Code of Ethics
Dowser is a news organization that supports the work of emerging reporters who practice solutions journalism — i.e., journalism that examines responses to social problems, looking at whether they work, or not, and what makes them work, or not. We adhere to high standards of independence, accuracy and rigor. Below is our Code of Ethics. We hope our readers will hold us accountable to it.
Solutions Journalism is NOT about advocating for particular models or organizations. Nor is it “good news.” It is journalism that explores how and why particular ideas, models, policies or systems address social problems effectively, or not. We believe that highlighting positive deviants is as important to helping society improve, as highlighting negative deviants (the domain of traditional journalism).
We subscribe to the ethics code for the Society of Professional Journalists, and as such, our top priority is to report with objectivity, fairness, balance and accuracy. As much as possible, we base our reporting on evidence, rather than assertion.
We know that, when covering potential solutions, even the most even-handed reporting can look like advocacy, so we strive to be even more thorough in our reporting, but not to inject reflexive criticism or opposition to provide the appearance of balance. (We won’t just seek out a source who will contradict another source to manufacture a he-said, she-said conflict. The big ‘conflict’ in these stories is the question: How do we do better against tough problems?)
To achieve these goals, we:
- Take care to ensure our headlines accurately describe the idea, without suggesting hagiography or success that has yet to manifest.
- Avoid imposing beliefs on the subjects we cover.
- Talk to several sources both within and outside organizations covered.
- Sources are not allowed to review stories before publication. Our journalists fact check before we publish.
- Report on obstacles, limitations and failures in the ideas we cover. It’s as important to know what’s not working as what is.
We aim to be useful, relevant and realistic.
We ask our reporters to develop an understanding of the landscape of approaches in the fields they cover so they can evaluate strengths and weaknesses. We encourage young journalists to develop their expertise in particular areas — because that makes their reporting better, and is likely to position them for successful careers.
Potential Conflicts of Interest:
- We receive funding from foundations that may fund initiatives in the space we cover. Funders are not involved in the editorial process. Occasionally, we receive funding to delve into a specific branch–like technology-based solutions. But within broad themes, we insist on full editorial control.
- Often, our reporters have strong political opinions or ideological biases. They are allowed to volunteer or support organizations on their personal time. We ask that they disclose conflicts of interest in any news story and take advantage of our opinion pages to advance arguments.
- Dowser works with young freelancer writers who may publish wherever they like. When writing for Dowser, we ask them to disclose any other partnerships that may pose a conflict of interest.
- At one point, we thought it would be alright to form sourcing partnerships with groups involved in social change. (We asked them to suggest stories from their networks.) But we realized that it was a bad idea. So, as of January 2012, we stopped this practice. We have no relationships with organizations we may cover. Our reporters may, of course, source stories based on their own contacts and networks.
HOW WE EVALUATE OUR SUBJECTS
We don’t take solutions as a self-evident good thing. We don’t cover rescue stories, or kindness of stranger “good news.” We look for organizations with proven, or probable, effectiveness, and the potential to advance their ideas more broadly.
To help us achieve these goals, we evaluate leads with a critical eye. When faced with a potential story, we look for:
- The quality of the organization advancing the idea – including the track records of the team and supporters
- Whether or not the idea is innovative – or is simply a new manifestation of an old idea
- Simplicity and cost-effectiveness
- A strategy to overcome vested interests – which can impede any idea, no matter how good
- Consideration about how to change behavior.
- Convenience and hospitality in delivery channels. Access isn’t enough.
- Durable and flexible marketing efforts, such as ongoing creative efforts to advance and institutionalize the idea in the long-term.
We write about promising ideas — but if those ideas have not yet shown how they can be financed, made politically feasible or achieve broader adoption, we will make note.
We do not plagiarize, and link where ever possible.
Most images we use are listed under a Creative Commons License
When curating Solutions Journalism from other outlets, we apply these same standards.
When errors occur, we correct them as soon as possible and include a note. Minor spelling and typo errors may be corrected without mention.