The core principles of journalism can be learned and followed by anyone, without acquiring a journalism degree, or having the backing of a massive organization: Readers should feel confident that an article was written in the best interest of the public and not, secretly, in support of some private interest.
Journalists and managers of journalistic institutions are capable of confusing their own private interests with those of the general public. Journalistic best practices involve clear rules and policies that protect the reader and the integrity of the news product, and a corrections policy.
Editorial independence The editorial team, led by the editor, is empowered to make all editorial decisions about what stories to cover and how to cover them. A news team needs to feel confident that they can report—fearlessly and fairly—on any topic they deem to be in the best interest of the public. They should pursue the truth and report it without fear of interference or retribution. The publisher and board of directors sets the overall mission and long-term goals but does not interfere with the editorial product.
Conflict of interest If an individual, or someone close to that individual, might personally benefit from a topic covered, they must recuse themselves from any discussion, deliberation or decision regarding that coverage. They must not make any story suggestions, edit suggestions, or in any way impact the coverage. If questionable, we err on the side of overly disclosing potential conflicts of interest.
News-team accountability From time to time, reporters and editors may need to be reprimanded or, even, fired for their behavior in the workplace. However, in a journalistic institution, there is always a concern that the human resource (HR) process is being used as retribution against news coverage or to silence an especially diligent news team. For this reason, HR processes in a news operation need to be especially well-handled in a deliberate and transparent manner to ensure there is no retribution or silencing-- or even the appearance of such editorial interference. As any journalist knows: one can build trust over decades and lose it in an afternoon.
Transparency We believe deeply in transparency. There needs to be little to no division between the actions of the news operations and what the public sees. Local news works well when news outlets operate under a policy of tenacity with transparency. Conflicts of interest are expected; however they are surmountable when clear procedures and expectations are in place to avoid biased reporting.
Our goal is to create a news organization with as much transparency as possible. This means keeping our website code open source on GitHub, and making public all of our financial information -- including donors, operating costs, and salaries. It also means having a system in place for editorial staff to relay conflict-of-interest concerns to board members.
The Charlotte Bridge is the first newsroom in the country to run its finances in a fully transparent way for the public. Click here to see our bank account, including all transactions and donations, live. If you donate any amount, you'll see your name there, too! Due to our committment to transparency, The Charlotte Bridge does not accept anonymous donations.