Besides Dakota Free Press, what news sources can you really, really trust? How do you know you can trust any specific media outlet?
Reports Without Borders (RSF—Reporters Sans Frontières) sponsors the Journalism Trust Initiative through which newsrooms may complete a self-evaluation on 18 criteria for transparency, independence, and professionalism; publish those self-evaluations; and submit those self-evaluations for independent certification. 100 media outlets from 33 countries have completed and published the RSF-JTI self-evaluation; 17 have obtained certification.
Colorado Public Radio (CPR) is proud to announce it is the first U.S. media outlet to be awarded a Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) certification, an international benchmark initiated by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to fight disinformation by rewarding editorial and professional excellence. CPR was independently audited by the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), which confirmed CPR’s certification according to the criteria of JTI’s international standard.
…“Our credibility is paramount in our news coverage. We take great care as we report and produce news stories. Going through this process is an endorsement of our standards, but also helps us ensure our values are understood inside and outside of the newsroom,” said CPR News Executive Editor Kevin Dale.
…The JTI benchmark is an official ISO standard measuring news publishers’ ability to deliver editorial content that adheres to specific conditions of transparency, independence and professionalism. ISO standards are used worldwide by external, independent certifiers to complete conformity audits. Prior to offering JTI-specific audit services, AAM went through its own audit to earn accreditation for the JTI conformity assessment, an official recognition of the certifier’s legitimacy [Colorado Public Radio, press release, 2023.08.23].
The JTI process includes this Declaration on Ethical and Professional Journalism, which media outlets seeking JTI certification must pledge to uphold:
We define Journalism as the gathering, production and dissemination of information in a framework of ethical values. Its purpose is to provide citizens with information that empowers them to fully participate in society.
Acts of journalism may be performed by individuals or collectively organised through news media.
We commit ourselves to four primary indicators of ethical quality in journalistic work: ethical practice in editorial activity; good governance in the ownership and management of news media; respect for principles of self-regulation and active engagement with the public.
A. ETHICAL PRACTICE
We practice journalism according to the following key principles:
- Accuracy and fact-based communication;
- Independence from political, corporate or other centres of power;
- Due impartiality in a systematic approach to reporting and editing;
- Fairness, respect and consideration of the impact of journalism on the lives of others;
- Transparency to facilitate accountability and responsibility to the public.
We implement these principles through a code of conduct or mission statement, enhanced through Editorial Guidelines, which provide practical guidance on ethical challenges that might arise.
B. GOOD GOVERNANCE
We strive to reflect high levels of good governance that protect editorial independence by showing transparency of ownership and management, whether public or private.
We demonstrate commitment to recognised and essential principles of internal transparency and accountability to the public.
We agree that good governance, which includes respect for recognised norms of human rights, equality, and contractual obligations, may be identified and monitored through periodic reflection and auditing of internal systems and rules designed to strengthen ethics and management of Media Outlets.
We work to develop systems to strengthen awareness of core values of editorial practice through codes of conduct and editorial ethical guidelines. We also work to provide mechanisms for internal self-regulation, including dealing with complaints and comments from the public through the appointment of readers’ editors or ombudspersons or a designated editorial manager. We further demonstrate respect for self-regulation through attachment to industry-wide or national bodies, for example press councils or press associations, established to promote ethical journalism and to deal with complaints from the public.
D. ENGAGEMENT WITH THE PUBLIC
Building public trust in journalism requires active engagement with the public at large. We provide opportunities for our audience to comment, to respond, and to suggest improvements to the editorial process. We implement accessible and transparent systems to deal with complaints from the public and, where appropriate, to provide remedies [RSF–JTI, Declaration on Ethical and Professional Journalism, 2019.12.19].
Journalism as “the gathering, production and dissemination of information in a framework of ethical values… to provide citizens with information that empowers them to fully participate in society”—hey, Kevin Woster! I think you and I both meet that definition! And that definition is exactly why Governor Kristi Noem is on the warpath against you, Seth Tupper, Beth Warden, and every other real journalist in South Dakota. Journalists seek to inform and empower citizens to participate in society; the rule of authoritarians like Kristi Noem is based on restricting information to the propaganda that empowers only the authoritarians and reduces the ability of citizens to participate in and change their society.
But I won’t pretend to satisfy all of the criteria of ethical practice. Dakota Free Press is pretty good on accuracy, independence, and fairness/respect, but I’m clearly not impartial, and I’m not transparent about who all rings the Blog Tip Jar or who the real names are behind various commenter pseudonyms. I can address governance transparency: I alone own and run Dakota Free Press. I make money through sponsored ads and individual donations via cash, check, and Paypal. I don’t make any money from the information I get about sponsors, donors, or commenters, and I don’t share that information with anyone. None of my finances come from public entities (although once upon a time, the Rutland School District did run ads on my blog to recruit students).
To qualify for JTI certification, I’d have to come up with a mission statement. Remarkably, in 17 years of regular blogging, I don’t think I have written a blog mission statement. Practically speaking, my mission each morning is to roll out of bed and crank out three posts before breakfast on weekdays and at least one on Saturday and Sunday. A little more broadly, my mission is to add value, to highlight stories that need more attention, to offer analysis and commentary that others haven’t offered, and every now and then to come up with new words and entertain. Most simply, my mission is to tell the truth and challenge the powers that be when they need challenging.