Ethics

National Observer strives to meet the highest standards of ethical and responsible journalism. Below are the 10 guidelines that all contributors and staff undertake to meet in every report, every investigation, every opinion piece and article we publish.

The editorial team of Canada's National Observer is responsible for the editorial and op-ed pages, as well as content on the Opinion section of NationalObserverver.com. That includes editorials, opinion pieces and commentary under the National Observer brand byline.

On some pages you will see bylines from news agencies rather than staff. As with most media organizations, we work with trusted news agencies such as Canadian Press and Associated Press to help us cover the world as fully as possible and to adhere to the highest journalistic standards.

We maintain the highest procedures and practices of fact checking and vetting to ensure our content is verified and free of error. If a mistake is made it is corrected at the earliest opportunity and republished with an editor’s note. We endeavor, always, to recognize our failings, earn from them and strive to improve.

We welcome all members of the public to hold us to account on these guidelines and ensure that we never forget the importance of our role in a free and just society:

  1. We report the news responsibly with fairness and accuracy. Our news reporters should avoid bias in our interactions with sources and members of the public on all of the platforms where we communicate. All facts in an article must be backed by at least one primary source. Primary sources can include, but are not limited to:
    • Documents that meet the legal standard of evidence.
    • A quote from an interview with a reliable source
    • Information from a reliable media source so long as the media source and article is referenced
    • Information from a juried scientific or medical journal so long as that journal is referenced.
    • The relied upon information must be provided in a traceable form, such as a link, in the research material for the article
    • The article can not be based on heresay, conjecture or a biased or questionable source. If such information is provided it must be identified as such and not as verified information.
    • The editing process shall require the Managing Editor or another person with editorial oversight to confirm the veracity of the primary sources and all data and facts stated in the article
  2. We report fearlessly and relentlessly to hold the powerful to account.
  3. We recognize that a free and independent press plays an essential role in protecting fundamental human rights, freedoms and democracy.
  4. All editorial decisions are made by staff and are not subject to inappropriate interference from advertisers, owners or any other special interest group.
  5. In editorials and opinion pieces, we recognize the importance of a healthy debate that is based on evidence, fairness and respect for those who don’t necessarily agree with us.
  6. We strive to be sensitive and respectful when dealing with sources. We recognize that they are not obliged to speak to us, but that we are responsible for providing them with the opportunity to speak freely.
  7. We identify sources when possible and exercise caution and skepticism about unnamed sources. At the same time, we recognize the courage and role of whistleblowers in society and are mindful that they may face repercussions for speaking truth to power. We only allow sources to remain unnamed or anonymous when there is a real threat to personal safety and / or a serious threat to their employment or future employment. Or when the source must remain unidentified for legal reasons, such as a publication ban.
  8. We recognize that mistakes can be made and correct errors as quickly as possible. We disclose any material changes (facts, e.g. name spellings, numbers, dates or other verifiably accurate information) to the content of a story.
  9. We recognize that our fundamental role as gatekeepers of information means that we should take steps to verify information provided by sources before sharing it with the public, and distinguish between evidence and speculation.
  10. We do not use our jobs to seek personal favours that are unrelated to gathering news. We serve the public, and we are inspired by our desire to inform and engage people about the issues that matter.
  11. Our journalists will not be assigned to any topic with a conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest for fact-based journalism.

For opinion based articles or analysis, perceived conflict of interest should be disclosed and our standards require that the article is still verified. Any source of funding or other assistance on any article is disclosed and transparent for our audience.

Diverse voices and statement

As one of the few media companies founded by a female editor-in-chief and owned by a majority of female shareholders, National Observer is committed to addressing the national media representation by making sure women, visible minorities, religious minorities, Indigenous voices and people of different sexual orientation are given a voice and opportunity to work with National Observer.

The complex issues we face as a society require respect for different views. Race (ethnicity), class, generation, gender and geography all affect point of view. Reflecting these differences in our reporting leads to more rigorous journalism, more nuanced stories and a better-informed community.

Corrections policy

Factual corrections are made as quickly as possible. We disclose any material changes to the content of a story, including the date of the correction and what information was changed. Material changes include verifiable facts, including name spellings, location, numbers, dates or other information that impacts the content of a story. Please get in touch at [email protected] for corrections.

Ownership structure, funding, collaborations and editorial independence

Canada's National Observer is owned by Observer Media Group (OMG), and became a certified B corporation in April 2018. OMG qualified for B Corp status for its commitments to social and environmental sustainability, joining a global movement of people using business as a force for good. Observer Media Group was incorporated in 2009 with the launch of Vancouver Observer, a deep local publication founded and edited by Linda Solomon Wood, which grew from a community blog into a news site publishing award-winning reporting and covering issues in communities across British Columbia. In July 2019, National Observer was accepted to participate in The Trust Project, a global consortium of news organizations that implement standards of transparency, called Trust Indicators, to help audiences evaluate the quality, integrity and reliability of journalism.

Observer Media Group is a corporation, registered in British Columbia. We chose this financial structure because we believe that treating journalism as a business makes us more innovative and forces us to strive to create a unique, exceptional publication. We believe our most important relationship is with our readers and that readers will only pay for journalism they consider high value and unique. Our success with charging for our journalism gives us confidence in achieving profitability in the near future, and that this will allow us to continue to improve and expand our journalism capabilities. Subscription sales account for nearly 50% of our revenue. These sales come from individuals and universities, The Government of Canada, foundations, NGOs and ENGOs, businesses and associations.

We collaborate with a number of foundations to produce in-depth coverage of journalism that we could not afford to do otherwise. As with all of our journalism, we retain full and complete editorial control of all of our reporting. We publish the names of foundations we work with on the project pages of the stories we produce with them.

Canada's National Observer's seed funding came from two Kickstarter campaigns: 'Reports from the Energy Battlegrounds,' and 'Reports from the Race Against Climate Change' and equity from Canadian social impact investors and convertible loans. We continue in this tradition, returning to our readership to raise money for specific areas of coverage about twice a year. As we are not a charity, we are not able to issue tax receipts for these generous and important gifts. We do report back to donors large and small on the reporting their gifts made possible.

Shareholders include Linda Solomon Wood, Mike De Souza, and Jenny Uechi and a group of social impact investors. Full-time employees who have been with us for more than a year receive stock options.

In July 2016, the company launched its paywall. Our goal is to become 100 per cent reader-funded over the next three years.

CNO has collaborated with the following foundations and companies on journalism projects: First Nations Forward collaborators: BC Real Estate Foundation, Vancity Credit Union, Vancouver Foundation, Victoria Foundation, Catherine Donnelly Foundation, Echo Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada, I-SEA, the Canadian Centre for Journalism and the Donner Canadian Foundation. Canada's Clean Energy Transition: The Ivey Foundation, Trottier Foundation, and Vancity Credit Union. The Gordon Foundation: reporting on water. United Way of Lower Mainland (for Syrian refugee reporting in 2016); Vancity, Teck Inc. and Tides Canada (for Great Bear Rainforest reporting in 2016); Earthways Foundation (for environmental reporting in 2015) and Tides US (for general reporting in 2015). In a recent round, Observer Media Group attempted to raise one million dollars but fell short of the goal, selling $750,000 in shares at a $5 million valuation, working with the SVX platform housed at MaRS in Toronto. The round closed in June 2019. After the round closed, Earthways Foundation made a convertible loan of $100,000 to help National Observer implement its marketing plan.

Observer Media Group is participating in The Facebook Journalism Project's 2019 Accelerator on Audience Development, managed by the Canadian Journalism Foundation to implement new strategies to reach new audiences. We received support from Heritage Canada's Canadian Periodical Fund in 2018. In 2019, we are partnering with the European Union on two panels on climate change.

Advisory board

Esther Chetner, Andrew S. Wright, Margery Moore, Evan Hu, Geraldine Baum, Andrew Beath, and Harvey McKinnon.

Fact-checking standards

National Observer commits to do its best to publish accurate information across all of its content. We take many steps to ensure accuracy, including verification of content, confirming information with subject-matter experts and corroboration of what sources tell us by talking with other informed people or consulting documents.

Mission statement with coverage priorities

National Observer vigorously pursues stories that seek to identify and explore problems in society. We also aggressively pursue stories about success and innovation to ensure that decision makers and members of the public are empowered to make informed choices.

We strive to be a leader in reporting on the new economy to deliver stories that can be used to protect public health, rights, the environment and hold governments to account on addressing and mitigating the threat of climate change.

We strive to meet a high standard of ethics and to build trust and a loyal, engaged audience through transparency, accountability and evidence-based reporting.

We are committed to producing journalism that is accurate, fair and complete, and our journalists strive to act with honesty, transparency and independence, including from conflicts of interest.

Unnamed sources policy

We identify sources when possible and exercise caution and skepticism about unnamed sources. At the same time, we recognize the courage and role of whistleblowers in society and are mindful that they may face repercussions for speaking truth to power. Our position should be that we only allow sources to remain unnamed / anonymous when there is a real threat to personal safety and / or a serious threat to their employment or future employment. Or when the source must remain unidentified for legal reasons, such as a publication ban.

Public engagement policy

The public can get in touch with National Observer through the Contact page, or by writing to [email protected] We also respond to messages on social media including Twitter and Facebook.

National Observer has a policy of responding to public feedback. Whenever possible, our reporters and editors will reply to comments beneath articles posted on the website, and will directly respond to constructive criticism sent through email. Your feedback can help develop our stories or line of coverage, and we have already modified some editorial policies in response to suggestions from experts and diverse communities in our audience.

Privacy policy

At the NationalObserver.com we respect our readership and value personal privacy. We understand the nature of the information given to us and value the importance of protecting this information in accordance with the Personal Information Protection Act.

All personal information submitted to the NationalObserver.com is kept confidential as described below and normally only viewed by the NationalObserver team. It is not sold or related to any other organization or company without prior consent.

We do not disclose Personal Information to others, without first, attempting to notify you.

We take reasonable steps to protect your Personal Information.

We maintain reasonably physical, technical, and procedural measures to limit access to Personal Information to authorized individuals with appropriate purposes and protocols. As set out in our terms of use, we will endeavour to notify you first but reserve the right to disclose any information necessary to satisfy legal requirement, regulation, and government request or to preserve our rights.

We manage subscriptions with a third party service called Piano Essentials. Piano has their own privacy policy that you can read at http://piano.io./privacy Subscription payments are processed by Braintree.

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