Fact Checking Policy

Fact-Checking policy

Our aim is to deliver the facts with precision and context.

We believe in getting not only both sides, but “all” sides.

The best stories are multi-sourced. Facts are triple-checked. Issues are balanced with diverse views and sources.

They are, simply, as complete as possible.

Anonymous Sources

Balliatak.com expects the information in its pages to be accurately attributed. Anonymous sources are a last resort. In the public interest, however, anonymous sourcing can be a vital tool to exposing hidden truths while protecting those who may be harmed for reporting them.

The use of anonymous or confidential sources in a story must be approved by the Managing Editor/News or the Editor. Reporters must be able to characterize the source’s accessibility to the information and the source’s credibility, and will be expected to disclose the source’s identity to editors.

In granting confidentiality, the reporter must reach a clear understanding with the source, after consultation with an editor, about how the information and attribution will be presented in the story. Care should be taken when using terms with sources such as “off the record,” “not for attribution” and “background.” Different people can have different understandings of these terms. Reporters should be specific with sources, and they should clearly explain to editors how the source believes the information will be characterized.

Before an anonymous source is used, great weight should be given to whether the source’s information could or should be substantiated by other sources. We should ask ourselves whether the source’s information serves a personal agenda that overrides the greater public interest.

We should disclose to readers our sourcing techniques when writing stories without traditional styles of attribution.

When an anonymous source is used, a reason, if possible, should be cited in the story for protecting the source’s identity (fear of job loss, fear for safety, etc.).

Anonymous sourcing used in narrative projects must be based on interviews with multiple sources with direct knowledge of the details. This technique should be clearly explained in the story package, such as in an editor’s note.

Relationships with sources are sacred trusts. Care must be taken to avoid phrasing that could inadvertently identify a confidential source. Reporters should reach understandings with sources about who and how many people will have knowledge of confidential information. In some situations, it may be sufficient to inform a source that his or her identity will be “protected by Balliatak.com.”

On some stories, editors might ask reporters to discuss with confidential sources what the source’s reaction would be if a court orders the newspaper and/or the reporter to divulge its source of information. The source’s willingness to be publicly identified and attest to the information he or she provided might determine whether certain sensitive information is published.

An agreement to protect a source’s identity creates an agreement with both the reporter and The Post. The agreement should be based on the understanding that the source is honest. We should tell the source that if he/she is dishonest with us, the promise of identity protection will be negated. In other words, “The Post will protect you. But if you lie to me, that promise of confidentiality is void.”

Visual Accuracy

Our cameras should provide a lens to the truth.

Balliatak.com news photography must be genuine in every way. Photographs must not be staged or posed. They must not be altered, barring exceptional circumstances, and then only with approval of the Managing Editor/Presentation, the Managing Editor/News and/or the Editor, and with full disclosure to readers.

Nothing should be added to or omitted from scenes, and only traditional adjustments (such as cropping, dodging, burning, contrast and saturation) are acceptable. If colorizing techniques are used, the practice should be disclosed.

The newspaper’s intervention in a photograph, such as in an illustration, should be unmistakable to the reader. Readers should understand our role in arranging portraits, especially in fashion or home-design shots and other interpretive photography.

Photo captions must fully explain the picture’s context. A caption for an environmental portrait, for instance, should indicate that the subject is posing for illustrative purposes, unless it is obvious to the reader. For example, “Bob Smith demonstrates the window cleaner device he invented.” Is Bob Smith actually cleaning, or is he demonstrating for purposes of a photograph? Such distinctions should be honestly disclosed. Every effort should be made to preserve contextual information provided by the photographer in the final edited version of the caption.

Captions and credits should clearly label a photo illustration. If there is any doubt about whether to use a photo illustration, a photo editor and the Managing Editor/Presentation should be consulted. While it is possible to create images that appear real using a composite of photographs for an illustration (for instance, using a person’s head on another’s body), we should avoid using such images. Approval of composite images should come from a consensus of parties, including photo, section, design and graphics editors, and the Managing Editor/Presentation. If there is concern from any of the parties involved, it may be appropriate to find another visual solution.

The origin of the photo, whether produced by staff, freelancers or marketing sources, should be clearly labeled.

Pre-publication Review

Stories should not be shown to sources or people outside the newsroom prior to publication.

However, it is sometimes acceptable to allow a source to review portions of stories for purposes of accuracy. For example, an engineer might be sought to review a technically descriptive passage in an environmental story that details how sewer piping allows toxic chemicals to flow into public waters.

Such exceptions should be approved beforehand by the Managing Editor/News.

Fictitious Names and Events

Our work is to chronicle history, not make it up. We must avoid perceptions that any portion of a story does not reflect truth.

Use of fictional names, ages, places, dates and composite characters is generally unacceptable, except in rare situations that must be approved by the Managing Editor/News and the Editor. Fictional or composite characters can be used only as an obvious literary device, such as in satire, and only in consultation with the Managing Editor/News and the Editor.

In some instances, a reporter, with approval from the Managing Editor/News, can use a fictional name, or pseudonym, to describe a real person when public identification could bring harm to that person. Readers should be clearly informed in the story or in an editor’s note that such a technique is being used to protect the source.


We make mistakes. Correcting them promptly is vital to our credibility.

When an error is discovered – whether it is detected by a member of the public or a staff member – it should be discussed immediately with your supervisor and corrected as soon as possible.

If there is a dispute over whether something is incorrect, a supervisor should be consulted to resolve it. Correction forms should be filled out and turned in to your supervisor.

When significant inaccuracies are committed by an editorial employee, or a pattern of errors in stories is detected, a department head or above should be informed of the problem immediately.

Fairness 03 

A strong sense of fair play must imbue our writing, accurately reflecting motives of sources. The tone and language of stories must be even-handed and avoid loaded phrasing.

Even under deadline pressure, it is imperative that we allow news subjects ample time to respond and react to issues, events and, most important, allegations against them. We should make every possible attempt to reach them, both at home and work.

We should accurately characterize their response or lack of response. “Would not comment” may be preferable to “refused to comment.” However, it may be appropriate to characterize a public official, who typically is obligated to respond, as refusing to comment when given ample time and opportunity.

We also should never characterize anyone as refusing to return phone calls if he or she had little time to respond.

We owe it to our readers to disclose in detail how and when we tried to reach the subjects of news stories.

Treatment of Inexperienced Sources

A common challenge is communicating with people inexperienced in dealing with reporters.

But the rights of people ensnared in news events must be respected.

Ordinary people have greater rights to privacy than public figures. And our use of their words, or descriptions of their behavior, can have unintended consequences.

We should clearly identify ourselves to inexperienced sources, such as crime victims, children and others, and be willing to explain to them the context of their portrayal in stories. Such disclosure respects the victim’s dignity. It also builds trust.

Questions of Taste

Out of respect for our readers, Balliatak.com avoids prurience, profanity and obscenity.

That said, sometimes the use of graphic or inflammatory language is essential to the context of a story or photograph. In some cases, omitting the language might alter the story’s meaning or render the story incomplete. The editor or Managing Editor/News must approve use of graphic or inflammatory language.

Slang, foreign languages and colloquialisms also can be minefields. Writers and editors should avoid the use of words or phrases if they might be offensive to some racial, religious, gender or ethnic groups, unless the language is essential to the story’s meaning or completeness. A department head should be consulted when making such decisions, and the Editor or Managing Editor/News should be informed.


We should be honest in carrying out all of our work. We should clearly identify ourselves in all situations.

If deception might be necessary to obtain critical information, it must be approved in advance by The Editor or Managing Editor/News. The information sought must be vital to the public interest and all other approaches to obtaining the same information without using deception must be exhausted.