Code of Ethics & Standards – The Dallas Express
Integrity is Vital to the Media Industry
The Dallas Express Code of Ethics is crucial to our success. We expect all staffers to adhere to the editorial policies as set forth in this document. If you have any questions or need clarification, please consult with your manager.
Editorial Independence Policy
We subscribe to standards of editorial independence adopted by the Institute for Nonprofit News:
The Dallas Express retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue. Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their products, services, or opinions.
We accept gifts, grants, and sponsorships from individuals and organizations for the general support of our activities, but our news judgments are made independently and irrespective of donor support.
Our organization may consider donations to support the coverage of topics, but we maintain editorial control of the coverage. We will surrender no right to review, influence, or distribute without authorization any editorial content.
Our organization will make public all donors who give a total of $5,000 or more per year here. We accept anonymous donations for general support only if it is clear to the anonymous donor that sufficient safeguards have been put into place to ensure that the expenditure of said donation is made independently by The Dallas Express and in compliance with INN’s Membership Standards.
Donor & Financial Transparency Policy
The Dallas Express is committed to transparency in every aspect of funding our organization.
We accept gifts, grants, and sponsorships from individuals, organizations, and foundations to help with our general operations, coverage of specific topics, and special projects. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that operates as a public trust, we do not pay certain taxes. The Dallas Express does not accept funds from any government programs or entities.
Our news judgments are made independently – not based on or influenced by donors or any revenue source. We do not give supporters the right to assign, review, or edit content.
We make public all revenue sources and donors who give $5,000 or more per year and recognize all of those who have supported The Dallas Express financially. As a news nonprofit, we avoid accepting charitable donations from anonymous sources, government entities, political parties, elected officials, or candidates seeking public office. We will not accept donations from sources that our board of directors determines present a conflict of interest with our work or compromise our independence.
The Dallas Express is committed to reflecting, in our organization and our work, the full breadth of the communities we serve. The Dallas Express provides equal advancement and employment opportunities to all existing employees and applicants without regard to race, color, religion, creed, sex, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, pregnancy, disability (including physical, intellectual, or learning disabilities, or past or present history of a mental disability), political affiliation, family responsibilities, age, uniformed service member status, veteran status, marital or civil union status, membership in a domestic partnership, gender (including gender identity, gender expression, or status as a transgender person), genetic information, sexual orientation, or any other protected characteristic under applicable federal, state and local laws.
In addition, The Dallas Express complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including, but not limited to, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation, and training.
To further the principle of equal employment opportunity for all, The Dallas Express expressly prohibits any form of unlawful employee harassment based on race, color, religion, sex or sexual orientation, national origin, age, handicap, or status as a Vietnam-era or special disabled veteran. The Dallas Express has never had a complaint filed on behalf of any employee to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Conflict of Interest
Conflicts of interest for reporters arise in different areas. Whether real or assumed, it’s important to maintain professional relationships and avoid appearances of impropriety when covering the news.
Conflicts can happen in various relationships that an employee of The Dallas Express has with members of the community, including:
- Advocacy groups
- News sources
A conflict of interest can also occur between a publication and its parent company. Here are behaviors The Dallas Express reporters must avoid.
Conflict of Interest – Policy Items
- The Dallas Express is committed to aggressively and responsibly reporting the news with accuracy, fairness, integrity, independence, and transparency. If an article mentions any person or entity that has contributed more than $1,000 to The Dallas Express either financially or in kind, a disclosure will be appended at the bottom of the article.
- The Dallas Express does not receive contributions from the United States or foreign governments or government agencies.
- Each member of The Dallas Express Board of Directors, or any of its committees, must place the interest of The Dallas Express foremost in any dealings impacting the organization.
- Everyone shall disclose to The Dallas Express any personal interest they may have in any matter pending before the Board, or any matter that may affect the welfare of The Dallas Express and shall refrain from participation in any decision on such a matter. A conflicted board member may not be counted in determining a quorum for the meeting in connection with the conflicted matter as stated explicitly in the bylaws of the organization. The Dallas Express will also disclose if we become aware that an immediate family member (parent, spouse, sibling, child, or self) of the publisher, the publisher’s public company directors, or one of our staff members, writers, or donors/advertisers of over 5% of our revenue, are mentioned in or could reasonably and materially benefit from an article.
- No director or committee member shall derive any personal profit or gain for themselves, their relatives, or friends, directly or indirectly, by reason of their participation with The Dallas Express except as otherwise agreed to by the voting members of the Board. The Board has agreed to these two exceptions
- The publisher of The Dallas Express serves as chairman to three publicly traded hospitality companies. Our publisher may have a financial interest or could benefit by reporting, in a certain way or at all, topics including but not limited to hotels, online travel agencies, vacation rental properties, or booking agents. This is a standing disclosure and will not be additionally disclosed at the bottom of these hotel-industry-related articles.
- The Dallas Express will not endeavor to identify if any article mentions or could potentially affect any of the shareholders invested in one of more of the Publisher’s hospitality companies that are constantly changing as shares trade on the exchanges.
- At the first meeting of the year, board and committee members will submit an annual statement agreeing to these General Principles and disclosing any potential conflicts. If a potential conflict of interest arises during the year, the President of the Board will ensure that such conflict of interest is placed on the agenda for the next meeting of the Board of Directors. The notice of such meeting of the Board of Directors, as applicable, will include, to the extent available when the notice is sent, a description of the conflict-of-interest matter to be discussed.
- If at any time, any board and/or committee member becomes the subject of a newsworthy story of wide public interest, such a board member shall inform The Dallas Express Board of Directors of the potential conflict.
Dallas Express’ code of ethics requires that editorial staff avoid memberships in organizations that could influence potential articles about or involving the organization. This policy includes but is not limited to a financial relationship with a business or institution.
It’s imperative that you don’t engage in activities connected to any group that could give the perception that the relationship influenced how The Dallas Express covered a story. Activities include print, broadcasts, or online coverage.
Family and Personal Relationships
The Dallas Express reputation is essential to our success in the communities we serve. Our editorial staff will not contribute in any manner to coverage involving family members or personal connections. Our staffers must remain unbiased regardless of if it is a feel-good story or breaking news coverage.
Reporters, columnists, and editorial writers should not report on companies or industries in which they or their family members have a vested interest.Editors should not make any news decisions about companies or sectors in which they or their families have interests. When recusing yourself is impractical, editors should ask another editor to make the decision.
Staffers may invest in mutual funds, provided the funds are not limited exclusively to the industries in which they make news decisions. However, they should avoid reporting on stocks of companies in which they have an interest. Financial information gathered for publication purposes should not be used for personal gain, whether through insider trading or otherwise.
Gifts & Meals
No editorial team member should accept any gift or discount given to them because of their journalistic duties. This code of ethics includes the following:
- theme park passes
- and other performances
Gratuitous gifts of value received by staffers in the mail must be returned to the sender. Include a note explaining why the gesture could be viewed as a conflict of interest.
Editorial policies allow editorial staffers to receive reasonably priced meals or a cup of coffee from a source. While a reporter covering a banquet or similar event may accept a complimentary soft drink or hors d’oeuvres, they should make arrangements to pay for their meal.
Admission to events
Editorial team members may accept free access to events they are tasked with covering. The Dallas Express will pay for their tickets or provide reimbursement. Also, employed journalists may accept passes to exclusive areas like press boxes or tables for which tickets are not offered. Even if publicists pay for the tickets, staff members not covering the event should not accept them because doing so could give the impression of preferential treatment.
News handouts are anything sent to The Dallas Express for review, including software, video games, books, CDs, and DVDs. They might be reviewed or used by beat writers as a reference in the office. Rather than being added to staff members’ collections, items not kept for these purposes should be donated to libraries or charitable organizations.
It is forbidden for editorial staff members to utilize their positions, contacts in the industry, business cards, or letterhead for personal gains, such as securing concert tickets, resolving a conflict, or receiving a discount. However, because they are generally accessible to employees of large organizations, discounts provided by the company to all employees may be accepted.
Employees have access to information we must keep private to safeguard The Dallas Express’ interests. Confidentiality also stops other news outlets from scooping the publication.
Confidential information includes but isn’t limited to the following:
- The names of anonymous sources
- Preprinted advertising
- Research notes and other materials
- Unpublished articles
- Personnel records
- Financial information
When sharing information within the organization, care is taken to avoid disclosing sensitive information to third parties unless it is essential. Naturally, reporters may talk about information they’ve acquired for a piece to confirm it or receive feedback from other sources.
Contests and Awards
Entering contests and receiving awards can result in an unintended code of ethics violation. Even if a media organization or institution runs the contests, staff members should not participate because they may exist only to advance the goals of the trade or advocacy groups they work for.
Disclosure of conflicts
Make conflicts of interest clear in the story when they are unavoidable but not obvious to the audience. In stories about the business dealings of Monty Bennett, for instance, a sentence stating that Bennett Founded The Dallas Express should be included. The Dallas Express covers its Board Members, Founders and Publisher in the same manner as it covers any other business executive.
Collaboration with Advertising
It is appropriate for the editorial and advertising departments to collaborate in order to increase the company’s audience and, by extension, its financial strength. These collaborations should never be conducted in a way that would allow advertisers to influence news coverage.
In order to improve the newspaper’s business, supervising editors may collaborate with marketing, circulation, or other departments. However, they should never do anything that could compromise the accuracy of the news report.
Legal troubles of staff members
The Dallas Express will adhere to the same standards of newsworthiness as other publications when reporting on the legal issues affecting its employees. Editorial policies dictate these occurrences receive the same coverage as any story based on a non-employee facing the same charges.
Activities outside of the scope of The Dallas Express shall never interfere with the work staff members perform during their work with The Dallas Express. Our editorial policies are in place to protect The Dallas Express’s reputation. When taking on external projects, you should consider our code of ethics in your decision to accept those external assignments.
Ownership of Work
All thoughts, examinations, notes, and other work that staff members produce on organization time, whether text or pictures, are solely owned by The Dallas Express. Without the permission of the Publisher, this content may not be sold to another publication or news service. The Publisher must also approve the publication of books or syndication of work based on information gathered during The Dallas Express’ time.
Staff members are permitted to complete freelance work on their own time as long as The Dallas Express receives their best efforts. Staff members should only take into consideration media with high journalistic standards. Before being considered for approval, freelance assignments must have individual approval by the Editor-in-Chief or Managing Editor.
Additionally, freelance assignments must meet a number of fundamental requirements. The freelance work that is proposed must not:
- Participate in any form of advertising that directly challenges The Dallas Express.
- Permit a different news organization to “scoop” The Dallas Express.
- Be broadcast or published by any organization that the journalist covers or whose client is The Dallas Express for that project.
- Interfere with the employee’s responsibilities to The Dallas Express.
- Give the impression of a conflict of interest.
- Jeopardize the employee’s professional standing.
Staff members who take on approved freelance work must keep their freelance work separate from their work at The Dallas Express. When engaging with sources during news coverage the publication for which any work is being done should be made clear to the source.
Television and Radio Appearances
All appearances in non-Dallas Express programs must first be approved by the Publisher or Editor-in-Chief. Broadcast appearances must meet the freelancing requirements mentioned above.
Supervising editors will also consider The Dallas Express’s potential promotion value.
Personal Web Publishing
Information on subjects staff members cover for The Dallas Express must not get posted on their personal blogs or websites. The Dallas Express’s credibility as a news organization can also be impacted by their personal postings, so they should be aware of this. As a result, they should avoid postings that show their biases or undermine their professionalism.
Accuracy and Integrity
Accuracy and integrity are two key factors in reporting. Without them, newspapers can face potential lawsuits. When improprieties occur, it is vital that they are addressed immediately.
Breaking the Law
In pursuit of news, the editorial staff will not engage in illegal activities. Editors will not support or tolerate illegal behavior.
Journalism is not a place for fabrication, and it will not be tolerated. If readers are unsure about whether or not a piece of writing is fictional or satirical, the genres should be clearly identified to avoid misunderstandings.
Journalism will not tolerate plagiarism, which is the use of material or ideas from another person or organization without credit. Our reports should clearly attribute any original information, quotes, concepts, or distinctive language that comes from other sources.
Sentences or paragraphs taken from wire stories should be credited within the text. Or, a shirttail can be included stating that wire services were utilized in the report’s creation.
Deception in Reporting
Although there may be rare exceptions, it is generally unacceptable to misrepresent one’s identity in order to obtain information. For instance, a restaurant critic might need to use an alias to make reservations. When reporters try to get information for a story from news outlets, they should be honest about who they are and what they’re doing.
To safeguard a subject’s privacy, a fictitious name should only be used as a last resort. The use of the pseudonym must be explained to readers and approved by the Publisher or Editor-in-Chief in these rare instances.
Posing and Alteration of Photographs
The elements of a news scene or the content of news photographs cannot be staged or directed by photographers. The art direction of studio photographs and reasonable posing in non-news situations are not prohibited by this.
A photograph must not be altered in any way after it has been taken so that it looks like something the photographer didn’t see through the viewfinder.
Only standard quality adjustments made by imaging technicians can be changed.
When the subject matter is complex, abstract, or difficult to convey through documentary photography, it is acceptable to create a “photo illustration” by combining photography and illustration. However, every photo illustration must include an absurd element that is so exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken for a documentary photograph. A supervisory designer or photo editor must approve the use of these pieces, which must be identified as photo illustrations.
Only when the byline reporter has gathered information at that location should a byline include a location. It should never be used in a way that gives the impression to the reader that the reporter went somewhere else for the story.
We may include brief excerpts from books, articles, and other published works in reviews and news stories about the work being excerpted with proper attribution. However, we must first obtain permission from the publisher before using copyrighted works that contain more than a few lines.
Columnists, critics, and the editorial board have the right to voice their opinions. The Dallas Express’ other journalists must make an effort to avoid including personal opinions in their reports. Community speeches, blogs, and broadcast appearances all follow the same principle.
A useful guideline: Don’t say it in these other places if you wouldn’t put it in a news story.
Correction of Errors
The Dallas Express was founded on transparency and honesty. We take pride in promptly correcting mistakes and updating our articles when necessary. The completeness and timeliness of information are vital in ethically serving our community of readers.
The Dallas Express will correct errors that we become aware of after publication to the best of our ability and disclose within the respective article that a correction has been made. Readers can reach out to [email protected] to flag a potential error or need for correction
The Dallas Express does not use anonymous sources.
‘On the Record’ is the Rule. In order for readers to determine for themselves the value of what they read, we attribute the information that we publish in The Dallas Express. We try not to ascribe data to individuals we can’t recognize on paper in light of the fact that doing so can sabotage our validity.
Background Not For Attribution
We should use this common vocabulary and try to ensure that sources understand it, as reporters and sources do not always agree on the definitions of terms used in source negotiations.
Data can be distributed yet not credited to anyone. If the source is not identified, it can also serve as the foundation for additional reporting.
Off the Record
Information cannot be used for anything other than to direct the reporter and cannot be published.
News wire stories should adhere to the same fundamental standards as staff-written stories. Unfortunately, we have less control over the use of anonymous sources.
Our readers must place a premium on the importance of any wire story that relies on anonymous sources. The information attributed to anonymous sources must be relevant to the article, not a public record, and free of personal attacks.
Only credible information and topics to which those organizations have access and expertise should be included in reports. This rule applies to reports from other news organizations that rely on anonymous sources.
We should avoid referring to ambiguous groups like “experts,” “informed sources,” “key officials,” “knowledgeable sources,” “observers,” or “onlookers” when providing information. We should not imply that a person identified elsewhere in an article is more than one person when referring to them anonymously; when there is only a singular anonymous “source,” we should not refer to them as plural “sources.” Additionally, we should avoid attributing information by employing ambiguous expressions like “it is expected that” or “it is believed that.”
Decency, Fairness, and Privacy
Decency, fairness, and privacy are key concerns in The Dallas Express code of ethics. When staffers are considering images, recordings, and the subjects of news stories, they should think about The Dallas Express’ reputation and code of ethics regarding the following areas.
The depiction of uncovered bodies, particularly faces. Before putting graphic images of death and dying on the public stage, caution is always required.
Particular difficulties arise when reporting on children. Children may not be aware of the potential repercussions of having their names, images, and words published in newspapers, online, or television broadcasts. However, they are eager to talk and be photographed.
Before interviewing, photographing, or filming a child, we should, whenever possible, get their parent’s permission. Their consent is imperative when dealing with sensitive subjects.
We must always remember that children are not as responsible for their words or actions as adults, regardless of whether we have permission.
Avoid “ambushing” sources in general. An ambush interview catches the subject off guard. Photographs or videos from such encounters frequently appear accusatory.
Tape recorders may not be used in certain situations without the consent of all parties, as stipulated by Texas law. Even if such consent is not required at all times, legal counsel should be sought before using cameras and hidden tape recorders to gather news. The Publisher must approve any such use in advance.
Lack of Response
Even if it means delaying a report to include the subject’s comment, attempts to reach news sources should give them a reasonable amount of time to respond.
In the event that a source declines to comment, a neutral “no comment” response from that individual should be provided in the story. The phrase “would not comment” is the most neutral way to explain a person’s desire not to be quoted in a news story.
The phrase “refused to comment” is reserved for unique situations. For example, individuals being questioned would not be expected to respond to a serious allegation due to their position or role in the news event.
Ellipses and other commonly used editing tools can be used to shorten quotes. Quotations must be accurate and any edits should not change the meaning of the statement. Quotes add value to the article if they are precise and relevant to its main theme. If a quote contains a slur or profanity, the quote should only be used if it augments the story’s value.
Names of Sexual Assault Victims
We never publish the names of sexual assault victims without their consent, with a few notable exceptions. The Publisher or Editor-in-Chief must approve any exceptions.
Names of suspects
Adult criminal suspects typically can typically only be identified when charges have been filed, while juvenile suspects can only be identified when they have been charged as adults. The Publisher or Editor-in-Chief must approve any exceptions.
We should not violate our standards by publishing unsubstantiated reports about a person solely because other organizations have done so. The same is true for locating victims of sexual assault mentioned elsewhere.
Identification of Race
Reporters and editors only specify a person’s race in a story if they can demonstrate its significance. Religion, racial or ethnic origin, gender, and sexual orientation all fall under the same umbrella.
People campaigning for a public service position subject themselves to more intense coverage and reporting. When deciding which information about a candidate is important enough to warrant publication, editors and reporters should regularly confer.
Last updated: March 9, 2023.