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Editorial standards: values worth striving for

February 21, 2018

I recently picked up a copy of a booklet on editorial standards and policies I wrote over ten years ago for Incisive Media which was then at its zenith, employing hundreds of journalists across three continents.

It contains a mixture of practical advice on editorial best practice coupled with some broader guidance on the ethics of journalism as they might be applied in a modern business publisher. What struck me is just how frequently the questions it seeks to answer come up when I am running training courses for new journalists or giving lectures to media studies students at universities.

Over the next few weeks I will share much of that content as it remains so relevant. It may even be thought-provoking for some.

Of course, plenty has changed in the media since it was written.

The digital revolution has gathered pace and changed publishing and the media in ways no-one envisaged 11 years ago (whatever they might say today).

In the UK, we have had the Leveson inquiry resulting in the creation of a new, but deeply flawed, press regulator with pressure mounting for a second phase of that inquiry to be launched.

Across the globe, there are furious debates about “fake news”, where it comes from and how it is shaping public opinion.

Rather than just reproduce all the content in the booklet, I will up-date it, strip out the parts that were purely internal to Incisive Media in 2007 and organise it into a series of themed blogs. I will conclude with some thoughts on quote-checking, which was only a minor irritant to journalists at Incisive Media then but which now looms large in almost every corner of the media. I was recently asked to draft some policies on quote-checking for another publisher and will share those more widely.

So, by way of introduction to the series of blogs here is what James Hanbury, chief executive, and I said were the aims of the booklet at the time:

“Trust, authority and integrity are the three key words that drive everything and everyone at Incisive Media.
“They are words that you as journalists – either experienced ones joining us as the next step of your career or graduates on our training scheme – will recognise as the cornerstones of editorial excellence.
I”ndeed, excellence is at the heart of every publication, every website, every conference and every piece of content we produce.
“Without this excellence the commercial functions within the company would struggle to be so successful. This places a great challenge and responsibility on those in our editorial departments to maintain the highest editorial standards”.


Some of the history of Incisive Media can be found on Wikipedia, although it is by no means complete.


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