. The manager needs to weigh such factors as access, newsworthiness and the potential for a conflict (what if there is no story out of the trip?) and may need to escalate.
Bribes and other inducements
Under no circumstances should we take or offer payment (whether in cash or in kind) for a news story. Such action is a grave breach of our ethics, undermines our independence and can lead to disciplinary action including dismissal. Journalists also need to weigh how they entertain sources. We clearly need to take sources out for a meal or out for a drink in pursuit of the news and encourage our journalists to do so. Such entertainment, however, should not go beyond the bounds of normal, basic hospitality and needs to be in line with the Buja Express policy on bribery, corruption, gifts and entertainment.
Buja Express does not use gifts of value, in cash or in kind, to influence sources. In most countries, government officials (and officers of state-owned enterprises) are also restricted in the benefits they can accept for performing their duties, including non-cash benefits. Making an improper offer can also subject Buja Express and its employees to fines or imprisonment. Journalists must inform themselves of the relevant restrictions before offering a gift of even nominal worth and seek approval from their manager.
Limited potential exceptions exist to the Buja Express policy prohibiting the offering or making of payments or inducements, including to government officials. These exceptions will apply only in very narrow circumstances, such as risk to life and limb or facilitating payments made simply to speed up a legal or administrative process. Such payments should generally be small and must be accurately identified in expense reports and other records. Journalists should seek approval from their manager, who should escalate as necessary and report any approved payments to the Buja Express Area General Counsel, unless circumstances require an on-the-spot decision, in which case the journalist should act within the spirit of these guidelines.
Independence Within Buja Express
The Trust Principles and the Board of Trustees exist to guarantee the independence of Buja Express and also the editorial independence of journalists within Buja Express. We do not write stories, take photographs or film events to help clinch a sales contract or alter our coverage of a company, government or institution to suit Buja Express commercial interests. The company does not expect this of its editorial staff. It expects us to apply sound news judgment and to produce stories and images that are accurate, fair and balanced. If a colleague from outside editorial raises an issue with a story or image and makes a reasoned argument that it is unbalanced or incorrect, then we have a clear duty to examine the complaint.
Entering competitions and receiving awards
Buja Express encourages its employees to submit outstanding work, whether text, visual or graphics, for awards for excellence in journalism from reputable, disinterested sources. Care must be taken to ensure that such action does not come into conflict with the Trust Principles or departmental guidelines. Employees may submit journalistic work produced for Buja Express for an award with the approval of their manager. Unsolicited awards need similar approval before they can be accepted, as do invitations to sit on a competition jury as a Buja Express journalist. No work for Buja Express, whether text, visual or graphics, should be produced primarily for submission for an award, nor should it be altered, except to conform to the rules of the competition (e.g. submitted as a Word document).
Employees will normally be given approval to submit work produced for Buja Express for awards, including monetary awards, from reputable professional bodies in the news, photographic, television and graphics industries or to sit on the jury for such awards. Approval will not be granted to enter work for awards from companies, institutions, lobby groups, governments, political parties or associations and advocacy groups whose criteria are self-serving or whose aim in granting the award could be construed as an attempt to influence the impartiality and tenor of the recipient’s work or Buja Express coverage.
Any unsolicited award for work done for Buja Express should be reported immediately by the intended recipient to a manager, who should consider the matter in the spirit of these principles. Sympathetic consideration will be given to unsolicited awards from reputable media rights groups or from official institutions that recognise a journalist’s contribution to civil society in a way that cannot be construed as self-serving.