Watch? Yes. March? No. A Reminder About Rallies And Demonstrations

Everyone at NPR – journalists and those who support the work they do – has a part to play in upholding two of this organization’s core principles:

Independence

Impartiality

We can’t keep the public’s trust if we aren’t seen as independent and we risk our reputation if it looks like we’re not impartial.

As you know, the Inauguration is going to spark celebrations and demonstrations in coming weeks, especially around Jan. 20.

That means some reminders are in order, for journalists and everyone else at NPR. As we’ve said previously, “We Can Observe, But We Don’t Participate In Rallies.”

The key line in that guidance: “We believe journalists can go see such events, even if they’re not assigned to cover them, so long as they don’t ‘participate.’ ”

Put another way, watching from the sidelines at rallies in support or opposition to the new president is fine. Marching or cheering is not.

You can go to the National Mall to see the Inauguration. That’s a national, historic event. It’s OK to attend. But, again, we go to observe – not to cheer or jeer.

These rules definitely apply to our journalists and to NPR employees in “outward-facing” positions. As we’ve said, those are “jobs that sometimes put them in the position of representing NPR to the outside world.” They should not “participate.”

Other staffers – those whose work doesn’t touch our journalism and who aren’t in outward-facing positions – should understand that their actions can reflect on NPR. We can’t cover every eventuality with a “do this, don’t do that” list. We do ask that no one wear any NPR paraphernalia or do anything that would raise questions about NPR’s objectivity.

It’s not always easy to determine whether a job touches our journalism. Talk with your supervisor, who in turn can consult with the Standards & Practices editor and NPR’s Chief Ethics Officer.

Related:

– We’ll have more to say about this in coming weeks, but the guidance in our post about “Social Media Rules Of The Road On Election Day” applies to Inauguration Day as well. Please, “conduct yourself online just as you would in any other public circumstances as an NPR journalist.” If you’re not a journalist, remember that what you say could reflect on NPR.

– NPR journalists do not donate to political parties or advocacy organizations. Except, that is, when a group’s issues are “directly related to our journalistic mission (e.g. First Amendment rights, the Freedom of Information Act, a federal ‘shield’ law).” The Ethics Handbook notes that it may be “appropriate to donate money or time to organizations that advocate on such issues” and on subjects such as the dangers facing journalists around the world. This guidance also applies to “outward-facing” employees. Others at NPR should know that their donations may draw attention and spark questions about NPR’s objectivity.

(“Memmos;” Dec. 15, 2016)

December 15, 2016

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