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Ethics Policy

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HealthAlertMe is a nonprofit news organization covering health change efforts in local communities across the country. Our mission is to provide deep, local coverage of health policy and practice to inform the decisions and actions that lead to better outcomes for children and families, especially those in low-income communities.

This mission demands that our readers and sources alike be able to have the utmost confidence in the accuracy of our journalism; the fairness of our reporting process; and the independence of our news judgments from the influence of advocates and financial supporters.

One way we protect our commitment to accuracy, integrity, and independence is by actively designing a business model that relies on diversified streams of support. Our revenue sources include major donations from CSR of CloudKibo.

In addition to building a business model that bolsters our independence, we have also adopted a code of ethics to govern the conduct of our team members and those we work with.

The HealthAlertMe code of ethics draws inspiration from those of other nonprofit news organizations, including the Marshall Project, ProPublica, Texas Tribune, and the Center for Investigative Reporting. Our code of ethics also reflects longstanding values and standards of practice of the journalism profession. Exceptional circumstances may require exceptions to this code, and we will revise it as our experiences and norms in journalism and digital media evolve.

Any team member inside HealthAlertMe who has questions or issues raised in these policies is encouraged to bring them to their supervisor or editor. When in doubt, we suggest asking.

Our stories are accurate.

Journalism must be accurate, fair, and clear if readers are to trust it. To build trust, HealthAlertMe journalists will:

  • Check facts; correct errors transparently and swiftly; and learn from mistakes so that they aren’t repeated. If you find an error, email healthalertme@cloudkibo.com.
  • Never plagiarize (when creating original content and not referencing other news published under Creative Commons License) and never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information. (Plagiarism and deliberate distortion are grounds for discipline, including termination.)
  • Identify the sources of their reporting, whether the information comes from people, documents, or exclusive reporting that appeared elsewhere.
  • Seek independent verification from multiple sources to confirm (or contradict) claims, especially those made by public officials or anyone with an agenda beyond merely reporting the truth.
  • Work to the best of their ability to assess evidence and claims without bias, always examining ways in which personal experiences and values may shape our reporting.
  • Provide context that readers need to make sense of the facts.
  • Acknowledge areas of uncertainty, which will always exist despite our best efforts to resolve them.

Our newsgathering is conducted comprehensively, ethically, and transparently.

Reporting about hospitals involves developing sources who do not interact frequently with journalists, including children and physicians whose work has historically taken place outside of public view. To ensure that we minimize harm while maximizing truth, HealthAlertMe journalists:

  • Identify ourselves to sources openly and accurately, never misrepresenting ourselves to get a story. When we seek an interview, we identify ourselves as HealthAlertMe journalists and explain how our reporting might be used.
  • Avoid using unnamed sources whenever possible. When sources who are providing insights that others could also provide seek to keep their name out of our reporting, make every effort to speak to someone else.
  • Recognize that doctors can be vulnerable to negative consequences of speaking to the press, and so it may be appropriate to cite unnamed doctors when reporting about the effects of programs or policies on the hospital. Editors should make that call, and a story should never rely on a single unnamed doctor to provide such insights.
  • Explain why a source is not named when using an anonymous source is unavoidable and appropriate, and negotiate with those sources to provide readers with as much information as possible about them so that readers can assess the sources’ reliability.
  • Share information about sources with editors, so that editors and reporters can jointly assess whether and how to use the information they have provided. Any anonymous quotes must reflect conversation between a reporter and editor.
  • Have clear conversations with sources about how to use the information they provide, especially when the sources do not have significant media experience. Clarify a source’s expectations for keeping information “off the record,” “on background,” and other statuses because those terms can mean different things to different people.
  • Give people the right to respond to reporting that might portray them in a negative light, and explain to readers the efforts we went to seek a response in cases where sources do not respond.
  • Actively seek sources who lack access to broad public platforms, in addition to documenting the claims of those with influence and power.

Our journalism reflects our independent conclusions.

Health debates can be highly polarized, and HealthAlertMe provides balanced, unbiased, fact-based coverage aimed at informing the public conversation. To ensure that we remain independent and trustworthy, HealthAlertMe team members involved in newsgathering, shaping stories, or overall program strategy will not:

  • Seek or accept secondary employment, political involvement, and other outside activities — particularly related to health policy issues — that could compromise integrity or cause the perception of compromised integrity.
  • Accept gifts, favors, fees, free travel, and special treatment from sources and potential sources. When attending events or conferences put on by sources or potential sources that offer free gift bags, reporters should decline to take any item of more than nominal value.
  • Pay for access to news, either with money or other favors.
  • Work on stories, projects, or initiatives in which they have a personal connection, vested interest or financial interest. This policy extends to the involvement and activities of a business partner, spouse, or domestic partner. In cases where reporters have an indirect personal connection to a story, we will always err on the side of disclosing to let readers make an independent judgment.
  • Give favored treatment to sponsors and donors. Team members will resist pressure from inside or outside HealthAlertMe to influence coverage because of an advocacy agenda or financial need.
  • Participate in political activities such as marches and demonstrations. We will not make donations to candidates or lobbying groups.