Rapid Mobile

Rapid Mobile Code of Conduct

Rapid Mobile News Standards And Ethics Guide

Last updated on July 18, 2021, at 6:58 p.m. GMT
Posted on July 8, 2018, at 12.33 p.m. GMT

Rapid Mobile is committed to the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility and ethical conduct. Rapid Mobile is committed to providing safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, act fairly and ethically, and use environmentally responsible practices. Rapid Mobile operates in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

This Code goes beyond compliance with applicable laws by drawing upon internationally recognized standards to advance social and environmental responsibility. When differences arise between standards and legal requirements, the stricter standard shall apply, in compliance with applicable law.

Rapid Mobile are offering these standards to our staffers and to our readers as a first attempt at articulating the goal of merging the best of traditional media’s values with deep shifts in the forms of media and communication. Our intent with this document is to provide context and support for Rapid Mobile News staffers in making smart, responsible, and ethical choices as we tell the most honest, troublemaking, revelatory, heart-warming, gripping, and entertaining stories we can.

These standards were shaped in conversations with our writers and editors and colleagues in the industry, and we expect them to evolve as they’re tested. Rapid Mobile News is still growing up too, and these are aimed at helping us on our way, and at reflecting the kind of media company we want to be. We are making this document public to keep Rapid Mobile News’ writers, reporters, and editors accountable to our readers.

The document is separated into four sections: 1) Sourcing, 2) Corrections, Updates, Deletions, and Errors, 3) Legal and Ethics, and 4) The Editorial and Business Relationship. The guidelines in this document apply to Rapid Mobile’s global news operation for entertainment content.

Finally, this guide is intended to provide principles rather than offer specific answers to every possible ethical question that arises. Writers and editors make tough editorial decisions every day, and the hardest and most important calls rarely have obvious answers.


Sourcing

Embeds

We often embed images and tweets in news and entertainment. But in the case of sensitive subjects — sexual assault, LGBT issues, and racial bias, for example — we should be aware and respectful of the fact that many ostensibly public Twitter users consider themselves part of distinct communities. Outside of breaking news situations, writers are encouraged to contact the relevant social media platform users when embedding a photo or a tweet on a sensitive subject. Contacting the user has the added benefit of giving the story more context for the reader. In cases where identifying the user is inappropriate but the content is still newsworthy, screenshots with the name and image blurred are fine.

Fact-Checking

Fact-checking can be provided for deep narrative features and investigative projects. Reporters are expected to be accurate, and editors are expected to flag any questions they have for their writers before publishing. Additional accurate information can always be added after publishing — removing bad information is more difficult (see Corrections and Updates for more information).

Information and Facts

Information — excluding common knowledge — should come from a verified source. Wikipedia, IMDb, and other websites that anyone can edit should never be used as sources in a story; they are places to begin research, not to finish it. Acceptable verified sources include interviews, legal documents, research by experts, academic journals, databases, and, with attribution, stories from trusted news organizations.

Plagiarism

To plagiarize is to trick the reader. Nothing may be copied, pasted, and passed off as one’s own work, including press releases.

Polls and Other Studies

When considering reporting on a study or poll, ask these questions: Have the authors included a detailed methodology? How many people did they study? (For most studies, be skeptical of anything below 100; for polls, anything below 1,000.) Do the authors have any conflicts of interest? For medical studies: Was the study performed on humans, or other animals? (Drugs, for example, that work in mice might fail in humans.) For polls: How, precisely, were the questions worded? Never take information directly from a press release. Instead, ask the authors for a copy of the actual study or poll. When you’re asking readers to vote for fun, don’t suggest that results reflect a scientific sample. The data journalism team is available to assist staffers who have questions about data.

Press Releases

Reporters may quote from press releases and should make the source clear — “said in a press release.” With that said: Interviews are always better.

Quotes

• Anonymous quotes: Interviews are always on the record until a reporter agrees to go off the record or on background. Anonymous quotes are permitted, though writers should always try to get a source on the record before agreeing to let them be anonymous. Staffers should spell out why their source is anonymous and include an explanatory line in the story that the reader will understand. When possible, writers should share the source’s identity with their editor, unless it’s a very extreme case, in which case the editor-in-chief should be consulted prior to publication. We don’t have an arbitrary number of anonymous sources required to verify a story: One well-placed anonymous source is worth more than four anonymous sources who are all repeating the same rumour.

Writers should also take precautions not to reveal the identity of confidential sources, including avoiding putting a source’s name in writing on unsecured channels.

  • Attribution: All quotes are to be attributed. Quotes that have been given directly to a Rapid Mobile News staffer should be noted as such by using the words “told Rapid Mobile News” at least once in the story. Quotes from other outlets should be attributed to that outlet: “told the Guardian,” etc., with a link to the article. Quotes that come from the wire services we subscribe to should also be attributed: “told the Associated Press” or “the Associated Press reported.”
  • Quote approval: As a general rule, Rapid Mobile writers are not permitted to have quotes approved by sources or share story drafts with their subjects. As a courtesy, or to double-check their work, a writer may choose to call or email a source and describe how they are quoted in a story. “No surprises” letters are also a welcome way of letting sources and subjects know what will be in a story: Sending a note to the subject that includes allegations or a description of what will be published is a reporting tool that also acts as a safeguard for the reporter. There are rare exceptions to the quote-approval rule, particularly in countries where that practice is the norm — but writers should push back as a first response, and discuss with an editor before agreeing.
  • Quote disputes: If a source disputes a quote as published, the writer and their editor may review the writer’s notes and recordings to determine if the complaint is warranted. If warranted, the quote will be updated and a correction issued. If a source disputes the way their position was characterized, rather than a specific quote, an editor should determine whether the complaint is valid.

Corrections, Updates, Deletions, and Errors

Body Copy

Changes to body copy may require a notification to the reader via an update or correction. Stories that are ongoing with breaking news can be updated with information as it becomes available — by using either subheads with a manual timestamp or the breaking news template with an automatic timestamp to alert the reader to updates.

Corrections and Updates

There are a number of ways to add updates for clarity and context to written news articles: using the update option in the CMS, writing through the body copy with the additional information, or adding the latest news to the top of the post. Consult with your editor to choose the best option.

Fixing incorrect copy should be done using the correction subbuzz.

Deletions

News items should not be deleted for reasons related to their content, or because a subject or stakeholder has asked you to do so. If a technical issue arises — like a duplicate post or an incorrect URL — email bugs or your manager. If a post was published ahead of schedule, remove it from all site promotion and ask bugs to unpublish it for you. If two people inadvertently created a post on the same subject, both posts should be left on the site.

If some information in a post is incorrect or obsolete, it is acceptable to delete that information and add a brief correction or update explaining what was removed.

Getting hoaxed should be avoided through diligence and reporting, but if an entire post is incorrect or if it has turned out to be a hoax, 1) append “— Updated” to the end of the headline and note in the deck that the story is false, and 2) add a correction subbuzz to the top of the post. The rest of the copy may stand as it did originally.

There are two cases in which deletions may be necessary: First, on some distributed platforms, editing content is not an option, in which case content may be deleted and in some cases edited and reposted, with an explanation on that platform in either case. Second, in some countries, the law requires the deletion of content in some cases. In those cases, we will comply with local law.

Updating display copy — headlines, decks, and photo captions — for clarity, spelling, or style does not require a correction. Factual errors do require a correction.

Images

For information on updating images, contact the photo desk.


Legal and Ethics

Activism

We firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides. But when it comes to activism, Rapid Mobile editorial must follow the lead of our editors and reporters who come out of a tradition of rigorous, neutral journalism that puts facts and news first. If we don’t, it makes it harder for those reporters to do their jobs.

Allegations

Legal counsel should review stories with serious or potentially damaging allegations in them; if there is any doubt, do not hesitate to contact them. Writers are also encouraged to send a “no surprises” letter to subjects of investigative reports prior to publication, giving them time to comment. Any questions on how to word the letter should be run by your editor. For information on libel or conducting privileged conversations, contact general counsel.

Animal Visitors

We seek to follow the Humane Society of the United Kingdom’ suggestion that you should “never put an animal in a situation that you wouldn’t want to see your new-born baby in.” Staffers should never purchase or rent wild animals, or bring exotic animals into the office. When we have animal guests visiting, they should be treated like any other guest — i.e., their needs for food, water, rest, and personal space should all be met. Handlers should accompany animals who come into Rapid Mobile spaces, and staffers should always follow the guidelines that handlers lay out.

Compensating Sources

We do not pay sources for interviews. If an interview incurs costs to a source through travel or work compensation lost, we may be able to reimburse them, but check with your editor before agreeing to do so.

Conflict of Interest and Disclosure

If you’re asking yourself, “Is this a conflict of interest?” it likely is. Readers are also a good barometer for this; take a moment to consider whether the reader would see a conflict of interest. Writers and editors should disclose if they have a financial or personal stake — Is the subject a friend or significant other? Have you disclosed this? — in the issue they are covering. Reporters should not have a financial stake in a company in the industry they cover. Check with your editor about whether disclosure is enough, or whether the story should be reassigned.

Customer Service Complaints

Reporters and editors should not use their work-related email accounts, social media accounts, or other Rapid Mobile-related platforms to seek customer service assistance. It’s fine, however, to tweet in general about issues with, say, the subways or other private or public services, as long as you aren’t seeking — or receiving — special treatment.

Disclosing Provided Materials

We should note when items have been furnished to us for review. When an item or items was/were provided and used in the test kitchen or as part of a photo shoot, but not reviewed, writers should disclose that at the bottom of the post.

Fundraising

Reporters and editors should not fundraise for organizations Rapid Mobile News covers, with the exception of professional groups and organizations primarily advocating the defence of a free press. Reporters shouldn’t give money to groups they cover. And while there is of course no reason not to give charitable contributions, staffers should obviously be aware that those may not remain private.

Gifts

Gifts that aren’t review material or edible typically should be returned or donated. A rough guide — though imperfect — for determining if you can keep a gift is whether the item costs £25 or less. If it costs more than £25, talk to your editor.

Graphic Content

While it ultimately comes down to the calls of the newsroom managers on duty, we concluded that Rapid Mobile is not an artificial wall between our readers and graphic content. Generally speaking, we will embed or link to the graphic content we are writing about. On our owned-and-operated platforms, we also have technical tools that give our readers the opportunity to opt in to view graphic content.

  • Profanity: We speak the language of the internet — which is often hilarious and often profane. As such, profanity is permitted on Rapid Mobile; but see the Rapid Mobile Style Guide for more information on how to style it responsibly.
  • Sex and nudity: Nudity or sex should be avoided if it’s prurient or pornographic. Newsworthy or artistic nudity or instructional sexual content can be posted.
  • Violence: Images that show blood, gore, or violent abuse should be covered with the graphic overlay tool, allowing readers to click if they wish to see the images. These posts should be marked “sensitive” in the CMS. When covering extreme violence or death, use discretion when embedding — sometimes it’s best to link out.

If you have questions about whether you should post something because of its graphic nature, talk to your editor and/or the manager on duty.

Interviews

Giving a subject a general sense of the direction of the interview is fine, but we should decline to provide questions to subjects in advance of an in-person interview. Interviews conducted over email, WhatsApp, Telegram are permitted — but in-person, video, and telephone interviews are often more valuable.

Opinion

When Rapid Mobile News publishes opinion pieces, they should be clearly labelled as opinion, both on the article page and in any social promotion. Our publication of these pieces does not mean an endorsement of the views contained within them. However, we seek to publish only opinion pieces that we believe were written in good faith, by people who we believe have a credible history of good-faith participation in the public sphere, and add a unique voice to the public debate around a topic of news value.

Our opinion section welcomes commentary from people with diverse political views, but it is not a place for trolls, dishonesty, or spin.

Outside Income

Rapid Mobile News staffers should not cover any individual, organization, or service in which they have a financial interest. Staffers are not permitted to invest in companies they cover. Staff may not buy, sell, or in any way trade in stocks, funds, or currencies based on stories Rapid Mobile News will publish. Staffers may not short any financial instruments.

Photography

Our original photography and image selection should not attempt to deceive the reader in any way. Subjects should be shown in the reality of the moment they are captured in. Materially manipulating images — such as reversing, distorting, or adding/removing people — is not allowed except in the cases of creating a photo illustration, which the caption will note. Minor adjustments to cropping, color, sharpening, etc., that do not materially change the photograph are permissible.

Political Speech

Reporters and editors should refrain from expressing partisan opinions about candidates, policy, and other public issues that Rapid Mobile News covers. News staffers are not permitted to donate money or volunteer time for political candidates or campaigns, or to participate in demonstrations.

We do, however, expect reporters to engage in conversations on social media, legacy media, events, and street corners on subjects in which they have expertise or interest. In all those contexts, reporters should avoid saying things they wouldn’t say in a news article or broadcast — that is, statements they can’t back with reporting. And reporters should generally consider the value of commentary that may make their colleagues’ work harder on specific beats.

Privacy

Digital media — the ubiquity of recording, the vast quantity of speech on social media, the power of search — has changed how regular people think about the principles of free speech. We believe deeply in those principles and in our right to report public information. But we also believe journalists must adjust to changing norms, and focus on defending and defining the right to reveal the secrets that matter.

We expect our reporters to consider context in three categories of privacy decisions, and to be particularly sensitive when it comes to minors:

  • Search engine indexing: In some cases, we may identify a person by a version of their name other than the one that is widely used in searches, or anonymize them entirely, if it can be done in a way that does not substantially distort the reporting and may protect that person from having, for instance, the worst day of their life perpetually define their online identity.
  • Social media: We should be attentive to the intended audience for a social media post, and whether vastly increasing that audience reveals an important story — or just shames or embarrasses a random person. We should not automatically or even typically comply with a poster’s original intention — but we should be aware of it.
  • Hacked material: We should be particularly attentive with hacked material to treat the intention of the hacker as a major part of the story, and to maintain a high bar for news value and context of potentially embarrassing personal information that is being weaponized.

Products

Rapid Mobile News writers can accept and may request samples of consumer products for evaluation or for photo shoots (as props or construction material).

Pseudonyms

Freelancers and regular contributors should write under their own names or their professional pen names. We may make occasional exceptions for freelancers writing on important but sensitive topics, or for correspondents working on countries where journalism is dangerous or illegal. If you don’t feel comfortable publishing under your own name, there are likely problems with the story that need to be addressed.

Selfies

Selfies are fantastic and you should take them as often as possible with friends and loved ones. But Rapid Mobile News reporters should use good judgment when taking images with their subjects. Ultimately, all staffers should answer this question when it comes to photographs: “Would taking a photo with this subject undermine the work I’m doing?”

Source Meetings Over Meals or Drinks

Rapid Mobile staffers should seek to pay costs incurred over the course of an interview or source meeting over a meal or drink.

Travel, Junkets, and Set Visits

We are happy that we are able to send staffers to report and cover events. If there is a journalistic reason for a Rapid Mobile News reporter to accept travel and/or lodging provided for or arranged by a source, Rapid Mobile News will reimburse the source with an amount equivalent to what we would have paid for commercial travel. Where this isn’t feasible, we will disclose where we’ve accepted travel or lodging.


The Editorial and Business Relationship

Rapid Mobile News relies deeply on the trust of our readers that we are bringing them accurate reporting, great storytelling, and useful service — and so we maintain a strict and traditional separation between advertising and editorial content.

Ad Campaigns

We don’t write about ads that are running on Rapid Mobile unless they are genuinely newsworthy.

Distribution Partners

Rapid Mobile has business relationships with platforms ranging from social networks to television channels, under which Rapid Mobile is paid for content, shares in advertising revenue against that content, or has some other arrangement. Rapid Mobile News staffers should disclose these distribution relationships when we are writing about the specific product or program involved in the relationship.

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