Texas Tribune Code of Ethics
The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization. Our mission is to provide our readers with impartial, informative reporting, and with an outlet for civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government and other matters of statewide concern. This mission drives the values and guidelines set out in our code of ethics, which borrows generously from the policies set by other fine nonprofit news organizations like ProPublica, NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting. Exceptional circumstances may require exceptions to these rules; as our industry and the technology surrounding it evolve, we will continue to revise this code.
The Tribune is financially supported by a diversified business model that includes membership, major donations from individuals and foundations, corporate sponsorships, events, subscriptions, syndication and other revenue streams. The model may be new and innovative, but our commitment to journalistic ethics is not:
Accuracy and Attribution
- Our reporting on all platforms will be truthful, transparent and respectful; our facts will be accurate, complete and fairly presented. Our analysis will represent our best independent judgment, not our preferences or those of our sources. There will be no hidden agendas in our endeavors.
- When we make a mistake — and from time to time, we will — we will work quickly to fully address the error, correcting it within the story, detailing the error on the story page and adding it to a running list of Tribune corrections. If you find an error, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tribune journalists will not republish stories, images or other content from outside sources without permission and credit. Plagiarism, fabrication and misappropriation of intellectual property are all grounds for immediate termination.
- Tribune photo editors and video producers may improve the technical quality of photos and video or audio recordings, but may not alter the substance of that media. All photo illustrations, graphics or animations will be clearly labeled as such.
- We will try our best to identify all of our sources, granting individuals anonymity only when the information is critical to the story, we are certain the source is reliable and there is no other way to obtain the information. We will not say that a person declined comment if they are already quoted anonymously. As much as possible, we will identify in our reporting any bias we know our sources have. Anonymous sources should know that the reporter will share their identity with a senior editor, who will also keep that information confidential.
- Our journalists will never misrepresent themselves or mislead a source to get an interview or a story, and they will always identify themselves as journalists. They do not use hidden cameras or microphones, go undercover or pay for interviews.
- Multiple efforts will be made to contact the primary subjects and sources of criticism in our stories.
Impartiality and Conflicts of Interest
- At The Texas Tribune, there are no sacred cows; we aggressively pursue all stories we deem newsworthy. Editorial decisions are made by journalists alone.
- Those who contribute to the Tribune do so with the understanding that we are only beholden to great journalism. Our fundraisers inform all potential donors —individuals, foundations, corporate sponsors, underwriters — that their contributions to the Tribune do not entitle them to preferential treatment or to relationships with newsroom staff, and in no way protect them from investigations or scrutiny. All contributions are listed by year and by amount, and are published here.
- Our reporters play no role in cultivating financial relationships with major donors or corporate sponsors. Starting Feb. 28, 2014, stories that reference or quote a Tribune donor or corporate sponsor who has contributed $1,000 or more will include a written disclosure that conveys when those stories are picked up by other news organizations.
- Journalists may not work on stories or projects in which they have a vested interest, financial or personal. They should avoid investment in companies or industries they regularly cover.
- Journalists seeking secondary employment or freelance work to supplement their income must be cleared by an editor to ensure the work does not conflict with their responsibilities at the Tribune.
- Top editors at the Tribune work with other divisions of the organization — including marketing, sponsorship and development — to help support, promote and enhance editorial efforts. From time to time, editorial employees may promote Tribune membership drives or fundraising initiatives on their personal social media profiles or be featured in Tribune marketing materials. They do this at their own discretion and are under no obligation to do so.
- Editorial employees may moderate panels or speak at Tribune events underwritten by corporate sponsors, so long as their role is purely journalistic; sponsors do not determine the panelists, the subject matter or the line of questioning. Tribune journalists may speak at events hosted by other companies or institutions. Any honoraria must be paid to the Tribune — not to the journalist — in the form of a tax-deductible donation.
- Tribune employees, contractors and interns will not accept any gift with more than a nominal value from any company, individual or institution that could have an interest in the Tribune’s reporting. We always pay our own way when traveling for editorial or business purposes.
- All employees, contractors and interns with any responsibility for reporting or editing the news will refrain from partisan political activity of any kind, including making political contributions or displaying partisan signage.
Sponsorships and Advertising
- The Tribune accepts corporate sponsorships, underwriting and, within permissible limits, advertising that does not compromise its editorial integrity. All such support, including future “sponsored content,” must be clearly and obviously distinguished from editorial content. Any sponsor or advertiser messages that contain false or unlawful content, or that the Tribune believes undermines its integrity, mission or brand, may be removed at the Tribune’s discretion. All corporate support will be solicited by the Tribune’s business staff, and no sponsored content will be produced by Texas Tribune employees. Present and past corporate sponsors are listed by amount and by year here.
- The Texas Tribune publishes TribTalk, an opinion and commentary section that posts columns solicited from and authored by thought leaders across the political and policy spectrum. No Tribune reporters or editors write for or contribute to TribTalk. TribTalk editors have the sole discretion to choose which submitted columns are accepted for publication; Tribune sponsors and donors play no role whatsoever in determining the editorial content of TribTalk or influencing the choices made by its editors.
- TribTalk will include columns clearly labeled as "paid placement," and visually differentiated to prevent readers from confusing them with independent editorial content. These columns are produced by corporate supporters of the Tribune who contract with its business staff to post them on TribTalk. They’re the digital equivalent of “advertorials” in newspapers and magazines. The points of view expressed don't reflect those of the Tribune, and the corporate supporters who place them in no way affect the Tribune’s editorial decisions.