In the coming weeks and months, we’ll roll out our online coverage of news events around the world. Before we do so, we felt it was important for you to get a sense of where we’re coming from, so we wanted to share what we consider to be core values. We’ll hold ourselves accountable based on these values, and we hope you’ll do the same to us, too.
- Editorial independence. We take orders from no one — period. Our team alone will determine what we cover and what we don’t. Funders, sponsors, corporate management and other institutional influencers will have no say in our editorial decision-making. Having said that, we hope that you, our community, will pitch story ideas to us. No doubt you’ll have some good ones that haven’t occurred to us before. We can’t promise we’ll be able to cover everything, but we’ll listen to your ideas and take them seriously.
- The truth is paramount, but facts are constantly evolving. With news, real-time or not, what we believe to be true can change in the blink of an eye. Other facts are well established, though may be politically unpopular. We won’t create false dichotomies when they don’t exist for the sake of creating an artificial sense of “balance.” If we believe something to be a fact, that’s how we’ll report it.
- Humility. We’re journalists and storytellers — not gurus, rock stars or self-styled experts. We don’t have all the answers and won’t pretend that we do. We embrace listening over lecturing. This is our job and our passion, but it doesn’t make us better than you. None of us will ever fear admitting publicly “I don’t know,” because in so many breaking news situations, that will absolutely be the case — and you deserve to know it. Acknowledging what we know, what we don’t know and why is a professional strength, not a weakness.
- Transparency. We believe that inviting you to observe and participate in our newsgathering process helps strengthen our bonds and create better journalism. Whenever possible, we will aspire to be open about our reporting and how it is sourced and produced — and we will take the time to explain it when asked. While we acknowledge there are times where discretion is required to protect sources or conduct investigative reporting, we consider transparency in our newsgathering the default, and not the exception.
- Generosity is the Internet’s greatest currency. Successful online communities are built upon more than just shared values. They’re built on a culture of sharing. We will share our skills, our expertise, our experiences, our opinions and our knowledge with open arms, and we hope to build a community of trust that does the same with us, too. These are the tendrils that ultimately form the bonds within a community — so when the shit hits the fan, we have each other’s back.
- We’re a newsroom, not a newswire. There will be many occasions where we will share information that hasn’t been confirmed yet. We do so in the spirit of providing context to our newsgathering process, as well as inviting the public to help us confirm or debunk aspects of a particular news story. We will always be clear about what has not been confirmed. What we discuss on social media shouldn’t be seen as the conclusions of our reporting; instead, it’s the opening gambit of a public conversation that we hope will help us sort fact from fiction. When there’s a rumor or report that is going viral, we won’t pretend it doesn’t exist. We’ll address it and explore it together.
- We’d rather be right than first. While we’ll strive to inform the public in a timely fashion, we will never attempt to be first with a story simply for the sake of being first. Even though social media operates at an accelerated rate, we will operate at an appropriate speed where providing context and sorting out facts from fiction take precedent over beating the competition. Don’t think of us as a breaking news service — we’d rather use real-time discussion to be more contemplative, thoughtful and open about our reporting concerns.
- We own our mistakes. We’re human, not bots — mistakes will happen. While we’ll do our professional best to avoid them, we’ll acknowledge our mistakes and never try to swipe them under the rug. As best we can, we’ll explain how the mistake happened and what we’re doing to try to avoid it happening again. And if you think we’ve made a reporting mistake, call us out on it — we promise not to be insulted.
- We believe people can play a more constructive civic role in their communities when they really know what they’re talking about. It’s easy to dismiss “news literacy” as a lofty academic exercise, but it’s serious business, especially when news organizations and politicos are stuffing agendas down our throats and calling them “facts.” Empowering people with the skills needed to separate rhetoric and rumor from facts and knowledge equips them with the civic equivalent of superpowers. Everyone could stand to have a better bullshit detector, so let’s work on it together.
- Sometimes the best experts don’t have PhDs or work at think tanks. We don’t believe on relying on the usual suspects of the punditry class for sources, so we’ll always strive to diversify our sourcing. Sure, there are times when we’ll want to talk with people who are certified wonks on complex topics. But not all expertise comes from the ivory tower or inside the Beltway. Cultural expertise, linguistic expertise and personal experience can be just as powerful in informing a story as having an acronym after your name — sometimes even more so.
- Collaboration with the public often leads to better journalism. We don’t have the answers to everything, and you should never assume that any journalists would. Much of the time, especially during breaking news, we’re trying to figure out what the hell is going on just as you are — so why not team up and help each other? You don’t have to be just a consumer or audience member any more. We want you to help us get a better handle of what’s going on in the world and why. Collectively, you have a greater range and depth of expertise than we could ever dream of. Not everyone needs to be a journalist in order to commit important acts of journalism.
- We should conduct ourselves in an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility. No doubt we’ll cover topics that are divisive and controversial. We may disagree with each other, sometimes to the point of anger or even contempt. But if our community is to thrive, we all need to know when to count to 10 before pressing the return key. There’s no point in trying to humiliate someone or trolling them for the lulz — it only breeds disdain and distrust. Yes, sometimes our snark may get out of hand, or our jokes will fall flat. If that happens, please call us out on that — and we’ll do the same for you. We can all be blunt and impassioned, but that doesn’t mean we should undermine each other’s dignity. And cyberbullying in any form will never be tolerated.
- Newsgathering methods should be built on a culture of open-mindedness and experimentation, not complacency. As the world around us changes, so does the technology by which we communicate. We’ll strive to identify and test new platforms, hardware, software and other tools that could lend a hand to the reporting process. Journalists should take an active role in the creation of tools that help achieve better reporting and civic engagement.
- There’s no such thing as 100% impartiality. All journalists have editorial biases — some are just better than others at hiding it. We won’t pretend we don’t have opinions — everyone does — so sometimes we’ll tell you what we think on a particular matter. But that won’t stop us from being professional and fair.
This is our thinking as we prepare to launch reported.ly. No doubt it’ll evolve over time, and if we make changes, we’ll explain our reasoning behind it. On behalf of the reported.ly team at First Look Media, welcome.