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Los Angeles Times Media Group Ethics Guidelines

February 01, 2011|Los Angeles Times

In general, The Times does not identify suspects of criminal investigations who have not been charged or arrested. On occasion, the prominence of the suspect or the importance of the case will warrant an exception. In those instances, we must take great care that our sourcing is reliable and that law enforcement officials have a reasonable basis for considering the individual a suspect. If someone we have identified as a suspect ultimately is not charged, we should make that known in follow-up coverage. The follow-up should be played comparably to the original reporting if possible.

Staff conduct

The Times expects its editorial staff to behave with dignity and professionalism. We do nothing while gathering the news that we would be ashamed to see in print or on television. We do not let the behavior of the pack set standards for us.

In general, we identify ourselves as staff members when covering news events. There are some instances when offering such identification is impossible, impractical or counterproductive, but in no case should a staff member lie about his or her affiliation with The Times. We should deal honorably with people and institutions we cover, just as we expect them to deal honorably with us.

Journalists may not use their affiliation with The Times to resolve personal disputes or seek special treatment or personal benefits.

Corrections and clarifications

When we make mistakes, we quickly and forthrightly correct the record. Readers and staff members who bring mistakes to our attention deserve our gratitude. A staff member who receives a complaint about the accuracy of our work should inform an editor. No staff member should decide on his or her own that a complaint does not warrant a correction. (Note: The Times' corrections guidelines spell out in greater detail our procedures for handling complaints, corrections and retraction demands.)


Photographs and graphics must inform, not mislead. Any attempt to confuse readers or misrepresent visual information is prohibited.

In photographing news, we do not stage or reenact events. Photographers may direct subjects of portraits, fashion shoots or studio work. In presenting such images, we must avoid creating the impression that they were captured spontaneously.

We do not add color, create photomontages, remove objects or flop images. We do not digitally alter images beyond making minor adjustments for color correction, exposure correction and removal of dust spots or scratches required to ensure faithful reproduction of the original image. Exaggerated use of burning, dodging or color saturation is not permitted.

On occasion, we publish artistic or graphic renderings that include altered photographs. Such renderings should be clearly labeled "photo illustration." Before creating a photo illustration, photographers, photo editors and designers must obtain approval from a senior editor for photography.

Complex graphic illustrations should be similarly labeled.

Photo editors must verify the authenticity of handout photos. Except in rare instances, credit lines must identify the source of such photographs.


The growing use of electronic media by The Times creates challenges that may, on occasion, require staff members to apply the principles embodied in these guidelines in new ways. To cite one possible example: Journalists should understand that a person who consents to a tape-recorded interview may not want the recording made available on our website.

The Times increasingly is engaged in video production, both for the Web and for other Tribune outlets. In general, video is governed by the same ethical practices as still photography (see above). Distortion of any type is improper. In editing video, do not insert words or splice together statements made at different times so as to suggest that they were uttered at the same time. Excerpts of an interview or address generally should be presented in the order in which they occurred. If an interview is presented in question-and-answer format, the questions must be presented as they were asked. Reaction shots may not be altered after the fact and should be shot in the presence of the interview subject whenever possible. Staging is prohibited.

In rare instances, re-creations of events may be justified; they must be clearly labeled as such. Video, images or graphics obtained from outside sources must be clearly identified.

Times journalists who accept invitations to appear on other Tribune outlets or in other media forums should be mindful that their remarks require the same care, discretion and neutrality as their published reports.


Guidelines cannot cover every conceivable conflict of interest. If doubt exists, staff members should consult a supervisor. Nevertheless, some principles are clear.

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