Best Practices

Voice of OC is a non-profit news agency covering Orange County’s city halls, government agencies and other related civics issues. We hold elected and appointed people who serve the public to high standards and we hold ourselves to the same high standards.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

A Voice of OC news meeting.


Table of Contents:
Ethics | Diversity | Staff Diversity | Corrections | Ownership Structure | Independence | Founding | Masthead | Mission | Verification | Anonymous Sources | Feedback | Newsroom | Trust Project


Ethics Policy

Voice of OC holds these ethical standards for its staff. These ethical standards are, in part, based on the Society of Professional Journalists ethical policy.

Honesty

  • Never plagiarize.
  • Always attribute.
  • Label advocacy and commentary.

Independence

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel or any special treatment that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
  • Do not pay for access to the news.
  • Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests.
  • Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

Accuracy

  • Verify that all facts are accurate.
  • Use original sources (interviews or documents) whenever possible.
  • Focus on accuracy, rather than speed of publication.
  • Present information in the proper context.
  • Identify sources clearly.
  • Correct information promptly and clearly.

Accountability

  • Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.
  • Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently.
  • Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences.
  • Abide by the same high standards that are expected of others.

Public Affairs

  • Act as a watchdog to ensure that government bodies conduct the public’s business in the open.
  • Ensure that public records are made available.
  • Provide access to source materials when it is relevant and appropriate.

Fairness

  • Diligently give subjects of news coverage the opportunity to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.
  • Avoid surreptitious methods of gathering information, unless traditional methods will not yield information vital to the public.
  • Be vigilant about holding those with power accountable.
  • Give voice to the voiceless.

Respect

  • Show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage. Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent.
  • Consider cultural differences in approach and treatment.
  • Recognize that legal access to information differs from an ethics justification to publish.
  • Realize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves compared to public figures and people who seek power, influence or attention.
  • Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
  • Balance a subject’s right to a fair trial with the public’s right to know.
  • Consider the long-term implications of the extended reach and permanence of publication. Provide updated and more complete information as appropriate.

Anonymous Sources

  • Consider sources’ motivations before promising anonymity.
  • Reserve anonymity only for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm and who have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere.
  • Explain to the audience why anonymity was granted.

Diversity

  • Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear.
  • Avoid stereotyping.
  • Challenge personal values and experiences during the reporting process.


Diversity Statement

Inclusiveness is at the heart of thinking and acting as journalists. The complex issues we face as a society require respect for different viewpoints. Race, class, generation, gender and geography all affect point of view. Reflecting these differences in our reporting leads to better, more nuanced stories and a better-informed community.

We seek diverse voices in our management and reporting staff. Our staffing report is below.

We are interested in hearing from different ethnic, civic and business groups in the communities we serve. Please let us know about stories in your neighborhood.

We report openly and honestly about every side of immigration, including its negative side effects, and other aspects of diversity, including race and gender issues.


Diversity Staffing Report



Corrections Policy

Voice of OC is committed to telling readers when an error has been made, the magnitude of the error and the correct information, as quickly as possible. This commitment and transparency is applicable to small errors as well as large, across all Voice of OC content and products.

All corrections can be seen HERE.

If you would like to report an inaccuracy, email either admin@voiceofoc.org, nsantana@voiceofoc.org or twood@voiceofoc.org.


Ownership Structure and Funding

Voice of OC is a non-profit news agency. A thorough explanation of our funding, a link to our Guidestar page and our financial disclosure forms can be accessed HERE.

We are overseen by a board of directors. Information on the board can be accessed HERE (link to our board of directors page).

We are committed to transparency in our agency structure and funding sources. We cite potential conflicts of interest on the same page as the relevant work.


Editorial Independence

Our news gathering is independent of commercial or political interests. We do not accept gifts of any kind in order to avoid any conflict-of-interest or appearance thereof.

When we rely on an organization for a product or access to an event, we are transparent about the relationship and note it within the relevant work. The newsroom is insulated from donors, sponsors and advertisers by a firewall.

We have a news team of a civic editor, three reporters, a digital editor and occasional freelancers.


Founding Date

Voice of OC was established in 2009.


Masthead

NORBERTO SANTANA, JR., Publisher, nsantana@voiceofoc.org

TRACY WOOD, Civic Editor, twood@voiceofoc.org


Mission Statement with Coverage Priorities

Our full mission statement and information on coverage can be accessed HERE.


Verification and Fact-Checking Standards

Here is Voice of OC’s news story accuracy and fairness checklist:

  • Are the names and titles of people spelled correctly? Are all the numbers and calculations verified?
  • Has the story been checked for proper spelling, grammar and style?
  • Are the quotes accurate and placed in the correct context? Is the information attributed and the sources clearly explained? Have I provided access to source materials when relevant and appropriate? Do any associated descriptions, photos, graphics or other elements match the story information?
  • Is the story fair? Have the subjects of news coverage been given an opportunity to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing? Does the story balance the subject’s right to a fair trial with the public’s right to know? Does the story demonstrate sensitivity to people who may be affected by the news coverage?
  • Does the story seek sources whose voices we seldom hear? Is the story free of stereotypes?


Anonymous Sources Policy

Voice of OC will sometimes, when appropriate, give a source anonymity.

When deciding whether to grant anonymity, the civic editor:

  • Consider the sources’ motivations before promising anonymity.
  • Reserves anonymity only for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm and who have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere.
  • Explains to the audience why anonymity was granted.


Actionable Feedback

Our audiences are frontline witnesses to life in Orange County – public safety, politics, housing, social movements, schools, culture – and your insights can help shape our news agenda. We invite your comments and complaints on news stories, suggestions for issues to cover or sources to consult. We believe that news organizations have a responsibility to engage with the public on the values, issues and ideas of the day, and that we have much to gain in return. Your comments, questions and suggestions can be sent to the team as a whole at admin@voiceofoc.org or by contacting a specific member of our staff.


Newsroom Contacts

A full list of Voice of OC’s staff, including its news team, can be accessed HERE.


Trust Project

The Trust Project is a collaboration among news organizations around the world. Its goal is to create strategies that fulfill journalism’s basic pledge: to serve society with a truthful, intelligent and comprehensive account of ideas and events.

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