msnbc.com
updated 6/21/2007 12:43:41 PM ET 2007-06-21T16:43:41

Here are sample policies on political activity by journalists, from Time magazine, Newsweek, The New York Times, Fox News Channel, Reuters, U.S. News & World Report, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, MSNBC.com, Forbes magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Dow Jones, National Public Radio.

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Time magazine allows donations.

Time's policy says, "Employees are free to engage in personal volunteer political activity and contribute personal resources to candidates and parties in any manner consistent with federal, state, and local laws. Employees may not use Company resources or coercive solicitations to further their own personal political activities."

Newsweek forbids donations, generally.

"We have an expectation that Newsweek journalists will not make any contributions to political campaigns," said spokeswoman Jan Angilella. "Are there exceptions to this general expectation? Yes. Depending on the particular circumstances, including an employee's or freelancer's specific role or responsibility."

The New York Times forbids donations.

"Staff members of The Times are family members and responsible citizens as well as journalists. The Times respects their educating their children, exercising their religion, voting in elections and taking active part in community affairs. Nothing in this policy is meant to infringe upon those rights. But even in the best of causes, Times staff members have a duty to avoid the appearance of a conflict.

"Journalists have no place on the playing fields of politics. Staff members are entitled to vote, but they must do nothing that might raise questions about their professional neutrality or that of The Times. In particular, they may not campaign for, demonstrate for, or endorse candidates, ballot causes or efforts to enact legislation. They may not wear campaign buttons or themselves display any other insignia of partisan politics. They should recognize that a bumper sticker on the family car or a campaign sign on the lawn may be misread as theirs, no matter who in their household actually placed the sticker or the sign.

"Staff members may not themselves give money to, or raise money for, any political candidate or election cause. Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributors, any political giving by a Times staff member would carry a great risk of feeding a false impression that the paper is taking sides."

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Fox News Channel allows campaign contributions, as long as the money doesn't come from corporate funds. (Corporate donations wouldn't be allowed anyway, under federal law. But campaigns are required to report the occupation and employer of donors.)

"The prohibitions and limitations on political contributions outlined above relate only to the use of corporate funds and services and are not intended to discourage employees from making personal contributions to candidates or political parties of their choice. Personal involvement in political activity is permitted as long as the activity does not interfere with or impair the performance of the employee’s duties for the Company. In addition, any employee who becomes involved with a political group must make it clear that his or her activities are being conducted purely in a personal capacity and not on behalf of or in connection with the Company."

Reuters allows contributions for journalists not involved in political coverage.

"We allow our non-political journalists to make personal contributions and stick to the principles of being nonbiased journalists," said Frank DeMaria, head of media relations.

"We asking our journalists to use commonsense. Of course it's difficult, because their judgment of when it's a conflict may be different from the editor-in-chief's judgment."

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U.S. News & World Report warns that giving may be a conflict of interest but allows it. The magazine is reviewing the policy.

"The company has no objection to political activity on a local or county level, provided that the activity does not occur during working hours. Staff members may be accused of conflict of interest if they are identified with a major political candidate or cause which could be the subject of USN&WR reporting. Employees who want to engage in such activities must request a leave of absence to do so.

"No employee may contribute to any political group or candidate on behalf of the company nor will the company make such contributions.

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ABC News forbids donations.

"We do not permit editorial employees to make campaign contributions," said Jeffrey Schneider, senior vice president.

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CBS News forbids donations. Until September, they were discouraged.

"Avoid any active participation in politics and political campaigns. This prohibition includes wearing buttons or otherwise publicly identifying yourself on one side or the other in political campaigns. CBS News policy also forbids contributions to political campaigns."

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NBC and MSNBC TV require permission of the president of NBC News. (MSNBC.com is a joint venture of NBC Universal and Microsoft.)

"Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest.  Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions.  You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the President of NBC News or his designee."

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MSNBC.com requires permission of the editor in chief.

"MSNBC.com employees who take part in civic or other outside activities, including participation in political campaigns or public events such as speeches, marches and political rallies, or who publicly espouse controversial positions, may find that these activities jeopardize their standing as objective journalists. MSNBC.com employees should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain the prior approval of, the Editor in Chief or his designee.

"If a contribution, monetary or otherwise, to a candidate or group with a political or social agenda could create the appearance of a conflict of interest due to the employee’s responsibilities at MSNBC.com, the contribution must receive the prior approval of the section Executive Producer or Editor in Chief. Any participation in a political campaign must be reported to the employee’s immediate manager.

"MSNBC.com employees may not be candidates for public office without the prior approval of the section Executive Producer or Editor in Chief. MSNBC.com will endeavor to arrange for an appropriate leave of absence during any such period of candidacy, if possible. In no event will any MSNBC.com employee be permitted to report during such a candidacy, without prior approval of the Editor in Chief.

"MSNBC.com employees must not make contributions on behalf of MSNBC.com to political candidates or political parties. It may be against the law."

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Forbes magazine allows donations.

"Forbes has no policy regarding employees’ personal contributions to political parties or candidates, but it does encourage any employee to be involved in their communities in any way they choose," said Monie Begley Feurey, senior vice president, corporate communications.

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The Atlantic Monthly is considering a tougher policy.

"Historically, we have not had a formal policy," said spokeswoman Amy Thompson, "and as an institution, the Atlantic is part of "no party or clique," as our founders put it. Even though we have not implemented an officially codified policy, Atlantic editorial staffers are discouraged from supporting political campaigns.

"We're discussing this issue, and may in fact move toward a formal prohibition on political donations by editorial staffers. Of course, we have always policed any conflicts-of-interest on the part of writers & editors working on political stories."

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Dow Jones forbids any partisan activity -- if it's "judged newsworthy"

"Many companies, for a variety of reasons, participate in the partisan political process, at various levels of government. As a publisher, Dow Jones has a different tradition. Dow Jones does not contribute, directly or indirectly, to political campaigns or to political parties or groups seeking to raise money for political campaigns or parties, and Dow Jones does not and will not reimburse any employee for any political contribution made by an employee. All news employees and members of senior management with any responsibility for news should refrain from partisan political activity judged newsworthy by their senior editor or in the case of senior management, the Chief Executive Officer. Other political activities (including "issue oriented" activity) are permitted, but should not be inconsistent with this code.

"On the other hand, it is not the intention of Dow Jones, or of this code, to dissuade employees from participating actively in civic, charitable, religious, public, social or residential organizations. Such activities are permitted, and even encouraged, to the extent that they do not, by their extensiveness, cause the Company to subsidize or appear to subsidize the activity; and do not otherwise violate this code. In the event that a conflict arises or may arise between an outside organization with which an employee is affiliated and the interests of Dow Jones, the employee should refrain from participating in the conflicting or potentially conflicting activity.

"No Dow Jones employee should permit his or her Dow Jones affiliation to be noted in any outside organization's materials or activities without the express written approval of a member of senior management or unless of course the employee serves as a representative of Dow Jones or unless the affiliation is noted as part of a broader description of the employee’s identity."

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National Public Radio forbids donations.

"NPR journalists may not run for office, endorse candidates or otherwise engage in politics. Since contributions to candidates are part of the public record, NPR journalists may not contribute to political campaigns, as doing so would call into question a journalist's impartiality in coverage.

"NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them.

"NPR journalists may not serve on government boards or commissions.

"NPR journalists may sit on community advisory boards, educational institution trustee boards, boards of religious organizations or boards of nonprofit organizations so long as NPR does not normally cover them and they are not engaged in significant lobbying or political activity. Such activities should be disclosed to the Managing Editor or designee, and NPR may revoke approval if it believes continued service will create the appearance of a conflict of interest or an actual conflict.

"When a spouse, family member or companion of an NPR journalist is involved in political activity, the journalist should be sensitive to the fact that this could create real or apparent conflicts of interest. In such instances the NPR journalist should advise his or her supervisor to determine whether s/he should recuse him or herself from a certain story or certain coverage."

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