Putting Principles Into Practice
We will fulfill the high standard we owe the public if we hold true to our principles. Doing so requires that we embrace complexity and continually think through difficult decisions. While these principles reinforce each other, they also are often in tension. In all situations, we balance them against one another, striving to honor our mission.
This statement is intended not only to serve as a guide, but also to provoke ongoing discussion and deliberation – the keys to any ethical decision-making process. It should both test and strengthen the moral compass that guides each of us in our work. It aims to foster a culture that compels and empowers us to exercise our consciences each day. We believe it is our shared responsibility to live up to these principles.
How the handbook applies to you
This handbook is intended to frame your decisions in ways that help you do better journalism. It is not primarily a rulebook or a punitive tool. There are several instances throughout this book, however, where clear guidelines have been laid out on how NPR journalists should conduct themselves. We expect our journalists to know these guidelines and to abide by them.
Occasions will inevitably arise where an NPR journalist’s actions may conflict with the guidelines expressed in these pages. These situations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and we will not pre-judge the outcome of those evaluations. Minor instances that supervisors deem as posing no significant threat to the credibility of our work may elicit no more than a conversation. Situations that may significantly undermine our journalism will be subject to a consistent review process, led by the Senior Vice President for News along with the Standards and Practices Editor and the appropriate members of the news management team. Our goal will be to identify in a timely, thoughtful and consistent manner the nature of the potential harm to our journalism and to recommend an appropriate response to mitigate that harm. If disciplinary action is called for, Human Resources and Legal will be consulted.
The single best safeguard of NPR’s integrity is the ethical foundation that each of our journalists brings to his or her work. NPR has a Standards and Practices Editor, but no individual can stand guard over all the decisions made by every journalist at NPR. The Standards and Practices Editor is a resource, just as this handbook is a resource. Resources are only valuable if they are used. Anytime an ethical question arises in your mind, consult the handbook and talk with your supervisor. Everybody at NPR is encouraged to write to Ethics to pose a question or seek guidance on making a difficult decision.
How the handbook will evolve
We rely on the contributions of every NPR journalist to ensure this handbook remains current and relevant to the situations you face each day. If you encounter decisions for which you feel the guidance in this book is inadequate, have questions about interpreting what you read here, or suggestions for how to improve the handbook, we encourage you to send a note to Ethics.
Twice a year, the Standards and Practices Editor will convene an ethics advisory group to consider all suggestions, review the Handbook, and make any additions or revisions necessary.
If any changes or additions are made, the revised handbook will be sent to staff with an accompanying memo outlining changes. Sessions will be scheduled at that time to give the staff the opportunity to review and discuss the revisions.