Code of Conduct
FactorDaily is a digitally-native company that aims to redefine storytelling about technology and its intersection with culture and society in India. Online publishing is a fast-paced world where the rules of the game change almost every single day.
When it comes to editorial ethics, however, the age-old tenets of journalism still hold true. This is especially relevant on the internet where anyone can be a publisher, and the line between who is a journalist and who is not is blurring.
In the interest of complete transparency, we are publishing the FactorDaily Code of Ethics or the tenets of our Patra Dharma (Sanskrit for ‘the rules that define our work’) and which will guide our work lives at all times. This document borrows from and is based, in parts, on the Mint Code of Journalistic Conduct and builds on widely-accepted ideas and standards on ethics of other Indian and global newsrooms.
This Code is intended to serve as a guideline to our journalists and doesn’t include answers to every single ethical dilemma that may arise. In most cases, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, and calls for a discussion with a supervising editor. If you are still unsure, escalate the discussion up to the Editor-in-Chief and/or Chairperson of SourceCode Media Private Ltd, the company that owns FactorDaily.
For purposes of wider clarity, we define journalists as anyone in the newsroom who is involved in creating content for FactorDaily — reporters, editors, photographers, videographers, graphic artists, designers, multimedia producers, audience engagement editors etc. We seek to extend this definition to the freelancers and part-time professionals we work with, too, and will flag exceptions. As we grow as a company, we will periodically review and update this Code. All changes will be disclosed as and when that happens.
FactorDaily will maintain complete editorial integrity at all times irrespective of topics, companies, brands, or people we cover. Our agenda is simple: we tell stories rooted in facts and nothing more.
We will label opinion as such, usually with a disclaimer.
Our lead investor is Accel Partners, which also invests in other media and technology companies that we write about regularly. Accel or our other investors will have no influence over our coverage.
We maintain a strict separation between advertising and editorial. Our editors, writers, reporters and contributors do not take direction from our advertisers and/or our ad sales and marketing teams about what to write on or the tone, timing or placement of coverage across all platforms where FactorDaily publishes.
Periodically, our top editors will regularly interact with executives tasked with business objectives. Such meetings may be strategic in nature, review quarterly targets, cover other business objectives, etc. but will never influence editorial decisions.
Branded content or native advertising is commonplace in digital journalism and FactorDaily intends to pursue such opportunities. Our journalists will never be involved in creating such content and we will make sure to label clearly such content so that readers know that it is sponsored content. They may be labelled as sponsored feature, advertorial, advertisement, marketing feature or the like. We will not allow advertising to disguise itself as newsroom-originated, editorial content.
From time to time, our editorial staff may get advance access to products, services, websites, features and apps before they are publicly available for the purposes of evaluation for potential coverage. Advance access, and access in general, is not a guarantee of coverage or the tone of coverage. Moreover, the timing of any coverage we do is not influenced by any company we cover. Periodically, however, we may negotiate the timing with a company on a case-by-case basis if it makes sense editorially.
All facts that we report must come from at least one credible, verified source. Acceptable sources include company spokespeople and staff, legal documents, credible academic journals, research by experts, and stories and information published in trusted news publications (with clear attribution and a backlink).
The Editor-in-Chief or a designated deputy has the right to know the identity of anonymous sources and will keep it confidential.
Every quote that we use in a story must be clearly attributed. Using anonymous quotes is acceptable, but writers should clearly explain the reason why a source wishes to remain anonymous.
Quotes must be reproduced verbatim. If there are significant challenges in doing so because of a source’s grammar or sentence construction, we should paraphrase the speech without changing it or distorting the meaning.
Quotes in languages other than English must be translated into English such that it remains accurate to what the source said. Where appropriate, the language it was originally spoken should be mentioned and even the original language be used to give the reader a flavour of the conversation.
In the interest of fairness, we will make every attempt we can to get a comment from a party we are writing about, especially when it has a potential to damage that party’s reputation. That said, if a comment is not immediately available, it is common in digital journalism to publish an item in interest of getting the news to the reader early. In some cases, we may follow this practice, too, and will update the story with the comment when we get it and convinced of its merit.
All corrections and update to a post must be clearly marked by adding a line at the bottom of the post explaining the change. This does not apply to changes to headlines unless there is a factual error.
If a source disputes a quote after publication, FactorDaily editors will compare it with a writer’s notes and/or an audio/video recording, and will issue a correction if warranted.
FactorDaily editors have the final word on how a story is represented on any platform we publish. Under no circumstance will we modify or delete a story after publication because of pressure from a stakeholder. If there is a factual error or missing context, we will correct it and clearly flag the reasons for the correction. If an entire story is incorrect, we will withdraw it with a letter on the FactorDaily blog explaining why and detailing what all was wrong. We may also carry the whole story with an editor’s note.
Any multimedia content that we work with — photos, videos, audios, and interactive graphics — must remain accurate to a story and are not distorted or edited a way that could potentially make them misleading.
Changes using Photoshop or similar imaging editing software should be kept to the bare minimum. Cropping, toning, minor colour adjustments etc. is permitted. But anything more than that should be disclosed alongside the image — typically, labelled as “photo imaging”. FactorDaily may not have full control over such alterations while sourcing images from those other than our employees but will make it part of our terms of our engagement with them.
For online video, FactorDaily uses subtle, standard methods of improving technical quality, such as adjusting video and audio levels, colour correcting due to white balance or other technical faults, and equalization of audio to make the sound clearer — provided the use of these methods does not conceal, obscure, remove or otherwise alter the content, or any portion of the content, of the image.
Graphics, including those for online, often involve combining various photographic elements, which necessarily means altering portions of each photograph. The background of a photograph, for example, may be removed to leave the headshot of the newsmaker. This may then be combined with a logo representing the person’s company or industry, and the two elements may be layered over a neutral background. Such compositions must not misrepresent the facts and must not result in an image that looks like a photograph — it will clearly be a graphic.
Similarly, when we alter photos to use as graphics online, we retain the integrity of the image, limiting the changes to cropping, masking and adding elements like logos. Videos for use online can be altered to add graphical information such as titles and logos, to tone the image and to improve audio quality. It is permissible to display photos online using techniques such as 360-degree panoramas or dissolves as long as they do not alter the original images.
Every asset that FactorDaily uses in production including, but not limited to images, video, audio, and text excerpts, respects copyright and intellectual property of its owners. FactorDaily uses assets under the Creative Commons Attribution license (read more about Creative Commons licensing here), licensed and free assets from the public domain, and assets that its creators may permit us to use. The copyright of all assets that we commission and pay for will be of FactorDaily’s.
Plagiarism — the act of copying someone’s work and passing it off as your own — is unacceptable under any circumstances and is an offence that may result in termination of services of the person(s) involved in it.
While FactorDaily journalists are owners of their own social media presence, it is important to use social media in a responsible manner in a way that does not affect the reputation of the brand. Don’t feed the trolls.
If you have any strong political views, it’s probably best to keep them to yourself.
On the other hand, FactorDaily encourages employees to have an active social life and does not seek to dissuade employees from participating actively in civic, charitable, religious, public, social or residential organizations. Such activities are permitted to the extent that they:
– Do not detract from performance or effectiveness at work;
– Do not, by their extensiveness, cause the company to subsidize or appear to subsidize the activity; and
– Do not otherwise violate this code.
No FactorDaily staffer employee should permit his or her FactorDaily affiliation to be noted in any outside organization’s materials or activities without the express written approval of the Editor-in-Chief.
NEWSROOM ETHICAL STANDARDS
FactorDaily is extremely selective when it comes to accepting junkets, as trips that are sponsored by companies, foreign governments, industry bodies or other parties are called. We will accept only those trips that help us get to our readers news or other content that we would otherwise have been unable to. The decision on accepting such an invitation rests solely with the Editor-in-Chief and disclosure of such travel and hospitality will be made clearly with any news or content that comes out of it.
In general, we do not accept gifts or favours of any kind. There could be an exception with festivals when it is common to gift sweets, dry fruits and other perishables. Such gifts should be accepted and the senders personally thanked. Any other gifts sent to the FactorDaily offices or to the residences of any of our employees, even if they are sent in festival season, are immediately sent back. Employees are required to send a link to our Code of Ethics to any person or company that insists on sending gifts.
Likewise, we avoid expensive lunches, dinners or drinks with our sources and contacts. A source can pay for a meal if we meet him or her often enough to return the favour. If not, FactorDaily will offer to pay. It is generally acceptable to have lunch or dinner if it is part of a group event like, say, a press conference.
We periodically receive units of consumer electronics for evaluation. FactorDaily sends back every single piece of equipment that we receive. Lesser value items like books or video games that companies typically do not want back, are donated to schools etc. or raffled among our readers, or in the odd instance discarded. FactorDaily employees will never resell these items.
Companies may provide FactorDaily employees free access to their paid apps or subscription services for a limited period of time for reporting or evaluation. In such cases, we provide full disclosure in our coverage of these services. Employees who wish to keep using these services after reporting or evaluation pay for them like regular customers.
We do not pay for interviews or access to sources.
We do not accept any compensation, monetary or otherwise, for coverage across any platform that we publish to. Native advertising may look like editorial content and it will be sponsored but we will take pains to label it so.
Giving a source a broad story brief prior to an interview is acceptable, as is sending across indicative questions before an interview (the operative word here being indicative). We do not reveal any extra information about a story to a source, including telling a company who else we are talking to for a story.
Playing a quote or quotes back to a source before publication for fact-checking purposes is fine, but revealing a finished story to anyone outside FactorDaily pre-publication is unacceptable. The one exception to this rule is the playback of an edited column to a columnist for fact-checking and accuracy purposes.
We run an equal-opportunity newsroom, and strive to strike a healthy gender balance. We will never discriminate while hiring on the basis of gender, class, caste, sexuality/sexual orientation, and race.
STAFF PERSONAL STANDARDS
FactorDaily journalists and members of their immediate family are discouraged from owning shares in any technology company because tech is what most of our waking hours are focused around. Ownership in a technology company will mean you have to recuse yourself from writing or editing stories on that company and, indeed, its competitors and the broader sector — making your day job difficult. If you do own shares, you will be required to disclose every quarter to the Editor-in-Chief the names of the companies in which you hold stock and take direction. (Immediate family means spouse or significant other and children younger than 18 years.)
FactorDaily journalists will not engage in day trading of any shares. They are free to invest in publicly-listed mutual fund schemes.
Journalists who make money by freelancing or doing any other work will need to disclose this before they are hired by FactorDaily.
All editorial employees are required to provide disclosure in their personal Ethics Statement if any close family members — spouses, siblings or children — work in any company or its rivals that we cover.
No employee shall undertake any speaking engagement hosted by any company that we cover. In exceptional cases, a written permission will be required from the Editor-in-Chief.
To conclude, FactorDaily’s journalists attest to adhere to this Code and all new employees shall be required to read this Code and to attest in writing that they have done so. All employees are required to make written attestations every six months. Any employee having a question about a possible violation of this code by that person or any other person, or in connection with any practice, should discuss it with his or her immediate superior or the Editor-in-Chief. Every effort will be made to maintain the confidentiality of such discussions.
No such document can anticipate all possible circumstances that may arise in the future. To reiterate: if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, and calls for a discussion with a supervising editor.
Please remember: FactorDaily’s reputation is its most important asset, and anything that damages that reputation damages both FactorDaily and all of us. The matters addressed by this code are sufficiently important that any lapse in judgment within the areas covered here may be considered serious enough to warrant discipline up to and including dismissal.
Updated on 19/05/2016 to reflect equal-opportunity workplace ethics.
Updated on 20/08/2018 to introduce bullet point marks and spaces between some paragraphs.