Editorial Policy


Truth Tracker Editorial Policy

MISSION

Truth Tracker’s mission is to strengthen democracy, governance and society in Pakistan through ethics-based, quality journalism. We educate journalists and citizens about their roles, duties, rights and responsibilities by practicing responsible and enlightening journalism.

GUIDING PRINCIPLES

Our guiding principles will be applied to all of our team members and content.

Reader Confidence: Truth Tracker will establish its identity as a highly credible news cooperative by producing trustworthy, fact-based, fair and unbiased content. Our priority is to never lose readers’ confidence in us.

Independence: We pledge to work as a completely independent organization. We are independent and free, and our independence will be reflected in our content. Editorial independence will not be compromised at any level.

Masses’ Interest: We will not serve governments or political parties or corporations for any monetary benefit while producing news and other content. Our aim is to serve the people and the public interest (human rights, civic rights and other affairs for the welfare of all communities) as it is needed to support a strong democracy. The people of Pakistan and their interests will continually shape our editorial policy.

Accountability: The main principle of our editorial policy will be accountability of elected representatives through fact-based reporting: checking the claims and promises of public officials.

STYLE

Stories produced by Truth Tracker and published on its website will adhere to the Truth Tracker style guide, which is based upon the Pajhwok Afghan News Style Guide. Stories produced by Truth Tracker and published on the United Press International (UPI) website, for global audiences, will follow UPI style.

OBJECTIVES and OUTCOMES

Fact-based, neutral reporting and content production which represents diversity of perspectives is our prime rule. Our team members, freelance reporters and contributors will practice the following journalistic skills in their reports:
Facts-based reporting: We will incorporate detailed facts and information in form of data, statistics and impacts. We will not publish any story without verifiable facts, and impacts which can be verified first-hand either by officials, eyewitnesses, documents, and/or other forms of primary research. For example, “Taliban Supreme Commander Mullah Omar seen in Balochistan” would not be published as the whole information is obscure with no identified place or sources (Balochistan is the biggest province of Pakistan) whereas “A firecracker injured two boys in a busy marketplace in central Lahore on Thursday night, police and witnesses said” would fulfill the requirement. We will not entertain any information which cannot be verified by officials or documents or research.

Accuracy: Accuracy of information is a must for our content. Dates, statistics, numbers spellings of names and places, titles and other information would be accurate and verifiable. For example, “Pakistan Muslim League holds around 150 seats in National Assembly” would not be used for the reason that there are several factions of Muslim League and number of seats is also doubtful.  Instead, we will use, “According to Election Commission of Pakistan’s website, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz holds 153 seats in the National Assembly.”

Sourcing: Credible sources enhance strength and soundness of a story. We will try to incorporate at least three sources in a story. They can be any combination of human and data sources, e.g., three human sources or two human sources and one document/research/book. The story using less than three sources would not be entertained by editors.

Note on unnamed sources: It is a general trend in Pakistan to use unnamed or unidentified sources which is a wrong practice. At the same time, it is a reporter’s job to protect his sources and his job. If a source discloses important news and requests that his name not be published, it is moral obligation of the reporter not to reveal his name. But there are ways to substantiate this material instead. The preferred approach is to get confirmation on the record. In attribution to unnamed sources: “A police source, requesting anonymity, told Truth Tracker” is wrong. Instead, we will trying to establish credibility of the source and our news by saying, “A senior/high-ranked police official of Lahore Police, told Truth Tracker on the condition of anonymity for the reason that he might lose his job” OR “An intelligence source directly related to the investigations revealed to Truth Tracker with a request not to publish his name as he is not authorized to speak to media.”

Balance: Our stories would not be tilted but would carry balance by incorporating diversity of perspectives from various human sources. We will try to ensure that there are at least three perspectives—two from conflicting sides and one from independent source—would be included in a story.

Context: Adding context is essential to complete a story. Our content/stories would include immediate context, history and background to help reader fully understand the story and its impact.

Attribution: Attribution draws a clear line between a blog/opinion and a news story. Our reporters and editors would attribute each key statements, facts, data, statistics, context and background to human sources or supporting documents.

CONTENT

COMMENT/OPINION:

Truth Tracker would not publish stories based on comment/opinion of the reporters. In other words, reporters are not allowed to comment, and a reporter is not a source except for their observations if they have directly witnessed an event. For comments and opinions, Truth Tracker would plan for publishing blogs and op-ed on its website in future. However, comments from experts and qualified people are welcome in the stories.

USE OF DATA:

Journalism has also changed in the world and Pakistan with the influx of media houses. Readers now expect stories to use data to support the content. Many stories that can be told in words can also be told in the shape of data. Truth Tracker would train its team of editors and reporters to incorporate useful and clearly summarized data in their stories. They will tell the story in words and support it with data, presented in the form of tables, graphs or other visualizations.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION / LINKS:

Links should always be included in an article for the purpose of Search Engine Optimization. Truth Tracker will follow these principles when deciding which links to include.

Links may direct to the site of a government department, a non-government organisation, or in the case of exclusive news content, to the website of the media outlet which is the source of the exclusive content.
Links to personal sites such as blogs — other than the professional sites of individuals such as academics who maintain blogs on their area of special expertise — is discouraged.
The sites to which links refer should have clear contact information, i.e., it should be immediately clear who is responsible for the content on the site and how to contact them. The source of information on the site must be clear and attributable to a person or organization which can be contacted by the reporter.
Broken links (links that do not lead to a valid page because the destination has changed) will be removed immediately. Truth Tracker will make an effort to ensure that links on the site remain valid and current. Broken links hurt SEO.
No links to violators of Pakistani intellectual property and copyright law. Truth Tracker will link to sites that include original content or attribution for all creative content published with permission of the copyright holder. Truth Tracker will not link to any site that includes images, text, or creative content, multimedia, video, or other, that is not the exclusive property of the site owner or published with permission of the copyright holder. Copyright violation damages institutions and organizations creating original content.

For a list of Copyright laws in Pakistan click here.

TITLES and TRANSLATION:

Guidance on titles and translation can be found in Truth Tracker’s Translation Policy and its Style Guide. The Translation Policy addresses the issues regarding translation of stories for publication on Truth Tracker, from English to Urdu and vice versa. Where Pashto is used the same policies will apply. Stories submitted by Truth Tracker reporters to UPI will follow UPI style.

LEGAL ISSUES include the naming of suspects and victims (with special attention to sexual assault victims); coverage of court cases; defamation and slander:

Coverage of court cases

When covering court cases, Truth Tracker reporters will only report on the testimony of defendants and witnesses if reporters are present in the court themselves and hear the testimony first-hand.

Truth Tracker reporters will refrain from reporting second-hand accounts of court testimonies.

Truth Tracker reporters may report the comments of lawyers and judges outside the court, with careful attribution.

Truth Tracker reporters will adhere to the prevailing law on reporting the background and prior convictions of defendants.

Privacy of individuals

Defendants and suspects may be named by reporters.

However, the victims of sexual assault crimes and child victims of any crimes will not be named.

Defamation and Slander

To avoid charges of defamation and slander, Truth Tracker reporters will adhere to the prevailing laws which prohibit the reporting of accusations against named individuals unless a) the accusation has been credibly substantiated and b) the accusation is in the public interest.

COVERAGE OF CHILDREN:

We will take special care while covering incidents about children. We will not publish any content that might lead to any harm to them physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. In case of child abuse, we will not reveal exact identity of the victim or would use fictitious name.  Their photographs would not be published or a photo in which the child is not clearly identifiable can be published. In any borderline cases, we will seek the written permission of parents.

COVERAGE OF SENSITIVE ISSUES:

(to address reporting on ethnic and religious disputes in non-inflammatory ways)

Truth Tracker will take special care while reporting on ethnic and religious conflict and would not sensationalise the issue. It would not indulge in any kind of reporting that might lead to unrest in the society.

However, we will not conceal any group’s identification e.g. Instead of “Terrorists of a banned group” we will use “Terrorists of Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan.” Instead of using “People of a particular sect” we will name the sect because concealing name of the sect will be unethical.

BREAKING NEWS:

Truth Tracker does not cover breaking news. Its aim is to inform and enlighten through in-depth news instead.

CORRECTIONS AND AMENDMENTS:

Truth Tracker welcomes criticisms on its content and will take them under consideration. In the case of factual errors or unclear writing which causes confusion, we will make the changes as soon as possible and include an editor’s note saying “This version of the story corrects an earlier version [then site what the error was about without repeating it].” An alert will also be sent to Truth Tracker member outlets to ensure that they get the corrected version.

OBSCENITIES, VULGARITIES, PROFANITIES:

Truth Tracker’s policy regarding obscene or vulgar language and hate speech is clear and strict. We will not publish such kind of news in which this kind of material is used. Content producer should not write and produce such kind of material which is intended to be emotionally harmful to individuals or groups. Hate speech, vulgar dialogues are prohibited in our content. Editors should take it into consideration that any type of irrelevant material would not pass to others from Truth Tracker’s platform. Reports should not be published which ignite religious, linguistic or ethnic discrimination or in which individuals, social groups or other organizations are insulted.

IMAGES & GRAPHICS:

Images and graphics are extremely valuable for stories. We appreciate content which is full of information and is supported by relevant images and graphics. Although our priority is to use photos and graphics produced by our own team, in the cases where we use those from others we will obtain permission first and give credit with link to source.

Images selected for publication should be a clear representation of what actually happened, and should not distort the reality.

DATELINES:

Since the website-posted article has the publication date and reporter automatically included, the Truth Tracker dateline in the first paragraph will only include the city or district where the story was reported from.

USE OF MATERIAL FROM OTHER NEWS OUTLETS:

Truth Tracker does not use content produced by other news organizations, except for redistribution of stories produced by members of the news cooperative and offered to Truth Tracker which have been vetted by our editors. In the rare case of exclusive content which Truth Tracker reporters follow up on, full attribution to the original news outlet (including a link whenever possible) is mandatory.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST:

It is our basic principle that we will resist pressure from and refuse to grant favours to any individual or group, including any political authority or religious cleric. Truth Tracker will not bend out of fear of any banned outfit. We will not compromise for financial gains. Truth Tracker will not support any political or religious group nor will it become their mouthpiece. While covering political, religious, sectarian or ethnic conflicts, it would stay impartial and non-aligned.

ETHICAL VIOLATIONS:

Truth Tracker upholds transparency and integrity as non-negotiable principles. We exercise zero tolerance towards any violation of our ethical principles, as follows:

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is theft. Plagiarism undermines the integrity of journalism, diminishes credibility, and violates the trust between us and our readers.

Plagiarism includes both the verbatim copying of another journalist’s words or phrases and the mere rephrasing of another journalist’s work, without attribution to that journalist or the journalist’s publication.

Truth Tracker prohibits plagiarism in any form. Truth Tracker may terminate any team member found guilty of violating that prohibition.

Fabrication and Falsification

Truth Tracker prohibits the use of fictitious or false names, places, events and/or details.  Any reporter who uses fictitious material may be terminated. In cases where the identity or location of a real person in a story must be changed to protect their safety, this change must be clearly pointed out and explained in the story.

Copyright violations

Truth Tracker strongly supports copyright and objects to any copyright violations. The uncredited use of images, including graphics, parsed data, images, artwork and other material, without consent from the creator or owner, constitutes a violation of copyright. Team members found guilty of violating copyright may be terminated by Truth Tracker.

Paying sources

The provision of any form of payment, including fees, rewards, favour and or/bribery, to a person or organisation contacted for information and/or quotes, is not tolerated by Truth Tracker. Financial transactions with our sources undermines the credibility of the information being exchanged and the motivation of the relevant sources. Reporters found engaged in making payments to sources will be investigated by Truth Tracker.
These guidelines apply to content in any language, including translated and interpreted content. Enforcement is spelled out in detail in the Truth Tracker Human Resources Policy.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Truth Tracker’s ethical violations policy applies to its social media content.

Violations including plagiarism, falsification, fabrication and improper use of copyrighted material will not be tolerated on any of Truth Tracker’s social media platforms. Truth Tracker will take special care to confirm the accuracy of all social media content prior to posting. Truth Tracker will refrain from re-tweeting or otherwise re-posting content that has not been verified.

The definitions of each violation as stated in the editorial policy apply to social media, with these emphases:

Plagiarism: All content should be properly attributed to its original source and the journalist who created the content. Sourcing should occur in the form of links to content and properly citations.

Fabrication: All descriptions of content posted via linking must be accurate, without embellishment or exaggeration. Content must be reviewed prior to posting on Truth Tracker social media via linking.

Falsification: All content must be reviewed for accuracy prior to posting on Truth Tracker social media via linking. All posts must clearly cite origin of content.

Copyright violation: The origin of all content will be cited via link or tag. This includes content or images portrayed via photograph taken by Truth Tracker staff or a Truth Tracker journalist.