Asheville Watchdog requires all employees and volunteers, especially our journalists, to uphold the highest standards of ethics, fairness and honesty. Integrity is the greatest and most precious asset of our organization, and serving the public is the highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism.
We are guided by the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, which encompasses accuracy, fairness, honesty, and courage in reporting; respect for the individuals involved in and affected by reporting; avoidance of favoritism and conflicts of interest; and accountability and transparency in one’s own work.
A member of the Institute for Nonprofit News, the Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, and the North Carolina Press Association, Asheville Watchdog is committed to the goal of reflecting the diversity of the communities we serve, through our staff, our contributors, and our editorial choices and priorities.
Asheville Watchdog is published by the 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation Asheville Watchdog, founded in 2020 to serve the public interest by providing independent, nonpartisan reporting and analysis on issues of importance to all the people of Asheville, Buncombe County, and surrounding communities.
As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, Asheville Watchdog is not allowed to participate in any political or substantial lobbying activity. The Watchdog does not contribute to political campaigns or political action committees, and does not promote or endorse candidates for political office. If we write about politicians or officials doing stupid or dishonest things, it doesn’t mean we support their opponents.
In deciding what stories and journalistic enterprise projects to pursue and publish, Asheville Watchdog is guided by the best judgment of its editors and reporters, informed by experience and widely agreed-upon standards of professional practice. No outside party determines our choices or has a right of preview of our editorial content.
The Watchdog believes that the diversification of its revenue sources — including subscriptions, gifts and donations, sponsorships, events, advertising, and foundation grants — protects independent decision-making, as well as being a responsible business strategy that best ensures the long-term sustainability of the organization’s editorial mission and independence.
Asheville Watchdog retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. To preserve the integrity of our reporting, publications that reprint Asheville Watchdog articles must provide a link to the original article and are prohibited from making significant editing changes without our permission, although headlines and artwork are their prerogatives.
Because Asheville Watchdog‘s reporting is a public service shared freely with our publishing partners, we do not allow them to put our stories behind a paywall.
Independence from donors.
Foundation grants and gifts from individual donors are the leading sources of revenue for many nonprofit news organizations and are critical to the support of Asheville Watchdog’s journalistic excellence. Accepting financial support does not mean we endorse donors or their products, services, or opinions.
The Watchdog’s editors retain sole control over the content of articles, and no funder is allowed to have prior review of that content. Asheville Watchdog will append a credit line to articles underwritten with foundation grants, disclosing the source of the funding and noting The Watchdog’s control of the content. Current major funders of Asheville Watchdog will be listed online. Any news article with a substantive mention of an Asheville Watchdog funder will include a disclosure of the relationship.
Asheville Watchdog may consider donations and sponsorships to support the coverage of particular topics, but The Watchdog maintains editorial control of the coverage. We will cede no right of review or influence of editorial content, nor of unauthorized distribution of editorial content.
Because The Watchdog presses for financial transparency from many of the people and organizations we write about, it’s only fair that we be equally transparent about our own finances.
Anonymous Donors and Donor Restrictions
Asheville Watchdog’s policy is to publicly thank and list by name all donors who give $500 or more. As a nonprofit, we will not accept donations from anonymous sources for anything except general operations, and we will accept anonymous donations for general support only if it is clear that sufficient safeguards have been put into place that the expenditure of that donation is made independently by our organization and in compliance with membership standards of the Institute for Nonprofit News.
We will not accept donations from government entities, political parties, elected officials, or candidates actively seeking public office. We will not accept donations from sources who present a conflict of interest with our work or compromise our independence, as determined by our Board of Directors. We will not accept donations offered in return for pursuing specific stories, although we will consider support for such broad topics as education, the environment, or justice.
Independence from advertisers
The editors of Asheville Watchdog will make decisions on editorial coverage without regard to any advantage or disadvantage that might accrue to an advertiser or potential advertiser or sponsor. No advertising salesperson or other representative of Asheville Watchdog may promise (whether expressly or by implication) any news, feature, or other editorial coverage in exchange for an ad or sponsored content.
Any advertisement that might reasonably be misperceived by readers as editorial content will be labeled prominently as advertising. Advertisements are subject to review for appropriateness of content and presentation before their inclusion in print or online.
Corrections and updates
Asheville Watchdog is committed to accuracy and fairness. Editors will respond swiftly to any claim that we have been inaccurate. Readers can request a correction by sending a request to Asheville Watchdog at email@example.com. Our editorial team will carefully review any potential inaccuracy before making changes to a published piece. Typos and other minor errors will be corrected as quickly as possible, normally without any correction notice. In the event of a minor factual error, the story will be amended, and the change will be noted at the bottom. Significant corrections will be noted in the headline or at the top of the story. If new details or clarifications are added to a story after its publication, our practice is to include a note describing the update at the end of the piece.
We encourage any reader who would like to discuss an article with a writer to reach out directly to that reporter. Each article will have contact information at the bottom of the published story. That reporter is obligated to inform Asheville Watchdog of any request for a correction.
Confidentiality of sources
Asheville Watchdog believes that the use of anonymous or unnamed sources compromises the credibility of our stories. At the same time, confidential sources can alert us to stories or situations that we can then investigate and verify independently. Some sources have legitimate reasons for wishing to remain unnamed and provide information that we could not obtain elsewhere. We will honor and protect their confidentiality. We require additional corroboration if a story is based on a confidential source, and all such stories are subject to extra review.
Here’s how to share sensitive information with Asheville Watchdog securely.
Asheville Watchdog has a current client relationship with the Vance Center for International Justice’s Lawyers for Reporters program, a pro bono project in collaboration with the Press Freedom Defense Fund. Lawyers for Reporters provides prepublication review or refers the matter to a law firm with significant media law experience. Any article that the editors consider sensitive will be referred to that organization for review. We also greatly appreciate the pro-bono assistance of the lawyers at Stevens Martin Vaughn & Tadych PLLC of Raleigh, N.C. We are also grateful for ongoing legal advice and assistance from the First Amendment Clinic at Duke Law School.
Questions or Concerns?
Readers who have questions, concerns, or comments are encouraged to contact Publisher Bob Gremillion at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Managing Editor Peter Lewis at email@example.com.