Contently’s Code of Ethics for Journalism and Content MarketingBy Shane Snow August 1st, 2012
Information is the most valuable commodity of our time. We have an obligation to provide it accurately. While Contently is not a traditional publisher or agency, it is a platform where parties – creators and publishers of various kinds – connect and produce content. As such Contently asks everyone in its ecosystem to maintain ethical standards, in some cases above and beyond what creatives and publishers are used to, because of the complex nature of modern publishing’s motivations and models.
Below, we lay out the ethical responsibilities of each party in Contently’s ecosystem. But first, we declare the following ethical guidelines for the two most common types of content created via Contently: journalism and content marketing.
Journalism’s Code of Ethics
Generally accepted ethical standards for journalism, as set forth by various groups, include the following values:
Seek the truth as fully as possible.
Seek to minimize harm and behave responsibly.
We endorse and uphold the journalistic standards set forth by the Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Newspaper Editors, and American Society of Magazine Editors. For a broad list of journalism organizations’ ethical codes, visit journalism.org.
Content Marketing’s Code of Ethics
Content marketing should seek to adhere to stricter standards of reporting than traditional journalism, due to its different legal position and increased commercial motivations. Content marketers should take care to disclose the sponsorship and intent of their work while abiding by the following practices:
Adhere to journalism’s core values of honesty, integrity, accountability, and responsibility
Acknowledge facts that may compromise the integrity of a story or opinion
Minimize potential harm to sources or subjects of stories
Expose truth as fully as possible
Always credit sources of content or ideas, never plagiarizing or repurposing stories or prose, whether one’s own or another’s, whether written content, photography, or other media, whether the original source is known or not.
Fulfill promises made to contributors and sources in the course of reporting.
Ensure that the reader understands the source, sponsor, and intent of the content.
Disclose all potential conflicts of interest or appearance of conflict.
At Contently specifically, we maintain and enforce the following ethical standards among the three key players in our ecosystem:
Contently’s Ethical Responsibilites
Contently’s core responsibility is to facilitate the connection of content creators and the actual creation of content via tools, networks, infrastructure, and support, as well as resolving disputes and concerns and maintaining an ethically safe environment.
Provide an atmosphere in which both clients and writers can fulfill their ethical responsibilities.
Educate clients on the differences between journalism and content marketing, and disclose to writers when projects fall in either category.
Protect the privacy of its users.
Though not liable for the legal wrongdoing or misbehavior of its users, investigate, facilitate investigations, and cooperate with users and authorities to discover and resolve charges of misconduct.
Provide resources, so clients can be educated on best practices in using Contently and publishing in today’s digital environment.
Ensure creators are paid fairly and on time.
Clients’ Ethical Responsibilities
The core responsibilities of a Contently client are to ensure that a reader is not deceived and that the writer is treated fairly. Here’s how:
Give writers credit for their work – i.e. bylines, with bios that explain they’re professional writers vs. company employees – unless agreed upon with the writer for adequate compensation, in which case there may be no byline, but never a fake one.
Make no significant changes to a bylined writer’s work (meaning anything more than grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation) without allowing the writer to review and discuss changes before the work is published.
Ensure that the reader understands the source, sponsor or intent of the content. If the content is appearing in a context where it’s not clear that it was created by the client, fully disclose that sponsorship at the start of the article. It’s quite appropriate to say something like “Content provided by (Brand) and written by independent journalists.”
Never ask writers to do something that violates the ethics of quality journalism or that compromises the writers’ own ethical standards.
Pay creators fairly and on time.
Writers’ Ethical Responsibilities
Contently writers must deliver work that meets the standards of quality and ethics for professional journalism, and must share the client’s burden of ensuring that readers are not deceived. Here’s how:
Use real names with all work.
Disclose all potential conflicts of interest, both to the client before accepting the assignment and to the reader in the final work.
Pursue all avenues of inquiry to report and write stories with fairness and honesty.
Give credit and point to sources, attributing every assertion, quote, fact, and opinion, with full names, titles, and links; if a source wishes not to be named, explain this explicitly and discuss the ramifications of unnamed sources with the client.
Keep promises to clients and sources, and protect confidential sources.
Disclose to sources the publication and brand that are sponsoring the assignment.
Always produce original work, never plagiarizing self or others, never repurposing old stories for new clients, and never cutting corners in any fashion.
Deliver work on time and to the expectations agreed upon.
If you have questions about Contently’s ethical standards or wish to report a potential infraction, please contact ethics [at] contently.com