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Sunday, 07-Feb-2016 00:10:40 EST

The BusinessWeek Code of Journalistic Ethics

The code was last updated online on December 2, 2009. It is an abridged version of the document BusinessWeek journalists are required to sign annually.

What We Stand For

In our society, the press enjoys a remarkable degree of freedom. With that freedom comes the responsibility to practice our craft in accordance with the highest standards, to be accountable for what we publish, and to avoid conflicts of interest.

Ever since BusinessWeek was established in September, 1929, we have striven to fulfill these responsibilities. And with good reason. Otherwise, we could lose our most important asset: the trust of our readers, online visitors, viewers, and listeners in the credibility of the information and insights we provide.

We believe that our future depends upon preserving and enhancing this trust. Therefore, we must ensure that:

1. The integrity of our journalists is of the highest caliber.

2. We base our unique brand of journalism on accurate information, gathered honestly and presented fairly.

3. Our journalists' professional conduct is unassailable.

4. Our journalists' personal conduct, as it reflects on BusinessWeek, is beyond reproach.

All members of the BusinessWeek editorial staffs must uphold these principles. This means everyone who works on the magazine, the Web site, or in our multimedia operations (including members of the art, production, and systems departments, all Web developers and programmers, and all assistants and clerical workers), be they full-time, part-time, interns, or freelancers.

Here are the rules by which they must live:


1. "Church and State."

Unquestionable integrity is at the heart of BusinessWeek's effort to serve our audiences with the best business journalism in the world. One way we achieve this is to strictly observe an invisible wall that separates our editorial operations from our advertising and other business departments, so as to avoid any chance that one will inappropriately influence the other.

In every medium, our reporters, editors, and producers prepare and place stories, graphics, and interactive features based solely on their editorial merits. Thus, we treat companies that advertise with us exactly the same as those that don't. We don't favor any company or subject of a story, or discriminate against any -- for any reason.

Moreover, editors and editorial imperatives dictate the design of our products. Obviously, we make allowance for the presentation of revenue-generating elements. However, the design must always make clear the distinction between editorial and commercial material. In the spirit of that rule, for example, we do not link, for any reason other than editorial purposes, from within the text of electronic versions of our stories to an advertiser's Web site.

2. ASME guidelines.

The American Society of Magazine Editors has created guidelines for both print and digital media that establish a minimum standard of behavior for reputable magazines and Web sites. BusinessWeek and its employees, both editorial and business, must honor the ASME guidelines. (Editorial Guidelines: Best Practices for Digital Media: We will treat violations of them as violations of our journalistic ethics.


BusinessWeek specializes in valued-added, interpretive journalism. This gives us license to go beyond a traditional, just-the-facts approach. At the same time, it puts an extra onus on us in the following areas:

1. Accuracy.

For the reader to believe our interpretations, we must start with accurate information, honestly and professionally gathered. Moreover, our interpretation must flow from the facts and be reasonable.

Inaccurate or sloppy reporting of material that appears anywhere under the BusinessWeek name violates the spirit of this Code. The responsibility for accuracy lies with everyone who touches the editorial product.

2. Honesty.

All of our journalists' dealings with sources -- and with other editorial staff -- must be truthful.

As an institution, moreover, BusinessWeek will always be an independent voice, with no ax to grind. We do not support political candidates or political parties. We are not Keynesians, monetarists, or supply-siders. On all matters of politics, economics, and social policy, we try to bring our own judgment to bear, based on thorough reporting and reasonable analysis. We do not do stories that are designed to hew to any ideological agenda.

3. Fairness.

We give the subjects of a story -- people, companies, and institutions -- an opportunity to have their views presented. We include relevant portions of those views -- or report that the subject declines to comment. We also present differing or dissenting opinions, though they may be subordinate to the main thrust of the story.

If someone complains about a story, we will investigate promptly and even-handedly. If we are right, we will stand by the story regardless of who is complaining. If we are wrong, we will say so forthrightly and make whatever amends seem appropriate.

Because we do analytic journalism and commentaries, we do not strive for perfect objectivity. But we must always strive to be fair.

4. Attribution.

We use the following ground rules when seeking information from sources:

On the record:

Journalists are free to use all material from the interview, including information and quotations, and to identify the source. We prefer this approach.

Not for attribution:

Journalists are free to use information and quotations, but they agree not to identify the source. "Not for attribution" is an acceptable method of gathering information, though not the one we prefer.

Journalists generally should have more than one source for information that you can't attribute, both to double-check its veracity and to guard against being used or misled by a single source.

Off the record:

Journalist agrees not to use information from the source. Or journalist may agree not to use the information unless he/she checks with the source before publication. We ask our journalists to avoid this method unless it's the only way to interview a one-of-a-kind source.

Routine attribution:

"He said" means the journalist got the quote from the source -- in person, at a press conference, or on the phone. "He said in a statement" or "in a report" means the quote came from a written statement or press release, or from a document such as an analyst's report. "He said in an e-mail interview" means exactly that. If the quote comes from another news outlet, the journalist must credit it: "President Smith told the Associated Press."