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Code of Ethics at Financial Chronicle
Financial Chronicle prides itself for bringing value journalism to its readers leveraging its editorial integrity and the individual morality of its staff members. FC was the first Indian business daily to appoint an Ombudsman and a high-powered editorial advisory board of eminent independent citizens, at launch, to assure readers of its journalistic responsibilities.
In the months since launch, many of those responsibilities have been enshrined in the daily work practices of the Financial Chronicle editorial team. Our constant effort from now on is to ensure objectivity through self-control and self-audit rather than monitoring by external agents.
Keeping this in mind, the editors and all journalists of Financial Chronicle give to themselves a written Code of Conduct. The basic code condenses the self-disciplinary measures that each and every FC journalist imposes on herself or himself. As a measure of their acceptance, the names of each and every journalist are appended at the bottom of this code.
The code itself is designed to be evolutionary in nature. It is open to periodic reviews and revisions. All FC readers and other stakeholders are encouraged to add to the basic code by sending their observations that shall be subject to internal debates among FC editorial team from time to time before being considered for incorporation.
- Proper sourcing is an absolute must. On occasions, sources may want to remain anonymous, but their identities must be revealed to the Editor before filing a report.
- Single-source reports are best avoided. Else, the source must be absolutely credible. Even here, any single-source information must be double-checked with an expert not connected in any way with the primary source. And if the expert has a contrary view, it must be included in the report. This is a rule to be scrupulously followed when a company head or executive makes tall and anonymous claims about a company's plans.
- If a family member or friend is the source, it should be made clear to the Editor before writing the report.
- Reporters reporting outside their beat are not discouraged, but the Editor must be convinced that the source is credible and the story authentic. As a matter of rule, the beat reporter must also be taken into confidence.
- Sourcing from other media is okay, as long as they are given credit.
- Lifting of news from other media and passing them off as original is not permitted.
- This is another must for ensuring credibility. FC journalists must be objective in questioning motives of particular camps providing anonymous information or leads about any other camp/company. Sometimes such leads may be true. The Editor will take a call on any report emanating from such leads.
- Reporters and copy editors will refrain from using hyperboles to describe a company or a person, or even a government department. There is no need to say Company A is the biggest unless a comparison with another company/companies is being made in a particular report.
- Reports focussing on a single company are allowed (subject to the preceding two paragraphs), but it is advisable to have a few paragraphs on the positioning of that company in its related industry. If there is a contrary point of view on the company, such an opinion must be incorporated in the report.
- No reporter should offer opinion/advice on stocks, commodities, trends and so on. However, reports may be written based on expert opinions. A number of experts should be contacted and the reporter should distill their opinions to arrive at a consolidated view. If a subject matter evokes diverse opinions, it should be mentioned in the first paragraph of the report itself.
- Financial Chronicle does not offer any opinion on any news report on its news pages. The Editor’s opinion is confined to the day’s Edit on My Mind page (Page 11) that appears under the company’s logo.
- Ignorance of law makes us extremely vulnerable to libel cases. Our website exposes us globally, so the risks are higher. The first rule here is: personal negative remarks about people must be avoided. We will also not report any personal remark by a source or unidentified person about anyone else or any other company. This shall hold even if the source goes on record.
- Indian companies rarely want to get into litigation over wrong reports. But this is hardly a reason to go with wrong reports. Factual correctness of data and a report in general is an absolute essential.
- FC journalists must bear in mind that, thanks to the world wide web, a case can be filed anywhere in the world. And it will not be for a few lakh of rupees.
- Even blogs are not 100 per cent safe, especially when they are part of our website.
- If we are convinced that an entirely correct report has been hauled to court, Financial Chronicle will stand by it and fight the litigation at its cost.
- In the event of reporting a controversial matter about any person/company, his/its views must be incorporated in the report. The best route is to seek e-mail responses and keep the mail-trail for at least a year. This will help in a case that may eventually arise.
- All staff must declare their and their spouses' market holding of stocks, mutual fund units and so on, every six months. The Editor will take a call on whether a reporter/spouse holding a particular stock should report on that company. If he is allowed to report on the company, the fact that he holds stock in it must be mentioned at the end of the story. Close tabs will be kept on all stories of the reporter, including reports on roadshows.
- Anyone applying for IPO in his own name or in the name of the spouse must declare it -- and the category in which it is being made -- to the Editor before actually putting in the application.
- Financial Chronicle will maintain a registry, in confidence of the Editor, of all such holdings of staff and their spouses, whether the spouses are working professionals or not.
- No staff will be allowed to trade in stocks/mutual fund units on office computers. Financial Chronicle will consider blocking all trading sites.
- No staff shall indulge in speculative activities such as day trading, short selling and trading in options in the market.
- Any gift handed over to staff in office is office property. These will be pooled and handed over to subordinate staff.
- Companies are hereby advised not to send gifts to homes of staff. Keeping traditional sentiments and sensitivities in mind, Diwali sweets, Christmas cakes and New Year calendars and diaries are acceptable, but expensive gifts must be returned.
- No free holiday, including tickets and stay, meals or any other freebies or discounts, will be entertained from any company/organisation/government department.
- The Editor will clear in advance all junket proposals. He will decide who will go on a junket, irrespective of who is originally offered the junket by a company.
- If a junket results in a report, the fact that the particular company has financed the trip must be reported. This is applicable even to short junkets, such as day trips, where travel/hospitality is paid for by a company.
- Thumb rule – no reporting on private treaties between other media houses and companies. These companies themselves may make news, which Financial Chronicle will report, subject to Editor's clearance.
- There is a common corporate objective of management and editorial. However, editorial staff should always consult the Editor for direction if asked by management to help out with garnering advertisements or any other favour from companies.
- Editorial staff should stay clear of all advisory roles, especially financial counselling. They should not manage money for others, offer investment advice, or help operate an investment company of any sort, with or without pay.
- No staff should accept membership of or any position -- honorary or not -- in any private or government committee, or in any think tank, without prior clearance from the Editor.
- No staff should also take up position as a judge of any contest or competition. They should also not take part as contestants.
- Needless to say, this has to be above reproach. Outside office, staff should not act in a manner that brings a bad name to the organisation. One must not demand favours, concessions, or freebies from any restaurant or organisation. Or in any way throw his weight around.
- External constituents are hereby advised to report any such demand promptly to the Editor for which strict action is assured.
- No honour should be accepted from any commercial organisation or company. Such honour can be accepted only from a reputable organisation. But the Editor has to be informed at the first instance of such an organisation contacting any staff for bestowing an honour.
- Radio/TV appearance is okay as long as the channel clearly identifies an FC staff as belonging to Financial Chronicle in a particular broadcast or telecast. No FC journalist is, however, allowed to anchor any such programme.
- All rules that apply to print apply to our website as well.
- Blogs are a problem area. No anonymous blogs are permitted on the official website, www.mydigitalfc.com. Each blog has to be signed. A certain freedom is inherent in personal blogs mounted on our official site. But that does not mean a licence for calumny, libel or any unforeseen penal action.
- A staff member may have his own personal blog hosted elsewhere, not on www.mydigitalfc.com. If he lends his name to such a blog, he should maintain a distance from Financial Chronicle in it, and not identify himself as a member of FC. The blog will nevertheless be under watch for any comment that may be directed against other FC staff or sources or news generators.
- One simple rule – if we make a mistake, we will be upfront and make amends.
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