Center establishes an ethics policy

On Nov. 10, the board of directors of The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting approved the following ethics policy for the Center:

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting provides high-quality investigative journalism to its client newspapers and media outlets. As a non-profit corporation, the Center lacks the traditional wall between news and revenues found in most for-profit news organizations. The credibility of the Center depends on establishing and maintaining a reputation for independent, non-partisan and non-ideological journalism, and readers and client media outlets must be confident that the Center’s news decisions are not influenced by its funders or board members. The Center has therefore adopted the following policies for its board members, fundraising and news staff.

News staff

* All decisions about the selection, writing and editing of the Center’s stories are the responsibility of the publisher and the news staff.
* Though reporters are free to write stories about or involving funders and/or board members, they will not show their work-in-progress to funders or board members, nor discuss the content or point of view of other stories the Center is contemplating with them.
* Before undertaking any story assignment, reporters will discuss possible conflicts of interest or other compromising circumstances with the publisher. The publisher and reporter will then decide whether to proceed with the story.
* Editorial staff members will not solicit funds for the Center from individuals or businesses that are the subject of a pending article.
* Brief biographies, a photo and contact information for members of the editorial staff will be available on the Center’s website.

Board members

* Board members have no role in the Center’s journalism except as may be specifically allowed in this policy, though they set policies that affect reporters and editors and raise money to support the Center’s work.
* Board members may suggest general topics for articles, but will not review or otherwise interact with a story-in-progress.
* Board members may be quoted in stories as long as their affiliation is noted in the story. Board members cannot be used as anonymous sources or as behind-the-scenes reviewers or editors.
* Brief biographies of board members, including their memberships and relevant affiliations, will be available on the Center’s website.

Donors

* The Center will provide a list of donors of more than $1,000 on its website.
* The Center may accept contributions from donors whose names are not revealed to the publisher or editorial staff, but will not list as anonymous a donor whose name is known to the publisher or editorial staff.
* The Center focuses its reporting on Maine government and elections. The Center will therefore  not accept contributions from legislators, candidates for statewide office and government officials at the commissioner level.
*  The Center will not accept donations from state or local government.
*  In its dealings with donors, the Center will stress the independence of its mission and the importance of its credibility with readers and sources.
* The Center will seek a diversity of funding sources to help protect its independence and credibility.
* The Center will make no promises or offers about future stories to any potential donor; except that with the approval of the publisher, board members or editorial staff may discuss with donors topics that the Center might cover through a targeted grant or donation.  The publisher and editorial staff will retain full discretion and control over the content of any such articles, and the donor shall not be permitted to review such articles in advance of publication.

General

* The board president, publisher and executive director will be the Center’s only authorized spokespeople with the media.
* The Center will post its Federal 1090 form (excluding the list of donors), its editorial and financial policies, its ethics policy and its conflict-of-interest policy on its website.

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