Our ethics and editorial policy

The Bedford Independent is committed to independent reporting. To make sure this commitment remains intact, we have adopted an ethical code to guide the conduct of our team members and those they work with.

Introduction

The Bedford Independent is a news desk covering the geographical area of Bedford Borough, reporting on any story that may be of interest to those living in or connected to the area.

We aim to provide local independent reporting without political or personal bias. This also includes providing balance, where possible, so that our readers have what they need to make an informed decision about the issues that affect them.

This commitment means our readers and news sources need to have the utmost confidence in our journalism accuracy, the fairness and integrity of our reporting, and a clear separation of the editorial and commercial pillars of our business.

The policies governing our ethics and editorial independence have been developed by researching and adapting policies from a number of organisations that are committed to editorial independence, accuracy and integrity. These include:

IMPRESS (our regulator) The Trust Project by Facebook
Chalkbeat The Guardian
NUJ The Centre for Investigative Reporting
ICNN

While these policies are designed to maintain our commitment to editorial independence, anyone employed by or working with the Bedford Independent, in any capacity, is encouraged to ask questions or raise any concerns they have with these policies with the senior editorial team. Where appropriate we will publish this discussion and its outcome.

Revenue transparency

The main way we protect our commitment to accuracy, integrity, and independence is by adopting a business model that relies on multiple revenue streams.

Our revenue sources include:

  • Major donations or grants from foundations and individuals
  • Contributions from readers
  • Paid advertisements that appear on our website, email news briefings and social media
  • Paid sponsorships of our live events
  • Paid job listings, public notices and classified ads
  • Membership of our estate agent portal

Note: This list is not exhaustive, and we may add to it in the future. If we do this, we will amend our ethics and editorial policy accordingly.

By keeping our revenue sources diverse, we can strengthen our independence and also create a more sustainable business for long-term success.

However, to protect our integrity, we have adopted a set of principles that allow us to accept financial support while protecting our reporting from the influence of our supporters.

Major contributions from foundations and individuals

Accepting funds from foundations and individuals is a vital part of our financial stability, but those who contribute do so knowing that our only duty is to our editorial mission.

  • Anyone who invests in the Bedford Independent’s parent company (Progress Publishing) for a financial return on that investment, has the right to remain anonymous. However, they have a contractual condition that they are unable to influence the editorial policy of the business. Investment does not protect them should it be in the public interest to report on any wrongdoing they may have been a part of.
  • In the case that we receive grants from organisations to support our mission, we will report on these grants and provide information as to the purpose of the grant and the mission of the organisation providing the grant.
  • In the case that any individual makes a donation to the Bedford Independent of more than £5,000, this donation and their name will be included in our public annual reports.

Advertisers and sponsors

Where we receive revenue from an advertiser or sponsor, we protect our editorial integrity with certain conditions.

Any advertising placed with us will be either:

  • Within clearly identifiable advertising spaces such as banners on website pages and in our email news briefing, or
  • In the case of an advertorial article or social media post, clearly marked as advertising by the words ‘in association with’ and the name of the advertiser. The views expressed in any advertorial do not reflect those of the Bedford Independent

Advertisers in other content:

  • We understand that some of our advertisers may be the subject of the stories we cover. By entering into any commercial agreement with the Bedford Independent, all advertisers and sponsors agree that they will have no influence on our editorial policy.
  • We will disclose in an article any advertiser who has any commercial agreement, including those not connected to the article, with the Bedford Independent, if they are likely to benefit from that article.
  • No advertiser or sponsor, at any level, will be protected should it be in the public interest to report on any wrongdoing they may have been a part of.
  • No advertiser or sponsor, at any level can influence our editorial decisions under any circumstances.
  • We reserve the right to reject an advertiser or sponsor if we believe the content included in their advertising is misleading, fraudulent, or distasteful.
  • The acceptance of a donation, advertisement or sponsorship does not in any way represent an endorsement from the Bedford Independent.
  • Job postings do not represent an endorsement from the Bedford Independent of the organisation or business posting the ad.

Donations from readers

The Bedford Independent accepts contributions from our readers. As with all other donations, contributions will not influence reporting decisions.

As new revenue strategies emerge, we will update our policies to include these.

Editorial policy

Background

In addition to building a business model that strengthens our independence, we have also adopted an editorial policy to guide the conduct of our team members and those we work with.

We take many steps to ensure accuracy.

We investigate claims with scepticism, question assumptions, challenge conventional wisdom, confirm information with subject-matter experts, and seek to corroborate what sources tell us by talking with other informed people or consulting documents.

We verify content, such as technical terms, statistics, etc., against source documents or make clear who is providing the information. We may share relevant components of a story with a primary source or an outside expert to verify them.

We stand by information presented in our articles as accurate. However, if it is found not to be, we will change it as quickly as possible and be transparent with our readers about the magnitude of the error.

We guide our journalists to ask the following questions when they double-check information in a quest for the truth:

  • How do you know?
  • How can you be sure?
  • Where is the evidence?
  • Who is the source, and how does the source know?
  • What is the supporting documentation?

Trust in our reporting

For readers to trust our journalism it must be accurate and fair. To support the building of trust, Bedford Independent journalists will:

  • Always check facts, correct errors quickly and transparently, and learn from mistakes. If you find an error, email news@bedfordindependent.co.uk.
    Note: If a correction is made to an article, we will prominently note the correction in the article, showing the date, what was changed and why.
  • Make themselves known to a source immediately so they are aware who they are speaking to so as to avoid any misrepresentation.
  • Rewrite no less than 80% of any media release sent to us, and never simply copy and paste a media release or plagiarise another publication’s work.
  • Never knowingly distort facts, including pictures or other image-based information.
    Note: Deliberate distortion of facts or plagiarising content are grounds for discipline and may result in termination of contract.
  • Identify reporting sources such as individuals, documents, or reporting that has appeared elsewhere.
    Note: Reporters must also share information about sources with editors, so they can jointly assess whether and how to use the information they have provided. Any anonymous quotes must be reflective of a conversation between a reporter and editor and subsequent decision to keep the source anonymous. This does not affect the Bedford Independent’s whistleblowing policy that is set out in the IMPRESS Standards Code.
  • Where possible, seek verification from multiple sources to confirm claims, especially those made by public officials or anyone who may have an agenda beyond reporting the truth.
  • Assess evidence and claims without bias, highlighting to the editor any personal experiences or personal values/opinions that may shape their reporting.
  • Provide context that readers need to make sense of the facts in an easy to digest writing style.
  • Highlight any areas of uncertainty, which will always exist despite our best efforts to resolve them.
  • Give organisations or individuals the right to respond if an article may portray them in a negative light. We will explain to readers if we attempted to collect balance, but the organisation or individual did not respond.
  • Actively seek sources who lack access to broad public platforms, in addition to documenting the claims of those with influence and power.
    Note: Our reporting of local matters may create highly polarised debate. The Bedford Independent seeks to provide balanced, unbiased, fact-based coverage to inform the public conversation.

To make sure we achieve this, any member of our teams involved in news-gathering, shaping stories, or overall business strategy will not:

  • Seek or accept secondary employment, involvement or membership of a political party or issue, and/or any other outside activities that could compromise integrity or create the perception of compromised integrity.
  • Accept gifts, favours, fees, free travel, and special treatment from sources and potential sources.
    Note: When attending events or conferences put on by sources or potential sources that offer free gift bags, reporters should decline to take any item of more than nominal value.
  • Pay for access to news, either with money or other favours.
  • Work on stories, projects, or initiatives in which they have a personal connection, vested interest or financial interest. This includes the involvement and activities of a business partner, spouse, or domestic partner. Any articles covered by this policy will be passed to another journalist or editor to be reported on.
    Note: We will always disclose where reporters have an indirect personal connection to a story so readers can make an independent judgment.
  • Give favourable treatment to sponsors and donors. Team members will resist pressure from inside or outside the Bedford Independent to influence coverage for any reason.
  • Participate in political activities such as marches and demonstrations, unless required to for the purposes of reporting a story accurately.
  • Not make donations to political parties, candidates or lobbying groups.

Reader comments and letters

We welcome comments and debate on our social media pages and submissions for our letters page. While we encourage free and fair debate, we do this with the following conditions:

Social media

  • The Bedford Independent is not responsible for comments on our social media channels. In the event you believe a comment to be in breach of the terms and conditions of a social media platform you should report that comment using the platform’s reporting tool.
  • While we read comments on our social media channels, we do not actively moderate or remove comments, but may do so if:
    • They are deemed to be potentially libel, could hinder future court action or contain hate speech.
    • We believe they constitute a threat to Bedford Independent staff or its readers. This will also result in an immediate ban of that individual from our social media channels. We will take screenshots of all comments and the author’s profile, before the author is removed and the post is deleted. We will work with the police to support them in any investigation should it be deemed necessary.
    • Facebook only: To promote decency and abide by Facebook’s own terms and conditions, we have set our filters to automatically hide any posts that contain profanity. We may also hide comments that are wildly off-topic, contain proven fake news and rumour or appear to be trolling. The person commenting and their connected friends will still be able to see the comment, but a wider audience will not. To create a wider debate, we ask all people posting on our Facebook page to not use language that some may find offensive.
    • Continued breaches of any of these policies may result in that person being blocked from all our social media pages.

If you are removed from our social media pages and you believe this is in error, please contact us.

Letters

  • You must include your name and full address for your letter to be considered for publication. We will only publish your name, street name and town/village.
  • You may request that your name and address be withheld with good reason.
  • Letters may be edited for length and layout.
  • We reserve the right to refuse publication.

Complaints

The Bedford Independent takes our news reporting very seriously. Our editorial team are NCTJ trained and follow a standards code set out by the independent press regulator IMPRESS Standards.

If you have a complaint about any of the articles published by the Bedford Independent or the conduct of a Bedford Independent team member, or you wish to read the IMPRESS Standards Code that we adhere to, please refer to our corrections and complaints policy here.

Adopted: May 2020
Last updated: July 2020