Media

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This page outlines our perspectives on media, broadly including journalism and news media, as well as other forms of written, audio, or visual media. These practices and guidelines are directly related to our rules of communication.

Contents

Our practices

Authorship

  • Any contributor to a work must consent to being listed as an author; without such consent, the publication can list them as an anonymous author.
  • Each publication can choose or set its own policies about whether or not (and under what conditions) to accept anonymous submissions.
  • Any organizations that contributed to or had representatives contributing to a work must be identified as authors: individuals can be anonymous by name, but their position or role and associated organization must be openly identified.
  • When identifying authorship of a piece, communicate truthfully the degree to which all authors contributed. People who have not contributed any work to a piece are not listed as authors or co-authors.
  • When there are multiple authors, the authors decide by consensus in which order to list the authors. In the case that authorship is deemed equal, authors can choose to list names in a random order, or to rotate names in different articles according to a system that gives equal weight to each author over time.

Headlines

  • When writing a headline, ensure that the headline is fully truthful when read in isolation.
  • Headlines are agreed upon by consensus of whoever is writing the headline, and the original writer or creator of the work.

Why?

A much larger number of people read a headline than actually read a whole article or even part of an article. A misleading headline can thus leave a false impression in people's minds when they glance at the headline. Misleading headlines can thus skew public perception in an untruthful way.

For example, headlines about scientific studies often present the findings of the study as simple fact, whereas from a scientific perspective, the findings of the study may be a point of active study or even controversy, and are rarely accepted as fact by consensus of the scientific community.

Illustrating written works

  • When illustrating a written work, all contributors to the work agree by consensus on images or illustrations used in the work.
  • Depending on the scope or extent of illustrations, illustrators can be listed with authors of a work.

Content

  • All contributors must consent for a work to be truncated or for any material to be removed from it.

Why?

Truncating a work, such as publishing only the first page of a two page article, or omitting a chapter of a work, can sometimes be carried out without compromising the integrity of the work as a whole. But in other cases, removing certain material can result in a work that is less than truthful, or that has effects that may not be desired by the various contributors to the work. Some examples include:

  • Omission of context can change how people interpret basic facts.
  • Omission of certain perspectives can result in a bias towards the perspectives included.
  • Omission of a hopeful or empowering conclusion in an article about a problem or negative event can result in a work having a negative tone or message, rather than being empowering.

Our principle that contributors must consent for a work to be truncated ensures that the work of contributors is not used in a way that goes against their wishes. If editors or other contributors wish to remove material and cannot obtain consent from the contributors, the problem can be resolved by creating a new work from scratch without the dissenting contributors.

Quotes and Interviews

  • When quoting or paraphrasing someone you or your organization has interviewed, or including portions of such an interview or speech in a work, the person being quoted, paraphrased or interviewed must consent to the work in its final form before publication.
  • For other quotes, do not remove context in ways that alter the apparent meaning.
  • Be very cautious with including any quotes or paraphrases that break our rules of communication.

Why?

Our principle of people being quoted or paraphrased consenting to a work ensures that people's words are not used in ways that they would not support, and thus gives people greater control over their own portrayal in the public, allowing them to choose which stances they wish to be publicly identified with. Two of the common problems with quoting people are:

  • Quoting people out of context or in a context which the person quoted is unaware of: context can make the person's quote seem to have a different intention or meaning than the intention or meaning that the speaker originally had. This type of quoting, while literally true, violates the spirit of our rules of communication, because it is untruthful in spirit, and it can also makes a statement (indirectly or by implication) about a person's thoughts, intentions, or motivation. According to our rules of communication, the only person allowed to make a statement about their thoughts, intentions, or motivation is the person themselves.
  • People often make statements that they do not wish to be identified with. Examples include comments made when a person is angry or overly emotional, and not thinking clearly, comments made hastily or sloppily when a person is in a hurry, or statements that a person genuinely believes at one point in time, but that the person no longer believes. Quoting a person in a way that they would not consent to can be harmful as it can lead people to identify the quoted person with viewpoints or stances that the person does not believe or no longer believes.

In general, speech, writing, or ideas which break our rules of communication tend to communicate ideas that we see as unhealthy or harmful. Examples would be untruthful ideas, negative generalizations about people or groups of people, or subjective opinions presented as objective facts. We avoid the quoting or paraphrasing of these sorts of ideas both because we do not wish to promote these ideas in the public consciousness, but also because we wish to avoid portraying the people making these quotes in a negative light.