The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal & Times


CONFLICT OF INTEREST POLICY

I. Who is covered:

This policy applies to all corporate officers including the Editor and Publisher and Chairman of the Board, department heads, and other persons in management and administrative positions specifically notified as subject to its provisions.

In addition to those mentioned above, certain other employees, who occupy positions considered by the General Manager to be sensitive to charges against the company's integrity and credibility, will be considered to be "covered" employees, and therefore subject to this policy. These employees will be notified and given a copy of this policy.

II. Background:

The need for avoiding conflicts between individual personal interests and the interest of the company in serving readers and advertisers is obvious.

All companies have a need to limit conflicting personal and business interests, but newspapers have special ethical requirements that must be recognized and upheld. The maintenance of high standards of credibility is particularly important at these newspapers. We must protect our integrity -- not only against the possibility of actual conflicts of interest, but against the appearance of such conflicts as well.

For this reason a policy was adopted on May 25, 1971, restricting outside work involvements for members of the News and Editorial staffs. This conflict of interest policy is a consistent extension of established company policies.

III. Policy:

A. Business Involvements

For the purposes of this policy memorandum, "ownership" means proprietorship, investment, stock or bond holdings, loan arrangements or any other proprietary interests. Excluded from this definition are investment company shares of firms registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 such as mutual funds, savings and loan accounts, credit unions, banks and other institutions which offer loans and savings accounts to the general public. The following situations are conflicts of interest and are prohibited:

1. Ownership in any enterprise operating in our circulation area as a communications or media business involving the acquisition, preparation, or distribution of news, entertainment, advertising or other information systems. This restriction, and no others listed below, is extended to spouses of any covered employee.

 

2. Ownership in any enterprise that does business primarily in our circulation area and which buys display advertising in these newspapers.

3. Ownership in any advertising agency, public relations consulting firm or other enterprise in our circulation area which finances, counsels, rents to or otherwise serves advertisers in these newspapers on a remunerative basis.

4. Ownership in any enterprise which sells supplies or services to The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times Company, or which attempts to sell such supplies.

5. Ownership in any profit-making enterprise in our circulation area which depends substantially on public funding -- whether local, state or federal -- or continued approval from elected officials or public agencies.

6. Employment on any basis or service as a director with any of the enterprises described in the previous five paragraphs.

7. Excluded from restrictions one through five are personal investments in securities that are listed and traded publicly, if such investment does not exceed 5 percent of the outstanding class of stocks and bonds of the company, and if the revenue of the company is not derived primarily in this circulation area.

8. Public or private ownership in any enterprise not subject to the restrictions stated in points one through five is permitted without company agreement or notification.

B. Civic Involvements

1. No covered employee may be a candidate for or hold public office. No covered employee may work for any politician or political organization whether paid or unpaid. No covered employee may accept appointments to public positions or committees without prior agreement with the company. Special caution should be exercised in accepting appointments to public committees or agencies that regularly hold meetings closed to the press and the public.

In addition to the above provisions, no covered employee should make any financial contribution to any local or state political candidate or campaign within our circulation area. This includes primaries as well as general elections.

2. Nothing in this policy should be construed as restricting the rights of individuals to perform voluntary work for religious, service, cultural or social organizations. However, the covered employees are not permitted to prepare publicity materials for any organization which receives or hopes to receive attention in the news columns.

IV. Implementation

Each covered employee will submit to the General Manager within ten days of this date a listing of holdings and outside involvements that might be in conflict with points III A through five -- and B 1 and 2 of this policy. Any questions concerning possible conflicts of interest that arise in the future should be taken up with your Department Head. Determination of possible conflicts of interest in specific cases should be made in advance, to permit employees of this company a latitude of involvement broad enough to serve community interests without damaging the integrity or credibility of the newspapers.

(Signed) Cyrus MacKinnon

 

Policy on Outside Work by News, Editorial and

Photo Department Staff Members

The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times

Revised Nov. 11, 1974, and Dec. 30, 1976

We have tried for many years on these newspapers to shield our news and editorial columns from outside influence, direct or indirect.

We send back gifts, we refuse free tickets, and we will not tolerate subsidized coverage in any form. We have gone far beyond most newspapers in these voluntary safeguards.

These efforts to protect our newspapers' integrity are extremely important. They are probably more important now than ever before, since newspapers' "credibility" is so much in question. If our readers do not believe we are acting in good faith, we are no longer rendering a public service; we are simply another business enterprise.

Even where no outside influence is exerted or intended, the mere appearance of such a connection will damage public confidence in our professional integrity.

The time has come for us to take another major step to demonstrate that we are fair and neutral by setting forth new policies regarding outside work by staff members. The policies have been several months in the making and are the result of much thought and discussion.

We know that since time immemorial, some staff members have performed outside work for pay. We also know that these staff members have been careful not to let these outside duties interfere with their newspaper work, or to let outside work influence their news judgments.

We are not questioning in any way the high sense of ethics that has always marked these papers and their employees. Nonetheless, the possibility of outside influence is always present in outside-work arrangements. And our critics will see influence in such situations whether it exists or not.

For example, let's say a staff member does some writing or photography for the Red Cross -- discreetly, and with the promise to himself and the Red Cross that the work will have nothing whatever to do with the staffer's newspaper duties.

The problems comes from another source -- let's say the Cancer Society -- complains about publicity received in the papers by the Red Cross. And the Cancer Society thinks it knows why: because somebody employed at the papers was also being employed by the Red Cross!

This sort of possible conflict is much in the news these days. There have been allegations about members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, urban redevelopers in Louisville (remember the Riverfront fuss?), and political figures of all kinds. The allegations have a common theme -- that private links and payments may improperly influence the conduct of one's affairs, or affect one's objectivity.

This is why we feel we must act at this time. It is absolutely essential that our newspapers, which claim always to be neutral and fair in their handling of news, are believed by others to be neutral, fair, and untainted by outside influence.

We realize that the policies set forth below are strict, and that they may be costly to some staff members. Because of their possible economic impact, the policies will become fully effective January 1, 1972.

In the meantime, however, it is strongly urged that any existing practices or arrangements in violations of these policies be phased out as soon as practical. And no new arrangements in violation are to be entered into after the date of this memo. (5/25/71).

It is important that all staff members feel they can subscribe in good conscience to these principles. The first professional obligation of people who work here must be to the newspapers. Any person who feels that these policies violate his rights or principles should not hesitate to discuss the matter with the editor and publisher or with the executive editor.

All approvals of work arrangements, and interpretations of these policies will be handled jointly by the editor and publisher and the executive editor.

The editor and publisher and the executive editor are willing to discuss questions, problems, or interpretations concerning outside work at any time. It is quite possible that these policies will need further refinements as time goes on. So we are open for suggestions and comments.

Now, what specifically are we talking about?

I. No regular staff member may do professional work (writing or photography) for pay for any company or organization, profit or non-profit, or for any individual if the purpose is anything but purely personal and private, in our circulation area. A map of our circulation area is attached to this memo.

The reason for this is simple. At no time should the newspaper be placed in a position where it might be charged with undue attention to -- or lack of attention to -- any agency or subject because of a monetary involvement by any member of the staff.

This does not rule out personal work for private individuals -- such as taking wedding pictures -- but it does rule out taking pictures for Standard Oil or any other company, writing brochures for pay for a university, handling publicity for the Community Chest, writing a book commissioned by an organization in our area, working for an advertising agency, etc.

Again, we are talking about work for pay. Voluntary work is another thing which will be discussed later.

II. Professional work as stringers or free-lancers for legitimate newspapers, magazines, book publishers, news services, photo agencies, and similar organizations headquartered outside our circulation area is perfectly all right.

However, in order to keep tabs on this sort of thing, all such arrangements, standing or entered into in the future, must be submitted to the editor and publisher or the executive editor for clearance. Impromptu agreement by a staff member to perform a one-time service as a stringer or free-lancer does not need to be cleared.

We have no desire to restrict this kind of legitimate enterprise. It adds to a person's income and may even add to the reputation of our newspapers. Most important, the potential for conflict of interest is minimal, unlike the situation in Section I.

Here again, though, it must be clearly understood that any staff member's first obligation is to his newspaper. Staff members should be aware that the newspaper can be damaged by the first publication elsewhere of important news within its own area.

III. No appearances on radio, television, or CATV stations located in our circulation area may be made for pay.

A newspaper staff member making such appearances can be presumed to have been invited because of his or her position on the newspapers. When fees are involved, the stations or sponsors have every right to expect new, different, or first information which may cause a conflict in a staff member's loyalties.

Appearances for pay on network programs -- or on local radio, TV, or CATV stations outside our circulation area -- are allowed, since these are comparable to the agencies in Section II and do not present the same potential for conflict of interest as stations in our area.

IV. Staffers may -- indeed, are encouraged to -- make public appearances as speakers or lecturers. It is obvious to all, in such cases, that the staff member represents the newspapers and no other employer. He may therefore be paid for his time and effort.

Staff members may also teach for pay in recognized educational institutions and serve as counselors for student publications -- so long as these activities do not interfere with the staffers' newspaper duties. These are positions in which newspaper people are able to make a valuable contribution.

It is recognized that a conflict of interest is possible in teaching situations, since our news and editorial columns frequently deal with education. Therefore all arrangements in this field must be submitted in advance to the editor and publisher or the executive editor for clearance. And the staff member connected with an educational institution must remember that his first obligation is to the newspapers.

V. Work for a politician or a political organization, either paid or voluntary, is forbidden. Also forbidden is (1) holding public office or (2) accepting political appointment to any position unless specific approval is given by the editor and publisher or the executive editor.

There is no quicker source of misunderstanding and suspicion than the area of politics. We must not give any person reason to suspect that our handling of a story, editorial, or picture is related in any way to political activity by a member of the staff.

VI. Staff members shall guard against entering into any business arrangement that may result in a conflict of interest and thus be an embarrassment for the newspapers.

A for-profit partnership or corporation set up to operate in our circulation area, or with anyone who lives in our circulation area, is especially to be avoided.

The idea here is to prevent monetary conflicts of interest with news sources or possible news sources. Since it is impossible to tell when a person's business arrangements may become involved in the news, it seems best to discourage such arrangements.

Any exceptions must be cleared jointly with the editor and publisher and the executive editor.

VII. Nothing in these policies should be construed as restricting the rights of staff members to perform voluntary services for religious, cultural, or social organizations.

However, a staff member should not prepare publicity or do other writing, editing, or photography for any organization, except for a professional organization of journalists, which receives or hopes for attention in the newspapers' columns. This can be very awkward both for the staff member and for others who handle his copy.

No staff member should write or edit a story or take a photograph involving an organization in which he or she holds membership without first notifying the supervising editor.

A staff member who takes a public stand on a controversial issue jeopardizes his own credibility and that of his fellow journalists. Staff members should avoid injecting themselves into public controversies.

As mentioned earlier, we are open for suggestions and comments on these policies. The one thing we are determined to do is to maintain the highest possible standards of balance and fairness, and thus to win the fullest possible public confidence in these newspapers.

Barry Bingham, Jr.

Robert P. Clark

Guidelines for Avoiding Conflicts of Interest

The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times

January, 1983

These guidelines are intended to define professional standards that underscore fair and independent coverage by the newspapers. They are also standards which can help assure the public of our commitment to that independence and by which the public can hold the newspapers accountable.

All fulltime and permanent part-time staff members of the news and editorial departments of The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times are covered. This includes the photo and news-art departments, the library and the cable-news unit. Managers in all departments also are covered by the company's separate management policy.

General Principles

1. The first loyalty of staff members should be to the newspapers. Outside activities should not detract from a staff member's professional responsibilities, and the newspapers should have first access to news and commentary material. The newspapers could be hurt by first publication of important news of our region in other media.

2. The newspapers pay their way for coverage. This includes paying for meals at meetings and sharing or covering the lunch check when dining with news sources. To avoid a public scene, it may be necessary to pick up the bill the next time around. Staff members do not accept gifts or favors from news sources.

3. Staff members should never use their positions on the papers for personal gain, and that includes seeking preferential treatment in personal matters. When acting as private individuals -- as parents, homeowners, consumers, etc. -- staff members do not identify themselves with the papers except when asked to identify their place of employment. Company stationery is to be used only for company business.

4. Staff members should refrain from involvement in public controversies that could cast doubts on the newspapers' independence in coverage and commentary and on the credibility of their colleagues.

5. The guidelines should not be regarded as a barrier to being a good citizen in the community. Staff members as private citizens may support churches, schools, the arts, and other nonprofit charities, but may not do public relations work or become involved in public advocacy.

6. Staff members should clear any outside involvement in advance with the department head. These are the managing editors, the editorial-page editors, the directors of the news-art and photo departments, the chief librarian and the cable-news editor.

Specific Areas of Concern

1. Political activity

Staff members may not seek election to public office. They may not accept appointments to public boards, commissions and panels that make or carry out policy or that advise elected or appointed officials. They may not work for a politician or a political organization, either as volunteers or for pay.

No staff members should make financial contributions to any local or state political candidate or campaign within our circulation area. This includes primaries and referendums.

2. Outside Work for Pay

No staff member may do professional work such as writing, editing, design, illustrations, photography for pay for any company, publication or organization, profit or nonprofit, or for any individual in our circulation area. Excluded from this restriction is professional work for an outside individual's private use, such as wedding photographs or portraits and drawings.

The newspapers should never be vulnerable to charges that coverage, or the lack of it, is influenced by the financial involvements of members of the staff.

Staff members may work as stringers or free-lancers for newspapers, magazines, book publishers, news services, photo agencies and similar organizations based outside our circulation area. Prior approval of the department head is required for long-term arrangements. Impromptu agreement by a staff member to perform a one-time service as a stringer or free-lancer does not have to be cleared as long as it doesn't present a conflict.

Staff members are encouraged to make public appearances as speakers, and they may accept pay for their time and effort. They also may teach for pay and serve as advisers for student publications. These arrangements must be cleared in advance with the department head.

3. Radio and Television Appearances

No appearances may be made on radio, television or cable television stations located in our circulation area without prior approval by the department head. This includes occasional or regular appearances, either voluntary or for pay.

One-time appearances on these media outside our circulation area may be made without prior approval, but any longterm arrangement must be cleared.

There are two types of radio, television or cable television programs on which staff members should not appear, either local or network:

a. One that promotes broadcast stations or their programs, and

b. One that is sponsored by or for a political candidate or a public official or for a referendum. The taped "interviews" that Congressmen supply to broadcasters in their districts are among the kinds of programs to avoid.

4. Volunteer Work

Staff members may do volunteer work for religious, cultural and social organizations. They are encouraged to represent the newspapers on appropriate occasions as speakers on newspaper subjects for civic, church and similar groups.

However, no staff member should prepare publicity or do professional work for any organization which receives or hopes to receive attention in the newspapers. Staff members may send news and photographs about professional organizations -- such as the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists -- to professional publications.

A staff member should not write or edit a story or take a photograph for the newspapers involving an organization of which he or she is a member, without first notifying the supervising editor.

5. Financial Matters

Staff members should not be owners in any enterprise operating in our circulation area as a communications or media business involving the acquisition, preparation or distribution of information systems for news, entertainment, advertising and related material.

Special care should be taken by all staff members about holdings in companies that do their major business and/or have their headquarters in our circulation area. Any staff member who has or is about to acquire financial interests that present a possible conflict should consult the department head.

---February 7, 1973

Revised January 1, 1974

Revised January 21, 1975

Revised April 24, 1979