The Los Angeles Times updated its newsroom ethics policy, and while some of its provisions reflect its geographic location — “The entertainment industry is a central area of our coverage, and staff members must take special care not to create the appearance of conflicts should they seek work in that industry” — they’re worth reading for anyone at any newsroom.
The guidelines also venture into the realm of word choice:
Superlatives such as “biggest,” “worst” and “most” should be employed only when the writer has proof. It is the responsibility of assigning editors and copy editors to challenge all questionable claims. The burden of proof rests with the writer; it is not the desk’s responsibility to prove the writer wrong.
It is unacceptable to hedge an unverified or unverifiable assertion with words such as “arguably” or “perhaps.” Our job is to report what is true, not what might be.
There are instances when hyperbole or sarcasm may be used for comic or literary effect. Columnists may use those devices to make a point, as may humorists. Such techniques should be employed with care.
And they take a hard line on sharing drafts before publication.
We do not circulate printed or electronic copies of stories outside the newsroom before publication. In the event you would like to read back quotations or selected passages to a source to ensure accuracy, consult an editor before doing so.
A couple years ago, draft-sharing became A Thing after Daniel de Vise, then a Washington Post reporter, sent drafts of a story to a source. Former Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli banned the practice, except in some cases. Reached by email, current Post Executive Editor Marty Baron said, “The policy remains the same.”