The Canary’s vision is a free and fair society where we nurture people and planet. To achieve this, we deliver campaigning journalism that informs and empowers people to change their world. We are progressive, open and rigorous. We work with respect, courage and generosity. We are independent. We strive to report the news accurately, responsibly and with humanity.
This code of practice explains how we realise our values in our work. It lays out the standards and ethical principles that guide our writers and editors whenever we make journalistic decisions.
We know that our ability to survive, thrive and make a difference in the world depends on the trust our readers have in us. This code of practice is our commitment to you.
We are progressive
We produce campaigning journalism to create a better world. Our bias, which we wear proudly, is progressive. We strive to empower people who are being failed, persecuted or marginalised by our current economic and political systems and their media cheerleaders. We hold power to account. We call out bigotry and hate. We punch up – never down. Our progressive values underpin every journalistic decision we make.
We are open
We are open, accountable and transparent.
The Canary is independently regulated by IMPRESS, the only regulator to be recognised by the UK government’s Press Recognition Panel. We adhere to the high journalistic standards set out in the IMPRESS standards code and guidance. We are grateful to our readers and members of the public for holding us to account if we ever fall short of these standards, through the IMPRESS complaints procedure. We also actively encourage our journalists to join a union (like the NUJ) and require them to adhere to the NUJ code of conduct.
We believe the public deserves to know who is creating the news they read and how they go about it, so we are absolutely committed to being transparent. We are open about exactly who owns Canary Media Limited. Our journalists write under their own names unless their personal safety is at risk. We do not accept gifts from parties we write about. Journalists writing an article for The Canary always clearly identify themselves as Canary journalists to sources, unless there is an overwhelming public interest argument for not doing so and there is no other way to obtain the information. We don’t use artificial intelligence to generate any content.
Conflicts of interest
We do not allow journalists to use Canary articles to promote their own projects. We require our journalists to let editors know if there are any conflicts of interest in articles they pitch so editors can make an informed decision about whether to proceed. We always disclose significant conflicts of interest. We correct any failure to do so as soon as possible, as per the IMPRESS standards code.
We are rigorous
Each article is checked and amended by at least two editors (a copy editor and a section editor). Complex investigations are edited by at least three editors (copy editor, section editor and investigations editor). In addition:
Our journalists link statements of fact to reliable sources, and our copy editors verify each fact during the editing process. The only exception to this is articles supplied by the Press Association (PA), which have already been thoroughly fact-checked by PA. By “reliable source”, we mean an organisation or individual that takes care to verify information, whether it’s a news outlet, human rights organisation or academic institution. We do not use Wikipedia as a source. We also do not rely on websites whose verification procedures are unclear to us or are inferior to our own without further verifying the information.
When presenting new allegations to the public, we always take reasonable steps to independently verify the information. We also tell readers what we know and what we don’t know, and we offer those accused of significant wrongdoing the opportunity to respond.
We have strict verification requirements for any source who approaches us. Our journalists insist on photo identification from their sources and ask for other documentary evidence as needed. For example, if a source is alleging wrongdoing in their previous workplace, we need to see evidence that they worked where they say they did at the relevant time. Failure to obtain such evidence leads to the story being dropped.
We always prefer to use named sources, because readers deserve to know who is making any allegation. But if the story is overwhelmingly in the public interest and the source will only speak on condition of anonymity (because, for example, they may face persecution or harm as a result of speaking out), editors may agree to let journalists offer sources anonymity. Once offered, we do everything in our power to protect that anonymity.
We don’t run stories based on anonymous sources from other outlets unless we know that outlet’s verification standards are as high as ours.
Right of reply
We offer those we substantially criticise the chance to respond to accusations and allegations of wrongdoing before we publish. If we report on a serious allegation from another outlet and they haven’t offered a right of reply, we offer one. If another news outlet has offered a right of reply, we include it in full, attribute it and link to it.
Complaints and corrections
However rigorous we are, sometimes we get things wrong. If we do make a mistake, we put it right as quickly as we can. We note all corrections at the top of the relevant article, and post significant corrections on social media, pinning them to the top of our Facebook and Twitter profiles for 24 hours. We record complaints and submit them to IMPRESS for publication in their annual report. You can see our full complaints procedure here.
We are independent
We are a proud part of the thriving independent media landscape. That means we retain editorial independence from any advertisers, funders, companies, political organisations or political parties. We resist any threats to our editorial independence, as the NUJ code of conduct requires us to do.
We are owned entirely by our leadership team. We are funded entirely through third-party advertising and donations from supporters.
Quote and story approval
To maintain our editorial independence, we don’t usually allow sources to approve quotes before publication. In exceptional circumstances, if we have questions about the accuracy or meaning of a quote, we may check it with the source. Similarly, we do not show stories to sources before publishing except in very unusual circumstances (for example, if we wanted a whistleblower to check that nothing in the article would risk exposing their identity).
Campaigning and activism
Many of our journalists are long-standing grassroots activists and campaigners. Some have connections with or are actively involved with campaigning and activist organisations. We make no apology for this; it means our journalists are able to dig a little deeper into issues, and the fact that our journalists care deeply about their world is at the heart of what we do.
However, no campaigning organisation has any editorial say over what we write. We ensure that any story ideas emanating from our campaigning connections go through the usual, rigorous editorial process and are subject to the same scrutiny as any other story.
Any guest posts are clearly marked as such, with the individual’s byline clearly visible.
We work with respect
We work with respect – for our readers, for members of the public and for each other.
Plagiarism is a breach of trust between the journalist, the organisation and our readers. It is one of the gravest offences a journalist can commit, and we have a zero tolerance policy.
The Canary counts five consecutive words that are identical to a source as plagiarism. Any writer found to have committed an act of deliberate plagiarism will have their contract with The Canary terminated with immediate effect.
We also view patchwriting – the practice of superficially rewriting others’ words to avoid narrow definitions of plagiarism – as unethical.
We always try to identify the creator of any content, and we always attribute and link to source material clearly, in the way we’d like to be credited for our work.
If we’re reporting on an investigation carried out by another outlet, we name the journalist and outlet, and link to the investigation. If we report a quote obtained by another outlet, we name and link to the outlet, unless the origin of the quote is unclear (in which case we just link to a source). We never base a story on a single source; we always add original reporting or context.
We work with courage
We tell the truth, even when that pits us against the entire establishment. We don’t capitulate to curry favour or avoid conflict. We don’t shy away from challenging the status quo or asking the hard questions, and we’re not afraid to have an opinion.
We work with generosity
We’ve worked hard to develop a culture based on mutual care, support, understanding and compassion at The Canary. In the newsroom, this means we support our team mates and make sure it’s a safe and supportive place to work, for everybody. We also share story ideas, expertise and knowledge with our colleagues generously.
In our articles, we are mindful that it is ideas and actions – not individual human beings – that we oppose.
We are accurate
We are absolutely committed to accuracy as a fundamental principle of journalism. In practice, this means:
We work hard to verify that all of the information in our articles is accurate. We do not omit crucial facts to mislead our readers. If we get something seriously wrong, we issue a prominent correction.
We never edit or alter images in a way that could be misleading. The only exception to this is images featured in our satirical articles (Off The Perch), which are usually heavily stylised and always use the Off The Perch logo to show readers that they are satirical.
We do not rely on automated translators. We only use or publish text in another language if it’s been translated by a human being who speaks the language.
We report responsibly
We require our journalists to adhere to the IMPRESS standards code and the NUJ code of conduct in all areas, including on accuracy, attribution, children, discrimination, harassment, justice, privacy, sources, suicide, and transparency. In addition:
We never add or replace any words inside quote marks. The only exception is when we need to clarify or correct the original quote, in which case we may add words inside square brackets. We may also occasionally remove filler words (e.g. “um”). If we edit a quote for length, we use ellipses to show that it has been shortened, and we take great care to retain the quote’s original meaning. For messy or unclear quotes, we use reported speech.
When selecting which quotes to use (e.g. from a long interview), we aim to ensure the quotes fairly represent the source.
If a journalist is ever found to have fabricated a quote, it will result in an instant termination of their contract with The Canary.
We report with humanity
We use straightforward language so we can be understood by the widest audience possible. We always favour active voice over passive voice, to help make clear just whom we should hold to account. We respect how people self-identify and follow their lead when we write about them. We take care to make our language inclusive rather than exclusive. We strive to use sources and amplify voices from marginalised groups and minority communities, including women and people of colour. We totally oppose the use of racist, sexist, ableist or other discriminatory language. If we make a mistake in our use of language, we fix it as soon as we become aware of the problem.
We passionately oppose discrimination, and we are committed to the IMPRESS guidelines on discrimination. That is, we do not “make prejudicial or pejorative reference to a person on the basis of that person’s age, disability, mental health, gender reassignment or identity, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation or another characteristic that makes that person vulnerable to discrimination”. Nor do we mention a person’s protected characteristic unless it is relevant to the story.
We are committed to diversity in our newsroom and are constantly working to improve it, including by reviewing our recruitment process to attract more women and minority applicants.
Rebecca Sumner (standards editor), Kerry-Anne Mendoza (editor-in-chief), Ed Sykes (Global editor), John Ranson (UK, Discovery and Off The Perch editor), Emily Apple (UK editor), Tracy Keeling (UK editor), Frea Lockley (editor), Peadar O’Cearnaigh (editor) and The Canary team.
Published: 11 July 2019
Updated: 13 August 2019 and 6 December 2019 (to include a policy on using artificial intelligence).