Reporters protecting sources: in 2021 Reuters removed a clause from its “Standards and Values” web page

by Stephen Hewitt | Published 23 January 2022

Web page with heading “Standards and Values” and under it “The page is currently being updated and will be back up shortly. Sorry for the inconvenience.” and circular orange logo and “REUTERS” in the top right hand corner
How a Reuters page looked on multiple days in April and May 2021, according to snapshots available on web.archive.org in January 2022. In multiple snapshots dated from February to April 2021 the same address had shown a message “Error 404 Sorry, the page you are looking for couldn't be found.” The picture here is a cropped screen shot of an archived copy of the page www.reutersagency.com/en/about/standards-values/ dated 22 April 2021, viewed on web.archive.org in January 2022.

In 2021 Reuters removed a statement that its journalists “always protect their sources from the authorities” from its “Standards and Values” web page at https://www.reutersagency.com/en/about/standards-values/, according to historical copies of the web page available on web.archive.org in January 2022. [ARCHIVE]

The removal of this clause was part of a change that Reuters made to the web page. Reuters replaced a list called “The 10 Absolutes of Reuters Journalism” with a list called “The 10 Hallmarks of Reuters Journalism”. But whereas most of the rules in the old list had a similar equivalent in the new list, the rule about protecting sources did not. A table comparing the two lists is below.

The list of “10 Absolutes” removed was identical to the list in Reuters' Handbook of Journalism published more than ten years earlier on handbook.reuters.com. Reuters announced this publication in 2009 with an article by Dean Wright, described as “Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards”, on blogs.reuters.com. He wrote: “The handbook is the guidance Reuters journalists live by and we're proud of it”. [REUTERS1]

The day after this announcement by Reuters, a BBC blog article titled Reuters handbook quoted the ten rules from it in full. [BBC]

The handbook was available on handbook.reuters.com from July 2009 until early 2021, according to copies on web.archive.org in January 2022.

The old and new lists of rules are compared in the table below, where the new list has been sorted to align each new rule with the old rule to which it is most similar.

Table 1: How Reuters changed the rules on its “Standards and Values” web page in 2021
The old “10 Absolutes of Reuters Journalism” in February 2021 The new “10 Hallmarks of Reuters Journalism” from May 2021
Always hold accuracy sacrosanct Hold accuracy sacrosanct
Always correct an error openly Correct errors transparently
Always strive for balance and freedom from bias Strive for balance and freedom from bias
Always reveal a conflict of interest to a manager Disclose potential or actual conflicts of interest to a manager
Always respect privileged information Follow the Trust Principles in all activities related to Reuters News
Always protect their sources from the authorities Seek fair comment
Always guard against putting their opinion in a news story Avoid injecting unattributed opinion in a news story
Never fabricate or plagiarise Do not fabricate or plagiarise
Never alter a still or moving image beyond the requirements of normal image enhancement Do not alter still images or video footage beyond the methods normally used to prepare content for editorial use
Never pay for a story and never accept a bribe. Do not pay for information or accept a bribe or trade on privileged information

In January 2022, multiple pages I tested on handbook.reuters.com were redirecting web browsers to the same “Standards and Values” page on reutersagency.com (using a HTTP code 301, meaning “moved permanently”). But a PDF version of a Handbook of Journalism containing the “10 Absolutes” remained available on trust.org, the website of Thomson Reuters Foundation, a UK-registered charity. [TRF]

In another Reuters Handbook for Journalists, a printed book published in 1992, there is no reference to any list resembling the “10 Absolutes”. [REUTERS2]

References

[ARCHIVE]

Archived copies of web page https://www.reutersagency.com/en/about/standards-values/ as presented by web.archive.org in January 2022:

A snapshot dated 5 February 2021 shows the old “10 Absolutes of Reuters Journalism”.

https://web.archive.org/web/20210205112123/https://www.reutersagency.com/en/about/standards-values/

A snapshot dated 7 February 2021 is a generic page with the text: “404 Not Found. We can not find the page you are looking for.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20210207064518/https://www.reutersagency.com/en/about/standards-values/

A snapshot dated 14 April 2021 has a heading “Standards and Values” with the text: “The page is currently being updated and will be back up shortly. Sorry for the inconvenience.” (See figure above)

https://web.archive.org/web/20210414151530/https://www.reutersagency.com/en/about/standards-values/

A snapshot dated 4 May 2021 shows the same text.

https://web.archive.org/web/20210504021548/https://www.reutersagency.com/en/about/standards-values/

A snapshot dated 7 May 2021 contains the “10 Hallmarks”.

https://web.archive.org/web/20210507102059/https://www.reutersagency.com/en/about/standards-values/

[BBC]
Reuters handbook, BBC Blogs, Friday 10 July 2009, Kevin Marsh.

In January 2022 this article was at https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/collegeofjournalism/entries/e9cf9587-7bcc-3e18-bb25-0ba983b6ea4e

[REUTERS1]

A is for abattoir; Z is for ZULU: All in the Handbook of Journalism, Dean Wright, Reuters Blog, 9 July 2009

In January 2022 an archived copy of this article was at https://web.archive.org/web/20210214003057/http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2009/07/09/a-is-for-abattoir-z-is-for-zulu-all-in-the-handbook-of-journalism/

[REUTERS2]

Reuters Handbook for Journalists, compiled by Ian Macdowall, Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd, 1992, ISBN 0 7506 0551 0

[TRF]
Reuters Handbook of Journalism

A PDF file (with hash SHA256 95512ad1014ddcaaa6a4993fd254ac719f5e5da6fd7b7567fbc2b34aaa578a62).

In January 2022 this file was at https://www.trust.org/contentAsset/raw-data/652966ab-c90b-4252-b4a5-db8ed1d438ce/file

There was a link to it at https://www.trust.org/publications/i/?id=652966ab-c90b-4252-b4a5-db8ed1d438ce with an explanation dated 16 May 2011:

Now in its second online edition and fully revised, this extensive volume is the combined work of dozens of domestic and international journalists from text, television and pictures. From understanding the basics of story writing and avoiding cliches and jargon, to managing breaking news, captioning pictures, and dealing with sources, this guidebook is a valuable resource for any journalist seeking to work to the Thomson Reuters standards of accuracy, independence, freedom from bias and integrity.

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