Sunday, September 24, 2017

Bringing Accuracy and Context
to Animal Journalism

Guidelines & Ratings

The following core principles are the standard by which Daily Pitchfork editors will publish original material and review and rate (using standard A-F letter grades) outside content. They were developed exclusively for the site, borrowing from the Society of Professional Journalists’ recently revised ethical guidelines, and adapting them as needed to the coverage of animal issues.

  1. Be accurate. Because animals do not speak for themselves, animal issues require special vigilance in separating accurate from inaccurate information. Accuracy prevents the spread of errors that harm animals and the general public.
  2. Diligently research subjects and sources of news coverage. Use original sources and research. Clearly identify stakeholders (lawmakers, lobbyists, corporate entities, professional and business associations, etc.), their positions, affiliations and potential conflicts of interest — especially if working from a press release. Moreover, the differences among animal welfare, animal protection and animal rights groups are significant and should be accurately identified.
  3. Serve as watchdogs over private interests, public affairs and government by holding those in power accountable and giving a voice to the voiceless. The media has an obligation to recognize those whose voices are so often muted: the general public, the scientific community, public advocates and animals themselves. Toward this goal, it needs to avoid all forms of stereotyping and marginalizing, eliminate language designed to “humanewash” or “greenwash” issues (use “slaughter” and not “humane processing”), and treat animals as subjects of a life rather than as objects.
  4. Provide the essential context. When appropriate, the animal’s experience and the human-animal connection must be considered. New findings in animal ethology (behavior), environmental science, agricultural/business practices, and food safety (to name only a few) should help determine how a story is framed in order to properly balance human and animal interests. A diversity of perspectives should always be considered, but not at the risk of achieving false balance.
  5. Uphold a high standard of proof. Rather than unsubstantiated claims or vague estimates, the media should rely on sourced data, research, photography and other objectively sourced material. Creativity in seeking accurate sources is also strongly encouraged. Undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information are valid, but only when traditional, open methods do not yield information vital to the public. When it comes to animal issues, however, it may be more necessary than usual to take this approach.
  6. Be accountable. When errors occur, acknowledge and correct (or retract) promptly and prominently.

Understanding Pitchfork ratings          

As a public service, Daily Pitchfork editors review articles, calling out needed corrections and assigning ratings (A-F) on the basis of how they approach—and inform or disinform—the public on animal issues.

Also on The Daily Pitchfork: