At the Lexington Observer, we believe the responsibility to provide fair and accurate journalism falls on every member of our team—volunteers, board members, freelancers, and reporters. It’s up to us to earn the trust of our readers and viewers by always striving for the truth and providing transparent, credible information across all our channels. All staff should adhere to the guidelines below, including writers, editors, social editors, photographers, video producers, designers, and illustrators, among all other content producers. 

Corrections 

We strive for accuracy, but everyone gets something wrong sometimes. If an inaccuracy is published, we will always tell the audience that an error has been corrected through a note at the bottom of the article or post, titled “Correction.” Typos do not require a correction unless the error changed the context of the story.

If crucial context is missing from a story, and we add clarification after publishing, we must alert our audience through a note at the bottom of the article or post, titled “Clarification.”

In the extreme case that the entirety of the story is harmful or inaccurate, we should include an “Editor’s Note,” which is reviewed and vetted by the Board, explaining to the audience why the post should not have been published. 

Removal of Posts

Any requests to update, anonymize, or take down previous posts are subject to an official process of deliberation by our Board of Directors. We seek to avoid removing posts wherever possible out of a responsibility to maintaining a public record that should not be erasable. We evaluate these requests primarily on the basis of whether a story poses a threat to an individual’s physical well-being. 

Sources & Attribution

We should never publish statements out of context or without proper attribution. We do not alter statements, except for some light grammatical or spelling errors that would otherwise detract from the story. 

Quotes given in another language should be translated accurately, and we should note when a translator is used. 

We should always reach out for comment from mentioned parties, especially if there is a negative allegation against them. We should give sources a reasonable amount of time to respond for comment whenever possible. If we are unable to reach them by press time, we should explain in the story how we attempted to do so.

When we are building on reporting created by other sources, we do our best to attribute this reporting to the original publisher of the story whenever possible and appropriate. 

We want to be as transparent as possible with our audience about who our sources are, and therefore we avoid using anonymous sources when possible. If an anonymous source is used, the editor of the story must be aware of who the source is and a reason for granting anonymity should be provided to the reader in the story. Any claims or allegations made by an anonymous source must be corroborated. Likewise, leaked documents must also be thoroughly fact-checked and claims corroborated.

As required by Massachusetts law, we ask for consent before recording conversations. We often ask sources to record conversations because recording provides a far more comprehensive record than taking notes by hand, and minimizes risk of misunderstanding and inaccuracy. 

Fact-Checking

All stories published or produced by the Lexington Newsroom should be thoroughly fact-checked before publication. This includes personal essays and op-eds. We should corroborate claims made by all of our sources, and for previously unreported claims or allegations, we typically require multiple sources for corroboration.

All stories are subject to one or more rounds of editing; as we recruit additional staff and volunteers, we hope to implement additional rounds of editing and fact-checking. The number of editors on any one story will vary given the complexity and sensitivity of the story. Editing also entails verifying that the headline accompanying the story is fair and correct. 

Fabrications

We should never stage scenes or events. We observe and tell how an event actually happened. For photography, we should never ask a subject to pose for a photo unless they are posing for a portrait. 

We should never knowingly publish false information and present it as factual. We should never intentionally omit important or relevant facts from a story. 

Integrity & Conflicts of Interest

We never pay for sources or access. We do not accept gifts, tickets, or discounts provided by a person or organization we may report on. Exceptions are made for gifts or trinkets of nominal value ($25 or less). 

Staff members may not accept anything that could be considered payment for coverage. We should always disclose if a writer has any self-interest in the story they are writing, or if they may appear to. 

Our coverage is not determined by our funders, some of whom have specific interests that may or may not align with ours. We also prohibit funders from reaching out to reporters in attempts to influence coverage. 

We may never commit illegal acts while reporting or encourage any subject to commit an illegal act. 

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is never allowed. When aggregating stories or reporting on events that have been previously reported, we also do not permit patch writing, which entails taking another author’s original work, changing some of the words or phrasing, and publishing without proper attribution. 

When we aggregate or publish our own stories with other potential news partners, we should always include the byline of the original author and the original property that published the story.

The Lexington Observer is an accredited member of the Institute for Nonprofit News and Local Independent Online News Publishers (a professional journalism association for independent news publishers).