WaPo Posts Digital Publishing Guidelines

Transparency in Digital Media Journalism

Earlier this summer, we asked Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post about the paper’s digital publishing guidelines.  DeBonis said that the guidelines simply encouraged journalists to use common sense when it came to digital publishing. 

On September 1st, the Post released their entire 5,000 word digital publishing guidelines.  Patrick B. Pexton, the Post’s Ombudsman, observed,

The guidelines, for example, acknowledge that there are times when Post journalists will self-publish directly to the Web — yes, that’s right, no editors, fact checkers or copy editors. The Post doesn’t do a lot of this currently — the vast majority of Post stories are read by two editors, and most blog posts by one — but it does happen sometimes with breaking news that goes up on live blogs, and with tweets or Facebook postings, which are, in essence, live publishing.

In these cases — which have to be authorized by senior editors — the guidelines say that an editor must edit the post as soon as possible after publication online and, also important, that the posts be held to “the same standards for accuracy and fairness.” As the guidelines note, “our readers expect news and information to be delivered immediately and accurately.”

Journalists have big megaphones, but this document also acknowledges that in the newsroom, we forfeit some of our free-speech rights. Journalists have strong opinions, and informed ones to boot, but they can’t just tweet or post a slam against Republicans, Democrats, the president, the speaker of the House, Mormons, Muslims, Catholics, Jews or any other group without jeopardizing the reputation and credibility of The Post.

Read the full guidelines here.

Watch our full interview with DeBonis: