Don’t sign, don’t advocate, don’t donate.
We’re not advocates. We may not run for office, endorse candidates or otherwise engage in politics in a participatory or activist manner. Since contributions to candidates are part of the public record (and not a private expression of choice in a voting booth), those of us connected with news coverage may not contribute to political campaigns or referendums, as doing so would call into question NPR’s journalistic independence and impartiality.
This extends to issues on which NPR as a company has taken a position on issues that affect us and our industry, such as federal funding for public broadcasting. Even when our company takes a stance on an issue, as journalists, we remain dedicated to reporting on the issues with journalistic rigor and impartiality.
It also means we should not sign petitions or otherwise contribute support or money to political causes or public campaigns. Also: we don’t put political signs in our yards or bumper stickers on our cars, and if family members get involved in politics we recuse ourselves from any coverage that touches on their activities and we do our best to maintain our independence from their pursuits.
There may be cases where we can appropriately advocate for issues directly related to our journalistic mission (e.g. First Amendment rights, the Freedom of Information Act, a federal “shield law”). It also may be appropriate to donate money or time to organizations that advocate on such issues.
However, we discuss these exceptions prior to any advocacy with our supervisors. In most cases, permission need only be given once. But if there’s a change in such an organization’s mission or we’re asked to taken on leadership roles that would put us in the public eye, we consult with those supervisors again.
October 17, 2011