We aim to raise the bar on local news.
At Colorado Community Media, our mission and values guide the work we do. Every day. With high ethical standards and transparent processes, we strive to earn—and keep—the trust of the communities we serve.
Colorado Community Media connects, educates and empowers readers along the Front Range as the state’s largest source of hyperlocal news, information and advertising. Our vision is to be a clear and transparent voice for our readers and a trusted community resource where they consistently turn first for news and events that impact them most.
To do that we have to look at ourselves and our ethics.
As professionals, we subscribe to a set of moral principles that govern our behavior and how we conduct business—and how we cover stories. For us, it’s important that we are transparent in our reporting and transparent in our business relationships.
Editorial policy and guidelines
We hold our all our employees—reporters, photographers, advertising, operations, administrative and finance—to the highest ethical standards based on industry standards. The same standards also apply to all CCM contractors and freelancers.
Our reporters and editors should always strive for truth, accuracy, and objectivity. And to help provide guidance, we adhere to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which include four primary elements for news coverage:
- Seek the truth and report it.
Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should
be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting
- Minimize harm.
Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of
the public as human beings deserving of respect.
- Act independently.
The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve
- Be accountable and transparent.
Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and
explaining one’s decisions to the public.
Visual journalism has become a critical element of reporting, and we expect nothing but the highest standards from our photographers, videographers and those who manage visual imagery. Our visual creators and managers adhere to standards set forth by the National Press Photographers Association.
Those standards include:
- Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.
- Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.
- Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work.
- Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.
- While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter or seek to alter or influence events.
- Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter the sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.
- Do not pay sources or subjects or reward them materially for information or participation.
- Do not accept gifts, favors or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.
- Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists.
- Do not engage in harassing behavior of colleagues, subordinates or subjects and maintain the highest standards of behavior in all professional interactions.
Colorado Community Media recognizes its obligation to correct errors in the stories we publish and to answer legitimate criticism of our work by our readers and stakeholders.
We feel these fall into these categories:
Corrections: When we’re wrong, we’re wrong and we will accept responsibility. At CCM, we believe a correction must always be labeled as a correction and not softened with ambiguous euphemisms such as “clarification.” A correction alerts our audience that we made an error in fact. A correction of the fact does not detract from the main point of the story or change its intent.
Retraction: A retraction means we got more than just a minor fact wrong. A retraction and we got a major portion of the story wrong. A retraction requires review by CCM management, legal, and in some cases, a panel of independent journalism experts.
Requests for removal of an online story or a name: As journalists, it is our job to discover and report the news—the news as it is. With that in mind, we strongly believe that online stories are part of the daily narrative and in almost all cases should remain online. In the event we have committed an error, that error will be investigated and if necessary, corrected and a notice of that correction (along with our regrets) posted. In other cases, a story may be updated to reflect new information. With regards to the removal of an individual’s name, in certain situations, CCM will give careful consideration to each request. CCM will ask for proper court documentation. In such cases, if a change or removal is made, we will note the story has been updated and indicate the date and time it was made and the nature of the change.
CCM recognizes the importance of preserving the freedom of its editors to make decisions without interference from its ownership and others. Our organization retains full authority over its editorial content to protect the interest of the communities we serve as well as the longstanding ethical principles of our industry.
When deemed necessary and appropriate, we will disclose donors and key stakeholders. We will do so either within the body of the story or in the form of an editor’s note.
Additionally, we cede no right to review or influence our editorial content, nor the unauthorized distribution of editorial content.
While we accept gifts, grants and sponsorships from individuals and organizations for general support, our news judgments are made independently and never on the basis of such financial support.
A community is made up of many voices. At CCM we understand that it’s important our work reflects that. So, therefore, we are committed to ensuring our stories and photos are complete, accurate and fair.
Stories will not sacrifice relevance or diverse voices for convenience. We will not mislead readers, nor will we consider coverage fair if the story addresses persons or organizations that have not been given the opportunity to speak and address assertions made by others. This means we will be diligent in seeking out those voices for comment.
We will be honest and straightforward with all sources and seek informed consent unless matters such as legal, safety or confidentiality come into play and there is solid editorial justification for proceeding without such consent.
Special care will be exercised when interviewing and photographing subjects and sources who are considered “vulnerable,” such as the elderly, those with disabilities, mental illness, victims of crime, witnesses to crimes, children and minors, and those for whom English is not their primary language among others. As with all our sources, these individuals will be treated fairly and with the support necessary for them to tell their stories.
From headlines to datelines, to the meat of the story, we strive for and expect accuracy. While headlines may be funny, as well as dramatic, they must never be misleading and not properly represent the story that follows. The same principle applies to our photos, graphics and data journalism projects.
Verification and fact-checking
Stories written by CCM staff and freelancers are edited by the appropriate regional editor and in some cases the editor-in-chief. News stories never go live or are published without at least one higher level of review and editing. Editors will review for clarity, proper use of sources and factual accuracy. They will flag sections of a story for review, comment, or further substantiation. Stories, photos and video footage will also be reviewed for appropriateness, taste and proper attribution and copyright usage.
CCM adheres to guidance set forth by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics when considering the use of and protecting anonymous sources.
Diversity of sources
While we expect our news coverage to reflect the communities that we serve, we also realize it is important to elevate underrepresented voices as well, and this our commitment to finding and engaging diverse news sources.
Treatment of violent or explicit content
We will be vigilant in judging the suitability of the content we publish—particularly content that may be disturbing to readers, upsetting to family members or would put sources or others at risk.
Elevating the voices of our communities is an important part of our mission. Along with news stories, this includes opinion pieces. CCM welcomes readers and others to submit letters to the editor.
All submissions are subject to editing for accuracy, clarity and grammar before publication and must include the author’s full name. An address and daytime telephone number are required to verify authorship.
CCM refuses to publish letters from those using only initials or a pseudonym.
CCM will not publish articles that insult, defame or insult individuals or organizations, violate personal privacy, incite hate or encourage harassment of any kind.
Social media, along with other user-submitted content such as videos and still images can be helpful in ensuring more voices are heard. However, special care should be taken to properly vet such material for content, authenticity, ownership and copyright. Said content should also be original or an exact duplicate of the original and free from alteration. This includes the sharing or embedding of content from other parties outside of the newsroom.
UGC and content provided to CCM by outside organizations must always be verified using all available human and technological resources. This may include speaking to the source and using third-party help, such as other news organizations and the public. If the original source, then CCM will not use nor report on the material.
When using UGC, CCM will be transparent and label the content as such and promptly remove it should it prove otherwise, and explain how the error may have happened.
While CCM will not pay for the use of such materials, proper and prompt credit will be given.
Conflict of interest, gifts, services and gratuities
At all times, we want to identify and avoid conflicts of interest. Employees may not solicit gifts at any time. If offered, employees may not accept gifts in excess of $25, especially if from a news source or an individual working within government, government-funded organizations, those holding an elected position, or running for a political office. Special care must be taken to avoid the impression that a gift from potential and actual customers, vendors, or competitors is intended to win preferential treatment or for personal gain. Under no circumstances is an employee permitted to accept a cash gift. Conflicts of interest must be reported to a supervisor. Failure to do so may result in corrective action, up to and including termination of employment.
Tickets and free admission to events that are not free to the public must be examined with great care. Employees may accept such tickets if the event is sponsored by CCM. However, other types of admission should only be used to facilitate official media coverage—such as access to a press box or media credentials.
This policy applies to all employees, including contractors, freelancers, bloggers and interns.
An employee may entertain potential or actual customers if such entertainment is consistent with accepted business practices and does not violate any law or generally accepted ethical standards. The public disclosure of facts will not negatively impact the Company.
We must always be on guard and keep ourselves at arm’s length from those whose position might make them the subject of a news story. Additionally, we want to ensure we are free of obligations to sources and can report freely, independently—and without fear.
And finally, we keep our stance from active involvement in partisan causes that could compromise our ability to report and edit without prejudice.
Social media policy
While not required, Colorado Community Media journalists and staffers are encouraged to have social networking accounts to engage with the communities they cover. These accounts can be an integral way for reporters to gather story ideas, become aware of new people, further civic conversations and better understand the communities they cover. They also serve as a great way to further distribute and help showcase CCM’s digital marketing products. Posting to social media is a public activity. Even forums that are labeled private or deemed private may be viewed by unintended members of the public. Therefore, whatever a person writes in these forums should be considered public. Sharing opinions that reveal a personal bias should be avoided. A good test for what to express is whether you would say the same thing to someone in person, including a source who is part of a story you are reporting. Journalists are held to a high standard. Our place in society is privileged. We often have access to information and people that ordinary residents do not. That position relies on our trustworthiness to disclose all the relevant facts and opinions in a story.
Journalists are also held to a high standard in terms of the law, specifically libel and slander. Though everyone has a right to freedom of speech, people possess a right not to be subjected to falsehoods that impugn their character. Social media remarks and other comments that are viewed as biased could be used by an individual, organization, group, or business in a court of law against Colorado Community Media to demonstrate a predisposition or malicious intent, even for an unrelated story.
Many of our reporters are known as experts on their beats. However, all employees, freelancers, and contractors who publicly affiliate themselves with CCM should hold their social media activity to the same standards of ethical journalism they apply to their work for CCM products.
We expect all employees to know that their actions reflect upon Colorado Community Media’s reputation. Any photos, memes and opinions about the company, colleagues, competitors or others in the community would compromise our mission to be fair and transparent in our local newsgathering.
Also, it is unethical to use an anonymous identity on social media sites or blogs in order to post opinions that may undermine covering the news.
While it is not the intention of CCM to suppress individual voices or freedom of expression, we do want newsroom employees to understand there can be negative consequences associated with unmoderated posts and replies.
Key points for ethical social media use:
- CCM employees should refrain from posting anything that would call into question the organization’s reputation as a trusted source of fact-finding news and information.
- Developing a public personality online is also encouraged, but should never be such that it casts doubt on your ability — or CCM’s ability — to report fairly and accurately and without fear of reprisal.
- Screenshots happen. Employees should be mindful and assume that all activities online and on social media platforms should be considered public. Therefore, employees should exercise caution when sharing information about family members, children, religious views, etc.
- Employees should never represent themselves as an official spokesperson on behalf of the company unless authorized to do so.
- If you are posting about CCM products and services, be transparent about the fact you are a CCM employee and your position. Also make it clear that your views do not represent the views of the company, its publication and employees
- CCM employees may never use social media to harass others, including employees, elected officials, vendors or others — for ANY reason.
- Employees should always respect copyright and the intellectual property of others. (text, photos, video, illustrations).
- Journalists, in particular, should always abide by the highest ethical principles when posting material on social media. The content you publish should meet the same standards as the content published on our news platforms.
- Always attribute sources, and include links to the original material if appropriate.
- If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and correct it as soon as possible.
- CCM encourages reporters to engage in online conversations but to do so respectfully. Do not bait others, instigate online fights, or fan the flames of online disagreements.
- Do not post materials or conversations that are intended to be private — unless you have permission.
- Never post materials, photos, or documents that would place others — especially news sources — in compromising or dangerous situations. This would include items that disclose personal data such as addresses, emails, or the locations of vulnerable persons.
- If you are threatened online, take a screenshot of the text and include any information that would help identify the individual making the threat, and be sure to notify an editor as soon as possible. With the editor and management, a course of action can be determined to secure an employee’s safety, which could include notifying the proper authorities, including police.
- Just as our opinion/letters policy prevents the publication of articles from readers that defame or insult individuals or organizations, violate personal privacy, incite hate, or encourage any kind of harassment, the same expectations are made of CCM staff when addressing the public on news covered by CCM and newsworthy issues that CCM could cover or has historically covered.
Any employee found to have violated the conditions of the newsroom Code of Ethics may face disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment, according to CCM’s employee handbook, which employees acknowledge when they accept terms of employment with CCM.