The Globe and Mail’s long-standing tradition of journalistic integrity and credibility is essential to its reputation as Canada’s most trusted news source. This reputation is rooted in the conduct of the editorial staff. Unless all employees strive for the highest standards of journalistic integrity, we cannot hope to sustain the trust we have inspired in our readers for generations.
The credibility of the content in The Globe and Mail on all platforms rests on solid research, clear, intelligent writing and maintaining a reputation for honesty, accuracy, objectivity and balance. To these ends, the following rules and principles apply:
- The Globe and Mail will seek to provide reasonable accounts of competing views in any controversy so as to enable readers to make up their own minds.
- It is unacceptable to invent or falsify a quote, source, anecdote, detail or anything else pertaining to the news
- News pictures must be real images captured by a camera, not created or altered. The rule is relaxed for feature illustrations, magazine illustrations and photographs, but careful judgment is required and notice should be given to readers.
- In dealing with people who are emotionally vulnerable and unaccustomed to talking to reporters, The Globe and Mail will take care to respect their dignity and feelings.
- In the usual circumstances of the job, Globe and Mail reporters will identify themselves and make it clear they are working on stories. There are times when it is best to remain unidentified, however. Reporters should advise their editors in advance where possible if they do not plan to identify themselves and after the fact if not. Reporters must consult their editors if there is doubt about the legitimacy of any proposed news-gathering tactic.
These practices apply to all sections of the newspaper and all digital platforms, to staff reporters and freelancers.
- Quotation marks are the warranty that what is printed between them is what was said. Exceptions to this rule are few and relate chiefly to the difference between written and spoken language.
- Writers may sometimes fix lapses in grammar or pronunciation of the ordinary sort that go unnoticed in conversation, but the changes must be minimal and carry no risk of altered meaning.
- Hesitations, repetitions and false starts may be overlooked. This does not mean that quotes may be tightened or smoothed or otherwise recast for the writer’s convenience or any other reason.
- Ellipses are to be used within quotations to indicate that words have been removed.
- It is unacceptable to represent another person’s work as your own. Excerpts from other people’s prose must be attributed so as to avoid even a suspicion of copying. Although it is sometimes reasonable to adopt a few words without attribution (in a technical definition, for example), careful judgment is required. When in doubt, consult a senior editor.
- Any extensive unacknowledged use of another’s words, structure or ideas may constitute plagiarism. Exception: Background and technical information from previously published Globe staff and news-service items may be recycled, verbatim or otherwise, without credit, although you should not borrow someone’s distinctive prose style in doing so.
- Information from another publication must be checked or credited before it is used. This does not apply to material supplied by news services to which proper credit is given. When in doubt about information from any source, always double-check.
- Although verified facts need no attribution, The Globe and Mail identifies sources of less-than-obviously-factual information in most circumstances.
- In cases of leaked documents, we have an obligation to make every reasonable effort to confirm the veracity of the document.
In an ideal world, there would be no anonymous sources, but sometimes an important story cannot be obtained without protecting a source who risks retribution if identified. Reporters should strive to minimize the use of unattributed quotes, keeping in mind that the justification for omitting attribution is to get the fullest story possible, not to let people dodge accountability or take anonymous potshots.
Anonymity is granted not by an individual reporter, but by The Globe and Mail through the editor-in-chief or senior editorial managers. If granted, we must make clear to sources that anonymity may, on rare occasions, be compromised beyond our control due to external factors.
Quotes with names attached carry more weight, lend credibility to The Globe and Mail and increase public trust in the product. Direct quotes should not be attributed to anonymous sources but should be paraphrased and cannot include personal attacks. In rare circumstances a direct anonymous quote can be allowed with the approval of a senior editorial manager. Excessive use of anonymous quotes raises doubts in the public’s mind about our overall accuracy and credibility.
In routine matters, sources must be prepared to speak on the record, and should be pressed again if they refuse. When such efforts fail, reporters must decide whether to proceed with the interview. If they do, they must try, as much as circumstances permit, to reach a mutual understanding of such terms as “off the record,” “background” and "not for attribution," and keep track of which elements of each conversation are subject to restrictions.
Reporters should be persistent in pressing sources to put information and quotes on the record. Editors must press reporters to get that information on the record.
The use of anonymous sources should be the last resort and subject to the following conditions:
- They convey important details or information that cannot be obtained for attribution elsewhere;
- They are not used to voice opinions or make ad hominem or personal attacks;
- We must be diligent in describing sources as fully as possible. That includes: how the anonymous sources know what they know, why they are willing to provide the information, why we agreed to grant them anonymity and how they will be described in an article.
- A senior editorial manager must be told the name and full details before an anonymous source can be used.
Balance and discussions with sources
In the interests of transparency and trust, reporters have a responsibility to extend a right of reply to the key subjects of their stories on the central aspects of the piece prior to publication. If those key subjects cannot be reached in a reasonable time, the article must explain what efforts were made to reach them.
On occasion, it may be permissible to ask one or more experts to review a draft. This applies primarily to complex scientific, medical, legal and financial matters. It does not mean The Globe and Mail will accede to any request from the subject of a story to read it in advance. Reporters may occasionally read quotes and other directly attributed material to the source for comment. This courtesy confers no right to dictate changes.
The Globe and Mail recognizes that there are frequent and essential negotiations between journalists and their sources to track down information and obtain on-the-record quotations. There must, however, be clear boundaries to these discussions to ensure that sources are not dictating our journalistic content.
The Globe and Mail does not allow its journalists to send written copies of their stories or quotations to sources for approval or tweaking of content.
Care should be taken in telling outsiders when an article might run, especially when the knowledge might be of financial, commercial or political advantage. (This does not apply to editorial custom content reports for which schedules are published.)
No one may pass on information about confidential news plans or colleagues’ works in progress to anyone outside the newspaper.
CORRECTIONS AND OUR READERS
The integrity of The Globe and Mail — and the trust our readers place in us — is strengthened by a strong, clear and straightforward approach to how we acknowledge and correct mistakes. We strive for a culture of accuracy, and expect any staff member who finds an error in our published work to report it to a senior editor.
All significant factual errors should be corrected in stories, graphics, headlines, captions, photographs and other elements that appear in our newspaper, magazines and all platforms. The aim is for consistency and transparency across the company through a process that lets us publish corrections as quickly as possible.
Corrections for all items are published on page A2. Corrections also run in our magazines.
We should use clear, careful but unambiguous language. All corrections must be vetted by the public editor. We should, where possible, acknowledge what the error was and correct it with the facts.
Errors in columnists’ work are corrected on A2. In addition to an A2 correction, columnists may also wish to comment on mistakes in their next column.
Corrections may be attributed to editing errors when an editor has added something incorrect to a story.
We have two policies for correcting work on the Web. Stories that are posted throughout the day will be corrected immediately after an error has been found. Stories that are part of the newspaper archive or stories that have been published on the Web for a significant period of time will have a correction appended as soon as the correction is approved.
We should not wait until the correction appears in the newspaper before ensuring that all versions posted on digital platforms are updated.
Reporters or editors who find errors in the newspaper or on the Web should report them to the pertinent manager. All managers should report these errors to their masthead editor for vetting, with a copy to the public editor.
This position serves as a link between readers and the newspaper, websites and other content. The public editor responds to readers’ comments and complaints as a knowledgeable source and an advocate for the reader, and also weighs in on issues of The Globe and Mail’s journalistic credibility.
The public editor deals with corrections, works out the wording and arranges for their publication. This position monitors the number and type of errors that are published and serves as an early-warning system for journalistic errors.
The Globe and Mail generally does not “unpublish” content or remove details such as names from our websites and archives other than for legal reasons, but it does correct and update articles as necessary if there is a significant factual error. Inquiries for a possible exception to this rule must be made in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. A committee of editors and lawyers will review the request and there will be a response. Any decision to remove any content will be made by the editor-in-chief.
The full editorial code of conduct
This is a summary of our editorial principles and practices.
Read The Globe and Mail’s full editorial code of conduct (pdf).