Bustle Digital Group News Policies And Ethics

by The Zoe Report

Bustle Digital Group Ethics

Bustle Digital Group is the parent company of news and lifestyle sites Bustle, Elite Daily, Romper, The Zoe Report, Flavorwire, Gawker, and Mic. Bustle Digital Group’s brands are expected to adhere to a set of strict journalistic principles that ensure audiences are informed while subjects are unharmed. Every editor and writer employed by Bustle Digital Group must digest and comply with these values, and are expected to hold themselves up to the standards of their brand.

We seek to be accurate, respectful, responsible, fair, and transparent in all of our content to the best of our ability.

I. Accuracy

Writers across each of Bustle Digital Group’s brands are expected to uphold the core journalistic principle of accuracy. Writers and editors take steps to ensure the accuracy of all content published on Bustle Digital Group’s sites. Those steps include adding citations to information included in each article (whether that information is from other trusted media outlets, experts, or organizations) and links to primary sources.

Editors and copy editors also fact check all information included in our articles, and ensure sources are vetted and considered trustworthy. If a correction must be made to an article, the update is made as soon as possible and a clear correction notice is appended to the bottom of the piece.

II. Responsibility and Respect

Bustle Digital Group editors and writers seek to report stories in the public interest while minimizing harm. This means always treating subjects of stories with respect and striving to include all sides of a story whenever possible, reaching out for comment to give everyone the opportunity to respond to stories that relate to them or their work. If a comment is not received by our publishing deadline, we note this in our piece. If their comment is delivered after publishing, it is added with a note for transparency.

Every writer and editor across all of Bustle Digital Group’s verticals is judiciously trained in libel. This includes an extensive presentation by a member of editorial leadership, and a quiz to make sure they comprehend the importance of accurate reporting and the dangers of misleading statements.

We take into account the privacy of subjects who are not in the public eye and make a point to ensure the safety of all subjects, and will not take part in abuse targeted toward them in any form (including, but not limited to: doxing, outing, revenge porn, etc.). We also take extra care when working with vulnerable individuals, including victims of violence and sexual misconduct and minors. We secure written parental consent before publishing any conversation with a minor.

We strive to be compassionate in our news coverage, and this is reflected in all of Bustle Digital Group’s editorial policies. Writers and editors are given guidelines on inclusivity and sensitivity, and follow best practices for reporting on terrorism, mass shootings, and other acts of mass violence, suicide, protests, and natural disasters, focusing our coverage on how to help those affected and refraining from drawing attention to perpetrators of violence. Where possible, editors append helplines and other resources at the end of articles on sensitive topics. They may add warnings to articles that contain graphic or detailed information about sensitive material that could be triggering to a reader.

Bustle Digital Group’s verticals also provide editors with social media and public appearance guidelines, asking them to use common sense and represent the values of our company. We ask that they consider that they are a representative of Bustle Digital Group, even when they’re not on shift. We also ask that writers and editors think about how their posts and appearances might affect their own credibility as a journalist or their colleagues’ and how it might affect everyone’s ability to successfully report a story. We also prohibit Bustle Digital Group’s editors and writers from using Bustle Digital Group’s name outside of work for personal advantage.

At its core, to be a journalist is to be a witness of history — and to give readers all the information they need to understand it. Writers and editors of news content should not participate in or directly impact news events, and if they do, this information should be presented to the reader.

III. Sourcing

The goal of good journalism is to reduce the distance between the news and the reader — to make readers feel as though they themselves have witnessed an event or interviewed a subject. This is reflected in all Bustle Digital Group’s editorial policies. Writers and editors are expected to question the apparent narratives that reverberate across publications and look for the original sources, rather than obvious reports.

All editorial employees are trained on how to look for these primary sources — the original legal, governmental, or personal accounts of a story. Whenever possible, we make these documents available to the reader so they can make judgements and ask questions for themselves. We exercise due diligence at every step in the reporting process, and that includes vetting our sources thoroughly to ensure that they are trustworthy and well-informed. We also rigorously identify the origins of all information — quotes, arguments, data, etc. — and make every effort to seek out and elevate marginalized voices and, on stories dealing with issues of identity, to give individuals identifying with the group in question space to weigh in.

Anonymous narratives or interviews are discouraged and require management approval, as they are often unfair to the accused. If anonymity is granted, it is noted in the story for transparency to the reader.

Sources with a personal connection to the editor, writer, or Bustle Digital Group as a whole (such as family, friends, and current or former employees) require management approval, and, if approved, are made known in an editor’s note in the piece for full transparency. Sources with a personal connection are discouraged from inclusion in Bustle Digital Group’s news verticals.

All interviews, whether oral or written, are explicitly confirmed as on the record, so there is no confusion between sources and Bustle Digital Group writers and editors. There is also a zero tolerance policy for quid pro quo, or the exchange of money or gifts for a source’s cooperation with a story.

IV. Plagiarism

All Bustle Digital Group’s sites have a zero-tolerance policy on plagiarism. Writers should, and must, use their own words to describe ideas and events, as well as clearly cite the sources, if any, of the work. Bustle Digital Group also does not permit writers to “plagiarize” themselves by recycling old phrases they’ve used in the past.

Editors look for plagiarism as part of their reviews of articles. If any is found, management is notified and the writer is immediately terminated. The editor will then review every single article the company has published by that writer and check for other instances of plagiarism. Those pieces are then updated to meet Bustle Digital Group’s editorial standards and a note is added at the bottom for transparency to the reader.

Bustle Digital Group also takes accusations of plagiarism from outside parties very seriously. Once a complaint is made, the same investigation process described above is initiated.

V. Corrections

Bustle Digital Group’s news sites work in real time. We report on the information that is available now, and acknowledge that there will be more to come, or that a particular story is a breaking, fast-changing news event. Any article discovered to contain inaccuracies will not be unpublished or hidden; instead, corrections will be made.

For corrections, writers must notify their editors and editors must notify their managers. After senior staff has been informed, the correction will be changed in the text and what was changed will be noted at the bottom of the article, describing what was inaccurate and that the piece was updated to reflect the correct information.

Bustle Digital Group is dedicated to upholding these values and reserves the rights to update these terms at any time.

Bustle, Elite Daily, Romper, The Zoe Report, Flavorwire, Gawker, and Mic readers are able to reach Bustle Digital Group editors by emailing Hello@bustle.com. This inbox is checked regularly and any information pertinent to a brand's articles is addressed.

Editor's note: This post was updated on Dec. 18, 2018.