CalMatters explains California policy and politics from a nonpartisan and editorially independent viewpoint. We let truth, fairness and accuracy guide our work by keeping open minds, questioning our assumptions and seeking out varying points of view from the diverse communities of California.
Below are links to are the policies, standards and procedures we follow.
Code of Ethics and Conflicts of Interest
All CalMatters employees abide by a Code of Ethics to ensure that we avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest, and that we do not compromise our commitment to nonpartisan coverage. We avoid conflicts of interest and are required to disclose unavoidable conflicts. This policy describes our expectations and aspirations for the conduct of our CalMatters team.
Our Guiding Principles
- We recognize that our work has impact on the people and institutions we report on and we take that responsibility seriously.
- Truth, accuracy, fairness and respect matter to us.
- We have no hidden agendas.
- We are editorially independent from all revenue sources and nonpartisan.
- We want to be transparent about the funding of our news organization and how we work.
- We want to create a real community of readers, and media and other partners and supporters who believe in the value of nonprofit news, civil discourse, and an informed electorate.
Who is Covered?
All CalMatters staffers, as well as freelance or contract contributors to our journalism. We expect our staff and all of our contributors to be free of conflicts of interest, to be fair, and to perform their work in a manner consistent with CalMatters’ ethical principles. When contributors accept an assignment, contributors must disclose potential conflicts of interest or other issues.
Freelance Writing, Other Work
We understand that CalMatters staffers may want to freelance occasionally and take part in outside activities. Because this can also lead to potential or perceived conflicts of interest we have set up a review process.
No CalMatters staffer may take on a freelance assignment or other work without the approval of their manager. Staffers must submit in writing a short description of the proposed media outlet (or other entity) and assignment to their manager, for consideration and written approval. Decisions about freelance opportunities will depend on issues regarding competition, time commitments and other criteria. When in doubt, ask.
Investments can pose real or perceived conflicts of interest. You should not hold investments in startups or companies that you cover or work with as a CalMatters staffer. When in doubt, ask.
CalMatters employees may not make campaign contributions to political candidates.
Serving on the board of another organization can lead to real or perceived conflicts of interest. That’s why all CalMatters staffers must submit in writing to their supervisor all requests to serve on the board of any non-profit organization. These will be reviewed and approved/disapproved on a case-by-case basis. Employees may not serve as directors or officers of any profit-making company.
Speeches, Other Public Appearances
We encourage CalMatters staffers to make public appearances to help raise our visibility and to talk about our work, including making speeches and participating on panels, so long as there are no real or perceived conflicts of interest. All of these must be pre-approved by your supervisor.
Other Outside Activities
Staffers may participate in civic and cultural events that do not pose real or perceived conflicts of interest, but they may not take part in organized action in support of causes or movements relating to topics CalMatters covers. Avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage our credibility. When in doubt, please inform your supervisor of a prospective activity for a case-by-case evaluation.
Staffers should refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment. Unsolicited gifts should be donated or returned. It is acceptable to consume food or beverages as as part of an event you are participating in, such as a speech or panel discussion.
CalMatters retains full authority over editorial content to protect our best journalistic and business interests. We maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of revenue. Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their products, services or opinions.
We accept gifts, grants and sponsorships from individuals and organizations for the general support of our activities, but our news judgments are made independently and not on the basis of donor support. We do not give supporters the rights to assign, review or edit content. If a supporter is covered in a story or other editorial content, we disclose this at the bottom of the story.
CalMatters also accepts donations to support the coverage of particular topics, but our organization maintains editorial control of the coverage. We cede no right of review or influence of editorial content, nor of unauthorized distribution of editorial content. We make public all donors who give a total of $1,000 or more on our list of supporters. We do not accept donations from government entities, political parties, elected officials or candidates actively seeking public office. We do not accept donations from sources that present a conflict of interest with our work or compromise our independence.
This policy is adapted from guidelines issued by the Institute for Nonprofit News.
Social Media Policy for Employees
Social media is a powerful tool for engaging with our audience, finding sources, sharing our journalism and building the CalMatters brand. But these platforms also represent significant challenges to newsrooms, so these guidelines protect our organization, affirm our nonpartisan mission and advance CalMatters’ brand voice, tone and trust. Any exceptions to these rules must be approved by the editor-in-chief.
When using social media for reporting, always identify yourself as a CalMatters journalist. Do not create fake accounts or use pseudonyms to mislead or entrap. Your profile name should clearly refer to your given name, and any public-facing profile should include your role in the newsroom. Be transparent when asking sources via social media platforms whether the information they are providing is on the record and can be used in your reporting. When soliciting points of view on a story or issue on a social platform, be clear that you are seeking points of view from different backgrounds and across the political spectrum.
In the course of our work, we “follow” or “like” or “friend” Twitter handles, Facebook profiles, pages and groups, and other social media accounts created by political parties and advocacy groups. We do this to monitor the conversations around key issues and people. In order to maintain a reputation as unbiased reporters, make an effort to follow organizations, politicians and groups from varying backgrounds. Better yet, use tools including private Twitter lists that allow you to watch social interactions without having to follow accounts and reveal who you’re monitoring.
We require staff to use their personal Twitter and Facebook accounts and create a robust presence on social platforms to help promote the CalMatters brand as well as their own work within their beats. Strive to be conversational, and use your own unique voice to engage with users. Tone, language and objectivity matter. CalMatters is nonpartisan, and we want to employ every possible strategy and best practice to maintain this image among our readers. Do not express points of view. Instead, promote your reporting, and let the facts of your work, a colleague’s piece or another trusted source speak for themselves.
Exercise caution when retweeting or sharing stories on any platform. Just because your profile states that “RTs ≠ endorsements” doesn’t give you liberty to retweet opinions with which you agree. If you feel inclined to retweet or share a post from a politician, activist, lobbyist or other invested political player, use that as an opportunity to explain, contextualize or fact-check, with the overall goal of informing readers, generating brand visibility and driving traffic. Contributions on social media should be meaningful. The quality, insightfulness and professionalism of your engagements with users will set you apart from the noise and misinformation that often penetrates many corners of social media.
Do not include any political affiliations in your profiles or make postings that express political views. Refrain from declaring views on contentious public issues — not just those that CalMatters covers — in any public forum. Even if you comment on topics CalMatters doesn’t cover, we are expected to be even-handed in all social posts. Remember: Your actions on any platform reflect on the organization and your colleagues. When in doubt, don’t tweet it out. If you’re concerned a post or tweet might elicit controversy, talk to your supervisor first.
Also, don’t assume privacy settings on your social media accounts allow you to avoid following these guidelines. Even if you closely curate who follows your private accounts, you never know who might screenshot something you have posted and share it with someone who might want to tarnish your reputation. It’s always best to play it safe.
It is acceptable to extend and accept Facebook friend requests from sources, politicians and newsmakers if necessary for reporting purposes, and to follow them on Twitter. However, friending and “liking” political candidates or causes may create a perception among people unfamiliar with the protocol of social networks that CalMatters staffers are advocates. Therefore, staffers should try to make this kind of contact with figures on both sides of controversial issues. We should avoid interacting with newsmakers on their public pages – for instance, commenting on their posts.