We believe in American democracy and the power of local communities to better themselves. We know that high-quality, trustworthy, non-partisan and connect-the-dots local news reporting is essential to the strengthening of those communities and our country in the 2020s.
Acting on that belief, we’ve created Lookout Local.
Lookout is an emerging network of, digital-only, mobile-first, editorially robust, intensely local media outlets offering community-centric news and resources.
The company’s network of websites will serve small to mid-sized markets, repopulating news and advertising deserts with modern, vibrant news products.
Lookout Santa Cruz, the company’s first site, launched in November 2020. Its parent, Lookout Local Inc., is a public benefit corporation whose fundamental mission is to serve its communities with a new and higher standard of news, information and community engagement.
Lookout’s ethics policy
While our journalism is modern and digital, our ethics are consistent with the best principles that have underpinned American journalism for decades. Lookout subscribe to the long-standing ethics policy of the Society of Professional Journalists, which has long believed that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.
Here, in these four principles, we outline what guides our work:
Seek truth and report it
Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
- Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
- Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
- Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
- Gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
- Be cautious when making promises, but keep the promises they make.
- Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.
- Consider sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Explain why anonymity was granted.
- Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.
- Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
- Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
- Give voice to the voiceless.
- Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
- Recognize a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government. Seek to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.
- Provide access to source material when it is relevant and appropriate.
- Boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience.
- Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear.
- Avoid stereotyping. Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.
- Label advocacy and commentary.
- Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information.
- Clearly label illustrations and reenactments.
- Never plagiarize. Always attribute.
Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.
- Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.
- Show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage. Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent. Consider cultural differences in approach and treatment.
- Recognize that legal access to information differs from an ethical justification to publish or broadcast.
- Realize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than public figures and others who seek power, influence or attention. Weigh the consequences of publishing or broadcasting personal information.
- Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.
- Balance a suspect’s right to a fair trial with the public’s right to know. Consider the implications of identifying criminal suspects before they face legal charges.
- Consider the long-term implications of the extended reach and permanence of publication. Provide updated and more complete information as appropriate.
The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
- Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
- Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
- Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
- Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.
Be accountable and transparent
Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public.
- Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.
- Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.
- Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.
- Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.
- Abide by the same high standards they expect of others.
Lookout’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)
Lookout Local is committed to being a diverse, inclusive and equitable company. We affirm our values in four major ways:
- We cover all of our diverse communities fairly, aiming to bring the often-untold stories of those not often represented in news stories to a wider audience. We especially aim to bring the stories of women and people of color to our pages, and visuals, representing our communities of today.
- We strive to build a workplace where all are heard, understanding the different lived experiences all employees bring to their work. We aim to build a culture of participation. Lookout’s work here focuses on its investments in its journalism, workplace culture and talent, and community relations.
- We aim to build a work team that is representative of the local population, both in its professional positions and in its internship pipeline.
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Reprints and permissions
Lookout Local Inc. requires permission before any material — including, but not limited to, text, photos or videos — that is published in LookoutSantaCruz.com or any affiliated Lookout website can be reprinted. To obtain information about reprints and permissions, contact CEO Ken Doctor at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corrections and clarifications
Our first responsibility: to get things right. Factual accuracy is a gating principle of all our work. Given the speed on that work, and the nature of journalism itself, inevitably, we will make errors. We want them to be as small as possible — and to learn from them — and to correct and clarify any errors or murkiness as soon and as clearly as possible.
Readers can notify the newsroom of potential errors by emailing email@example.com. Any Lookout employee who receives a report of an error should notify both the journalist responsible for the story and an editor at the earliest opportunity.
Factual errors in stories should be corrected promptly, but not before:
- A discussion between the correspondent, his or her supervisor and the executive editor is had;
- A determination is reached that an error did indeed occur, and
- That the remedy is, in fact, correct.
In the course of breaking news, facts from authorities can often change and require updating; such cases require judgment calls as to whether to call out those situations as corrections/clarifications — or to simply update stories to reflect the changes as they unfold. We will make these calls fairly, to best advance reader understanding.