Trust is perhaps the most important asset public broadcasting carries forward into its evolving public media future. Audiences rely on our information and perspectives as they make decisions in their public and personal lives. The public tells pollsters that public television and radio news is their most trusted source among many mass media choices.
We have built that trust by rigorous attention to editorial integrity — how we govern our organizations, raise funds for our programming, and produce our daily work. Nationally and locally, public broadcasters have crafted enduring principles, policies and practices to protect and advance our trust and integrity. These crucial guideposts are now tested by powerful and exciting changes in our field.
- The unfolding technologies of the digital era are transforming how content is created and distributed and reshaping the ways in which public broadcasters engage their communities — and vice versa.
- Stations increasingly complement traditional television and radio broadcasting with a portfolio strategy of online, wireless and mobile services. This leads to wider availability of public media, but often places content in a context not directly controlled by those who created it.
- Stations are re-framing their community roles through new forms of partnership, collaboration, and civic engagement and participation. These partnerships create new opportunities for multiple voices, contributions, and ideas from new sources, but present challenges with respect to shared editorial standards and the public's expectations for balance and independence.
- Further, public broadcasters are encountering evolving expectations from donors, corporate sponsors, philanthropy and other stakeholders — and higher expectations and standards for transparency and accountability.
Stations and their staffs need a more refined set of guidelines that will inform their decision-making and ensure a continuity of values, trust, and organizational clarity in this new environment. It is time for a vigorous review of our editorial standards to assure ourselves and our audiences that our new services will carry forward the trust and integrity that we have accrued over time.
Editorial Integrity for Public Media is a collaborative project of the Affinity Group Coalition, which is made up of representatives from seven membership organizations of public television stations, and the Station Resource Group, an alliance of leading public radio stations focused on strategy, policy, and operational innovation. The National Educational Telecommunications Association, NETA, is providing organizational support.
Byron Knight, Emeritus Director Wisconsin Public Broadcasting, and Tom Thomas, co-CEO of the Station Resource Group, are serving as project directors.
Public television and public radio stations endorse the Code of Editorial Integrity for Local Public Media Organizations as a guiding statement of standards for our field.
Wide and voluntary adoption of local policies and practices that apply the Code to specific station circumstances, either through direct adoption of the Code itself or development of local documents that draw from and align with the Code.