BuzzFeed now has ethics guidelines for covering mass shootings. The guidance was added to the BuzzFeed News Standards and Ethics Guide, BuzzFeed itself flagged on Twitter.
The new section for mass shootings coverage dictates:
“Do not be gratuitous with a shooter’s name, photo, and video in posts, headlines, thumbnails and social shares, and on platforms; because it exists doesn’t mean we automatically run it. Don’t censor the facts/news when naming a shooter, or using a photo, or discussing the motive when it is necessary in the moment and during follow-up reporting. Use judgment each time.”
iMediaEthics wrote to BuzzFeed to ask if any other sections were added or amended, and what prompted the specific guidelines on mass shootings. BuzzFeed spokesperson Matt Mittenthal told iMediaEthics the guidance “had immediately followed a spate of mass shootings and public discussions around whether news organizations were giving undue attention to mass shooters.”
We were also provided a copy of a Nov. 2 internal e-mail from global copy chief Megan Paolone, which laid out the new guidelines and noted that BuzzFeed had also added guidelines for ethics of purchasing stocks and sourcing.
“The language on mass shootings comes out of a larger effort by the Breaking and Curation teams to pin down, as much as we can, guidance on how to cover these event,” Paolone’s e-mil read. “Mass shooters and copycats seek fame; at BuzzFeed News we want to inform people and not shy away from the story, but not glorify the assailant.”
“The update on the ethics around BF News staff purchasing stocks expands on our earlier guidance: Staffers shouldn’t cover individuals, organizations, or services that they have a financial interest in, and are not permitted to invest in the companies they cover.“The third update we’ve made to the guide makes explicit that all interviews conducted by a BuzzFeed News reporter should be considered on the record until a reporter agrees to go off the record or on background.”
Paolone’s e-mail also reminded reporters and editors not to post political opinions, contribute financially, or participate in protests or campaign events. That guidance reads:
“Reporters and editors should refrain from expressing partisan opinions about candidates, policy, and other public issues that BuzzFeed News covers. News staffers are not permitted to donate money or volunteer time for political candidates or campaigns, or to participate in demonstrations.”
BuzzFeed published its ethics guidelines on its website back in 2015, as iMediaEthics reported at the time.
Hat Tip: Eric Wishart