News Reporting Policy

At Acme News our goal is to report the news accurately, honestly, and in accordance with the highest journalistic standards. Our News Reporting Policy establishes a framework that all our journalists must adhere to. Questions about, or violations of, this policy can be reported to [email protected]. These guidelines refer to editorial news content and may not apply to non-news photography such as media shot for a local magazine or other publication that is not intended to be fully editorial in nature.

PHOTOGRAPHY

All our photojournalists receive training approved by our legal team regarding public / first amendment laws and issues as they relate to photography. Photojournalists must undergo this training every year as laws change and new case law is added. 


In addition to being educated on the rights granted by the first amendment and the legal restrictions applicaple to news photography, our photojournalists follow a code of ethics based on the AP’s Best Practices for Press Photographers.


  • Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of scenes and subjects and provide context when needed.
  • Do not stage photographs, scenes and/or subjects and avoid staged photo opportunities when covering news in the field. Always state in the captions when a photo shows a scene or subject that has been staged (such as portraits, ribbon cuttings, ect)
  • Avoid stereotyping and bias of individuals and groups in photos and video.
  • Treat subjects of photos with respect and dignity as much as possible. Special considerations should be given to vulnerable subjects and victims of crime or tragedy. Capture private moments of grief and suffering only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see such events.
  • Do not manipulate media in a way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.
  • Do not pay sources or subjects or reward them materially for information or participation. This includes promising coverage or promotion for their participation or information.
  • Do not sabotage the efforts of other journalists and corporate with other journalists when necessary to ensure accurate coverage.

PHOTOS EDITING

All edits should be used as minimally as necessary to produce a clear and accurate reproduction of the authentic nature of the of the scene captured. No edits that would alter the scene or change the context of a photo are allowed. 

Acceptable edits include cropping, adjustments to exposure, highlights/shadows, white/black levels, curves, saturation/desaturation, and color/white balance adjustments. These should all be used as minimally as necessary for clear and accurate reproduction of the authentic nature of the captured scene. 


Use of the cloning or spot removal tool to remove dust on camera sensors or other artifacts is allowed.


Use of the cloning or spot removal tool to remove distracting elements of a photo and/or the retouching of faces (to remove blemishes, scars, ect) is not allowed. 


Removal of “red eye” from photographs is not allowed. 


Dodging/Burning and the selective editing of exposore to only specific parts of a photo is discouraged but allowed so long as it does not cause the scene or content of a photo to be altered.


No part of the photo may be removed and/or no elements added to a photo that would cause the scene or content of a photo to be altered.


The use of AI noise removal features is allowed, so long as the tool is only used to remove noise present from the camera settings and/or environment and the use of the tool does not alter the content and/or change context of the photo and use of the tool preserves the authentic nature of the of the captured scene.

VIDEO

No part of a video may be removed, and no elements added to a video in a way to alter the scene or context.


Acceptable: Adjustment of white balance, video, and audio levels, eliminating distracting audio (buzzing, hums, clicks), and normalization of audio.


Videos for online and/or broadcast use may be altered to add graphical elements such as lower thirds to display a name or location, titles, watermarks, and logos. Subtitles may be added for accessibility or if a speaker is hard to hear / understand. Subtitles should always be accurate to speakers’ words, even if it contains grammatical errors or run-on thoughts. (Use of the [sic] tag as required). If automated subtitles are added the source of the automation should be noted at the beginning or end of the subtitles.


Un-Acceptable: Any editing that would conceal, obscure, remove or otherwise alter the content or context of the video.


Acme News does not allow the blurring of faces to protect a subject’s identity but does allow subjects to be filmed in a way that would protect their identity. 

GRAPHICS

The display of data in graphics (including graphs) should always cite the source of the data and when possible, provide a link to the source.

FACT CHECKING

Acme News takes steps to ensure that the information we publish is factual, and free from bias. Information published or shared must be verified from official sources, through first party witnesses, or through third party fact-checkers. Here-say and rumors are not reportable. Acme News will always attempt to provide the source of the information (such as according [Agency name]) in the information we publish and share.

AI WRITTING TOOLS

Journalists may only use AI writing tools such as ChatGPT, Bard AI, and AI spelling and grammar tools to assist in the draft process of an article. 


For example, to assist in rewriting sentences and paragraphs that contain run-on sentences or are hard to read. 

All changes made by AI must be reviewed to look for any changes to the context and or meaning of the sentence, paragraph, or article. 

The use of fully AI generated articles or the use of AI generated content for large sections of an article is not allowed. 

CORRECTIONS / RETRACTIONS

News, especially breaking news, is chaotic. Information provided, even from official sources, may be incorrect and require correction. When we discover that information, we have posted requires correction we will post a correction on the original story. The incorrect information will not be deleted, but rather have the correction amended to it. Leaving the incorrect information up provides transparency and accountability.


If a story or post contains too many errors or is based on a foundation of incorrect information, it may be necessary to issue a retraction. When this happens the original story will have its title edited to add the word “Retracted” and will have a large and conspicuous notice placed at the top and bottom of the story stating that the story has been retracted and linking to the official retraction which should explain what information was incorrect, how we discovered it was incorrect, and provide the corrected information.

MISSING PERSONS

Acme News will not publish or share information about missing persons until we are able to verify that a missing person report has been filled with a law enforcement agency or that a law enforcement agency is actively investigating the missing person. This verification process, while it may slow down the sharing of information, is a necessary step to protect against abuse or misuse.

DISHONESTY / FABRICATION

No media or content provided in news content may in any way be fabricated, dishonest, or fictional. This means that we will not:

• Stage or re-enact events to capture them.

• Use sound effects or add in photo elements, audio, or video.

• Embellish or fabricate photo elements, audio, or video.

• Ask people to pose for photos (unless for a portrait that is labeled in the caption).


Attention should always be paid to avoid misleading viewers to believe that a posed photo (such as a portrait) was candidly captured. If a photo is in any way posed it must be stated clearly in the caption.

PLAGERISM

Journalists must never use any work they did not create and pass it off as their own. When using photos, video, or audio provided by an individual, company, organization, or any other source, where we do not own the copyright, we will always provide a credit or source on or in the media. When using material from press releases (even from government sources) the source must always be credited and when quoting directly from the release quotations should be used. It should always be clear when any content is used that is not our original work.

Additionally, journalists should use caution when taking photos, video, or audio that contains the copyrighted work of another. (Example when working on a feature piece on an artist, that the artist has consented to allow their copyrighted work to be displayed in publications, and that the captions clearly identified as the work of the artist).

QUOTES

Quotes should be accurate, and care should be taken so that quotes are not out of context. When necessary, provide the setting in which a quotation was obtained (such as at a press conference, in a phone interview, during a casual conversation with a journalist). It may also be necessary to include the mood and body language of the person being quoted (such as when “air quotes” are used, said in a joking manner, during an angry outburst).


Do not alter quotes, even to correct grammatical errors, spelling, or word usage. (use of [sic] tag when required). If a quote contains grammatical errors or is unclear (ie. missing context) the journalist should add context or paraphrase in a way that is accurate to the original quote. If a quote is too confusion or requires too much information to provide it in context it should not be used.


If quotes are provided in a language other than English, the quote may be translated but should still contain the original quote. If automated translation (such as Google Translate) is used it should be noted with “Translation provided by: (source)”.

Quotations or soundbites provided in audio / video format should follow the same guidelines above.

ANONYMOUS INFORMATION / TIPS

When we receive anonymous information, documents, or news tips our journalist will attempt to verify the information with an outside source. Additionally, the source of the information must provide how they know if the information is accurate and that they have direct knowledge before we use any of the information publicly. 

Anonymous information must always be attributed as such with the source's creditability. (Example would be “an anonymous city official”) As Acme News is a news service and not an outlet, information, documents, and tips may be passed on to a news outlet if deemed credible and accurate and at such time we would follow those organizations guidelines for the handling and use of anonymous information.

CONFIDENTIAL SOURCES

Our journalists may work with confidential sources so long as there is a compelling interest in keeping the sources' identity confidential that is not outweighed by the public’s right to know. (Such as in the case of a government whistleblower exposing wrongdoing who would face jail time).


A source must establish creditability and provide a reason to remain confidential before proving information or being promised confidentiality. It is the policy of Acme News not to disclose the identity of any source or information that could be used to identify a source if confidentiality was promised. Under North Carolina shield law, our journalists are protected against being compelled to disclose “any confidential or non-confidential information, document, or item obtained or prepared while acting as a journalist.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 8 53.11(b). Confidential information is any information obtained by a reporter with a promise that the source will not be disclosed. See State v. Wallace, 23 Media L. Rep. 1473 (N.C. Superior Ct. 1995); State v. Hagaman, 9 Media L. Rep. 2525 (N.C. Superior Ct. 1983).


As Acme News is a news service and not an outlet, the identity of a confidential source may need to be disclosed to an editor or reporter at the publishing news outlet. Our journalist may only share the identity of a confidential source with other journalists directly involved in reporting the story who are also covered by a shield law.


Acme News uses the AP’s definitions for the following:

On the record: The information can be used with no caveats, quoting the source by name.

Off the record: The information cannot be used for publication.

Background: The information can be published but only under conditions negotiated with the source. This means the sources do not want their names published but will agree to a description of their position.

Deep background: The information can be used but without attribution. The source does not want to be identified in any way, even on condition of anonymity.

POLITICS

Our journalists are expected to avoid political activity. While working for Acme News journalists may not run for political office or accept any appointment that is political or where political standing is a factor used in the decision-making process. Journalists should not provide any media or public relations services for politicians, campaigns, or PAC’s. Journalists may not make any donation to political organizations or campaigns. Acme News may license media to campaigns and other political entities only through a third party (such as a licensing / stock photo site).


UPDATE: In 2021 Acme News updated these guidelines to note that Acme News and its parent company Acme Ventures LLC may bill and establish a license with politicians, campaigns, or PACs, when addressing a copyright violation. 

INVESTMENTS

Journalists are discouraged from owning stock or have any personal investment or involvement with any company they may cover. Journalists are prohibited from purchasing stock, futures, options investing, or taking any action, including participating in an IPO or sharing with another person any information being used in a story that has not yet been published. If journalists own stocks that meet this criterion while working with Acme News, they are advised to place them in a blind trust or liquidate them.

GIFTS

Journalist given gifts of any kind by sources, companies, public relations companies, government officials, and others should follow these guidelines:

Any gift that is a clear attempt to influence the journalist or is an attempt to gain favor with the journalist, gifts of cash, stocks, precious metals, gems, or comparable items must be declined, returned, or donated. 

Gifts under $50 in value, which are provided as perks to journalists covering an event or are also provided to members of the public may be accepted. The same $50 limit applies to meals. If a source offers to pay for a meal for the journalist, the total cost of the bill must be under $50 for the journalist to accept.

TRAVEL

As a small news service Acme News may accept travel arrangements only from groups or companies when used to cover newsworthy events. The party providing travel arrangements must understand that they will have no editorial control over what the journalist covers, will not be given advanced copy or copy approval.

FREELANCE WORK

Our journalists may work as freelancers for outlets or other news services so long as doing so does not present a conflict of interest.

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