Second call for feedback
Update, 26 November 2013: Since ‘re-announcing’ this initiative on 15 November it has been gratifying to receive a number of offers of assistance, including offers to act as a Trustee, which the steering committee is in the course of responding to. There has also been a good amount of feedback on the draft Trust Deed – as listed under the Feedback summary at the bottom of this extended post.
A theme of the feedback has been a concern that the thinking around the prospective Foundation’s mission, guiding principles and editorial panel guidelines be shared more widely, and that this thinking also be opened up for comments – as follows. Both this and the call for feedback made on 15 November (also below) will remain open until Friday 6 December.
DRAFT PIJ Mission statement
The Aotearoa New Zealand Foundation for Public Interest Journalism (PIJ) will act as an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organisation with the purposes of:
- Funding and fostering in-depth investigative journalism to provide the New Zealand public with the information and analysis required for active engagement in our political and cultural life
- Serving as a consistent reliable watchdog to help expose corruption and hold in check those with the power to affect our lives
- Educating the public in New Zealand about the role and function of independent journalism in an open, democratic society
DRAFT PIJ Guiding Principles
PIJ will seek to uphold the highest journalistic standards as we go about our business of developing and supporting journalism projects and fostering journalistic talent. The journalism we support will be vigorous in the pursuit of accuracy, fairness and accountability. Our methods will be transparent and we will strive to uphold standards of independence and impartiality.
We will fund, support and encourage editorial projects that cannot be easily resourced and undertaken by existing news outlets. We will be open to partnering with existing established news outlets to ensure that the results of the work we fund and support get maximum exposure and have maximum impact. We will also support projects intended for publication or broadcast in alternative media outlets.
In carrying out this work we will be guided by the principles of:
Truth: Our core purpose is to get to the truth – not in an absolute or philosophical sense but in a practical way. This journalistic truth we fund and support begins and ends with rigorously assembling and verifying facts and placing them in a meaningful context. We will devote our resources to ensuring that the fullest version possible of the truth is delivered to readers, viewers and listeners.
Public interest: The essence of our endeavour is to provide information in the public interest. To that end our core allegiance is to New Zealand citizens, residents and their community. We seek to impartially represent the views and interests of all constituent groups of our society regardless of race, gender, creed or religion. We aim to give voice to the voiceless and to uncover the hidden.
Fairness: Issues and people examined as part of projects we fund and support will be treated fairly and professionally. We will make every effort to contact subjects and seek their response. We will seek multiple witnesses, disclose as much as is ethically possible about sources and canvas various sides for comment. We will quote people accurately and in context and go as far and wide as is necessary to get to the truth. We recognise the need for compassion and empathy towards those affected by our work, and will endeavour to minimise harm.
Independence: Our primary allegiance is to the public and to act as a watchdog over those with power and position with the goal of exposing wrongdoing. We will strive to preserve our independence in serving the public. Under no circumstances will we slant our support for or selection of projects for personal gain or for the gain of PIJ. We value our independence above everything else, and the editorial advisory panel will make its editorial decisions independently.
Conflicts of interest: The public deserves factual reporting and informed analysis without our opinions influencing what they hear or see. We aggressively challenge our own perspectives and pursue a diverse range of others, aiming always to present the truth as completely as we can tell it. Our trustees, staff and advisors will declare potential conflicts of interest and exclude themselves from decision-making roles where appropriate.
Transparency: We strive to be open and transparent in the way we operate, from our editorial policies to our funding sources. We will strive for intellectual honesty and openness in our methods of reporting, research and interpretation. We take full responsibility for our work and will own up to our mistakes quickly and correct them transparently. We invite feedback from our stakeholders and from the public, and will where appropriate release key Foundation documents and decisions for public consultation. Dealings with anonymous sources and information given to us in confidence will remain confidential. The PIJ will identify when and why it has used anonymous sources to obtain information for projects it funds and supports.
Excellence: We aim in everything we do to fund and support quality public interest journalism. This encapsulates all of the guiding principles outlined above but extends to embracing the craft of journalism and storytelling. We will develop editorial projects to as high a standard as possible before releasing them and nurture new journalistic talent to help secure the future of public interest journalism. Standard codes of journalistic ethics will apply to the projects we support. See, for example:
- NZ Journalist Code of Ethics (EPMU): http://www.epmu.org.nz/journalist-code-of-ethics/
- New Zealand Press Council Statement of Principles: http://www.presscouncil.org.nz/principles_2.php
DRAFT PIJ Editorial Panel Guidelines
Integral to PIJ is the operation of an Editorial Panel consisting of at least three and no more than 15 members. An editorial convenor will liaise between the panel, the Foundation trustees, directors and staff.
Each editorial project proposal submitted to PIJ will be considered on the following points:
- The public interest factor – the relevance of the topic and issues to the New Zealand public and the inherent newsworthiness of the proposed project.
- Whether the project is sufficiently unique, complex or resource-intensive that it is unlikely to be undertaken by an established news outlet.
- Whether the project can be successfully completed with the resources available to PIJ and its partners.
- Whether the project can be completed according to the PIJ’s guiding principles outlined above.
- Whether the proposed project has the ability to have real impact – leading to a better-informed public, better decision-making, transparency or improved policy-making.
In addition to the above, the PIJ will aim to encourage and assist with journalism education conferences and other forms of instruction aimed at educating the public and journalists about the role and function of independent journalism in an open, democratic society.
First call for feedback
Public Statement, 15 November 2013: A new organisation for public interest journalism has taken another step towards its goal of becoming operational in 2014 by making its proposed legal structure available for public perusal and feedback this month. See also the media release distributed via Scoop – Foundation for public interest journalism takes shape.
As announced earlier this year the journalist-led project will be seeking charitable status for the organisation, previously called the Scoop Foundation project but now formally titled the Aotearoa New Zealand Foundation for Public Interest Journalism.
The structure of the proposed Foundation will see governance and management exercised through two entities: a trust and a company.
Issues that the steering committee considered in designing the structure include:
- registering the Foundation as entitled to receive charitable donations;
- ensuring editorial independence;
- encouraging participation and spreading the workload;
- minimising exposure of participants to defamation liability;
- recognising the small scale but active nature of journalism in New Zealand.
All positions in the new Foundation will be voluntary in the first instance and will require the participation of three groups of people. The three groups are:
- Trustees of the Charitable Trust (not less than four and not more than seven) incorporated as a Board of Trustees with functions to support the purposes of the Foundation, including seeking and receiving funds. Under the deed Trustees can serve for five years consecutively;
- Directors of a limited liability company (not less than 2 nor more than five) with functions relating to the publishing activities of the Foundation. The Board of Trustees is the sole shareholder of the company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trust, and will appoint the Directors;
- The Editorial Panel (at least three and no more than 15), an advisory group with various functions relating to identifying and managing editorial projects as well as allocating funds. An Editorial Convenor will liaise between the company, trust and the editorial panel. The processes for the operation of the editorial panel, including appointment of members, will be formalised in a set of rules yet to be written. The Convenor will make recommendations to the Directors.
The current Foundation steering committee will appoint the first trustees, and expect to nominate people as Directors and Editorial Panel members. Once established, future replacement Trustees will be appointed by a Panel comprising two Trustees and two representatives of the Editorial Panel. The Trust Deed includes a fiduciary role for two Protectors who can intervene if there are serious problems affecting the Trust and remove any Trustees unable to work or unwilling to fulfill the role of trustee.
In line with the structure outlined above, the two legal documents necessary for the proposed Foundation are being made available here (click on the image to download PDFs). Two specific comment forms are also featured here, and further expressions of interest can be made via our Contact Form page.
|The draft Trust Deed for the Aotearoa New Zealand Foundation for Public Interest Journalism which defines the charitable purpose, activities and structure of the Trust.||The draft Constitution of the Aotearoa New Zealand Foundation for Public Interest Journalism Publishing Limited, established under the Companies Act 1993.|
SECTIONS OF THE TRUST DEED FOR COMMENT
Activities of the Foundation Trust
Section 6 of the trust deed sets out activities that trustees may undertake in order to carry out the purposes of the trust, as follows:
(b) carry out any fundraising activities the trustees believe may help achieve the purposes of the trust;
(c) advertise the trust and its purposes and carry out publicity activities by the use of any of the media as the trustees may decide;
(d) establish a company or companies or similar entities to carry out any of the purposes of the trust;
(e) affiliate with any other similar organisations in New Zealand or overseas and enable other organisations in New Zealand to affiliate with the trust;
(f) support the activities of any such affiliate or organisations to which the trust is affiliated; and
(g) undertake any other activities that are incidental to or conducive to the purposes of the trust.
Section 5 of the trust deed includes the statement that members of the Editorial Panel “should be experienced and reputable journalists, although experts in other fields may be appointed”. The roles and functions of the Editorial Panel are to be decided by an Editorial Convenor but will include:
- Identification of editorial projects
- Overseeing of editorial projects
- News-gathering and investigative journalism
- Mentoring and editorial direction
- Copy vetting and editing
- Collaboration with publishers and writers of other publications
- External liaison
Feedback received …
Feedback on the Trust Deed
- Where is the section on an editorial charter including notions of independence, codes of ethics and conduct? I see these refer to the company but they also need to be included in the trust provisions? If these are not spelt out at the start, the foundation risks being sidetracked by money men, sooner or later.
- Given the important of journalism to constitutional democracy, I commend your goals and express hope that the project is fully realised. Although probably within the scope of both your goals and activities, particularly 3.3 provide education and public information about the journalistic culture in New Zealand based on fairness, accuracy and comprehensiveness; my question is: Does this allow commentary on bias of journalists and does it allow ‘approval’ of journalists for achieving fairness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness. Will it allow ‘ranking’ of journalists by scores for achieving these these 3 criteria? Again, congratulations for this initiative, and thanks, I look forward to developments, and will support where I can.
Feedback on the Editorial Panel
- I think the composition of the panel will have a significant influence on the values and practices of the trust and any subsidiary. To that end, I think it would be helpful to a) enshrine the values, principles and goals of the trust in the deed, and b) indicate the characteristics of trustees/editorial panelists (e.g. avoiding current commercial conflicts of interest), and c) specify the procedure for election/appointments.
General feedback / ideas
- I think having a foundation is an amazing idea, but I hope the formal name will not be used when crediting investigative pieces commissioned/supported by the foundation – it’s much too boring and awkward… Any front-end name needs to be short and catchy.
- I think there’s a need to extend the Trust’s interests to include the Pacific islands – we are one of this group and the other islands need protected journalism.
- I have become so disillusioned by our current mainstream journalists that seem to have sold their souls to Fox or American interests… Not everyone has lost their sense of ethics. I would appreciate some attempt by your Panel to fact check parliamentary questions and answers. The daily question time is notoriously bereft of ‘answering’ the question as opposed to ‘addressing’ the question as accepted by the Speaker who lets accountability off the hook regularly. Fact Checkers reported on the 2008 election. Thank you.
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