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
ChalkbeatThe Guardian
NUJThe 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 to the senior editorial team.

Where appropriate we will publish this discussion and its outcome.

1. 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.

Financial support comes to us in many ways and is for the sole purpose of keeping local news alive within the areas we serve.

An offer of financial support or its withdrawal, no matter where or who it is from, will never have any influence on our editorial decisions.

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
  • Patrons 
  • Membership in 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, detailed below.

1.1 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 also 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 per annum, this donation and their name will be included in our public annual reports.

1.2 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 (regardless of their commercial relationship with us) agree that they will have no influence on our editorial policy.
  • No advertiser or sponsor, at any level, will be protected should it be in the public interest to report 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.

1.3 Donations from readers

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

1.4 Patrons

We have opened up a limited number of Corporate Social Responsibility opportunities for businesses to become a Patron of the Bedford Independent.

As a patron for a minimum of three years, partners are given access to an exclusive collaborative networking group, ‘top billing’ awareness on our website, reduced rates on recruitment advertising and press coverage in a ‘Q&A with a CEO’ spotlight feature.

  • No patron will be protected should it be in the public interest to report any wrongdoing they may have been a part of.
  • No patron can influence our editorial decisions under any circumstances.

Current patrons are listed on our patrons’ page.

1.5 Political advertisements

In connection with our monthly columns from political leaders in the areas we cover, we also accept advertisements from political parties. These advertisements must be clearly marked as political advertisements and will be legal, decent, honest and truthful.

Each advertisement must be about the political party itself and, to remain in line with our impartial editorial, must not be used to simply attack another.

Advertisements from political parties, as with others, do not influence our editorial or indicate the political leanings of those who work at Progress Publishing.

Political advertising is open to all political parties, however, Progress Publishing reserves the right to reject advertising from political parties that do not represent the general and modern values of democracy, rule of law, respect and tolerance, and individual liberty.

Political parties may have to give evidence that they abide by these values before we accept advertising from them.

You can read more about the guidance we follow for political advertising at the House of Commons Library and the Electoral Commission Website. The Electoral Commission also offers guidance about what to do if you are concerned about a political advertisement.

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

2. Editorial Policy

2.1 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?

2.2 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.

2.3 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:

2.3.1 Social media

  • The Bedford Independent is not responsible for third-party 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, in the first instance, you should report that comment using the platform’s reporting tool.
  • If you believe comments on our social media channels require action, even if they do not breach the platform’s terms and conditions, you may ask Progress Publishing to investigate. Please note: We will only remove comments that breach the conditions we use for our own assessment of removal, as set out below.
  • While we read comments on our social media channels, we do not actively hide or remove comments, but reserve the right to do so if:
    • They are deemed potentially libellous, could hinder future court action or contain hate speech.
    • They contain content deemed offensive or profane.
    • Comments are off-topic, contain proven fake news and rumours, or appear to be trolling.
    • We believe they constitute a threat to Progress Publishing staff, readers of our publications, or individuals and organisations connected to our business. This will also result in an immediate ban of that individual from all of 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 if necessary.
    • Facebook only: To promote decency and abide by Facebook’s own terms and conditions, we have set our filters to hide any posts that contain profanity or offensive keywords automatically.
  • Continued breaches of any of these policies may result in that person being blocked from all our social media pages.
  • We reserve the right to close comments on posts we have made on any social media channel, page or group if we believe a debate has run its course, has satisfied its objective, or is attracting higher-than-average commentary that breaches our terms and conditions.

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

2.3.2 Letters

Letters offer our readers a chance to highlight an issue important to them or a viewpoint on an article or column previously published via the Bedford Independent or Bedford Clanger.

We reserve the right to refuse publication of letters sent to us and submission of a letter does not guarantee publication. To increase the chance of publication, please follow these guidelines:

  • Only letters from Bedford Borough residents will be accepted unless they are from a nationally recognised charity or public body with a subject that may be of interest to our readers. 
  • You must include your full name and full address for your letter to be considered for publication.
  • Our editorial policy is to only publish your name, street name and/or town or village.
  • Names and addresses can be withheld but only with good reason.
  • If possible, please include a high-quality photo with your letter.
  • Letters may be edited for suitability and to abide by our code of conduct.
  • Letters may also be edited for length, typos and formatting purposes.
  • Write respectfully, refraining from the use of personal attacks, profanity, or remarks that may be considered offensive.
  • We reserve the right to refuse publication without a reply.

Please note: Letters may be edited for grammar, length and layout without changing the subject matter or angle.

2.4 Editorial columns

While the majority of our content is editorially based, with the genuine journalism at its core that our readers expect from a high-quality news organisation, we also produce columns from our journalists and experts from outside our organisation, that offer personal or expert opinions on a variety of subjects.

These may include anything from highlighting a controversial matter the writer feels needs addressing to a humorous take on day-to-day life.

Whatever the subject, our editorial columns are designed to offer a personal conversation between our writers and our readers to create thought, generate discussion, champion the positives in our patch or lead to improvements where they may be needed.

To differentiate from standard editorial, which serves to report on matters of public interest in a journalistic and balanced way, our editorial columns will carry a by-line containing the words ‘Editorial column’ before the writer’s name or the opening paragraph will introduce the writer.

We invite our readers to join any debate these columns may create by commenting on our social media pages and groups constructively and respectfully, or by writing a letter for publication via our letters page.

Please note: All columns are still subject to our corrections and complaints process, which may include investigation by our regulator IMPRESS. All comments on our social pages are also subject to removal if they do not comply with the terms and conditions set out in section 2.3

3. Complaints

The Bedford Independent takes our news reporting very seriously. Our senior 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: January 2024