MindSite News is a new nonprofit, nonpartisan digital journalism organization dedicated to reporting on mental health in America, exposing rampant policy failures and spotlighting efforts to solve them. We seek to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the workings and failings of the U.S. mental health system and to impact that system through our reporting, making it more equitable, effective, transparent and humane in its care for individuals and families struggling with mental illness.
Code of Ethics
This code is adapted from the code produced by the Society of Professional Journalists, as well as those of The Marshall Project, Inside Climate News and Kaiser Health News, other nonprofit journalism organizations that we greatly respect.
As a nonprofit, MindSite News depends on individuals and foundations for funding, but our news judgments are made independently and never on the basis of donor support. Donors should not expect preferential coverage and should understand that we may publish content with which they disagree. Readers should know that if we write about our funders or members of our board of directors or advisory board, our relationship will be fully disclosed.
MindSite News may accept support for coverage of particular topics, but our editorial staff determines what those topics are and retains full control of the resulting stories. Editorial copy is never shared with anyone, including donors, prior to publication.
MindSite News aims to produce reliable, trustworthy journalism – accurate, fair and independent. Because we are human, we will sometimes get things wrong. When we do, we will acknowledge our mistakes and correct them.
Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
In our reporting we aim to reduce the stigma that historically has been associated with mental illness. But stigma still exists, and we understand that writing about mental illness is especially fraught and requires great sensitivity.
We will be reporting on suicides and deaths of despair of people with mental health and substance use disorders. We recognize our obligation to do this in a sensitive and rigorous way and in a way that does not cause further harm to survivors or family and friends of the deceased. We will follow the guidelines for reporting on suicide developed by leading public health and media organizations.
Journalists working for MindSite News should:
–Be accurate and take responsibility. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible. Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.
– Provide context. Take care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
– Gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
– Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.
– Be cautious when making promises but keep the promises they make.
– Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.
– Use anonymous sources only when needed to convey important information to our readers, not to publish material that is trivial, obvious or self‐serving. Consider sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution, ostracism or other harm. Explain the reasons for granting anonymity.
– Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond. People who will be shown in an adverse light must be given a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves. This means making a good-faith effort to give the subject of allegations or criticism sufficient time and information to respond substantively.
– Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
– Be vigilant about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.
– Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
– Serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government. Seek to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.
– Provide access to source material when it is relevant and appropriate.
– Present the diversity of the human experience. Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear.
– Treat sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.
– Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, or social status.
– Label advocacy and commentary.
– Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information. Clearly label illustrations and re-enactments.
– Never plagiarize. Always attribute.
– Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.
– Show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage. Be especially sensitive when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources who are inexperienced or may lack the capacity to give meaningful consent.
– Realize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than public figures and others who seek power, influence or attention. Weigh the consequences of publishing personal information.
– Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.
– Balance a suspect’s right to a fair trial with the public’s right to know. Consider the implications of identifying criminal suspects before they face legal charges.
– Consider the implications of discussing someone’s mental health challenges and the extended reach and permanence of publication.
– Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
– Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
– Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
– Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
– Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.
– Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Expose unethical conduct, including within our own organization. Abide by the same high standards we expect of others.
Dr. Tom Insel is a donor to MindSite News and the founding chair of its Editorial Advisory Board. He is a co-founder of Mindstrong Health, NeuraWell Therapeutics and Humanest Care. He is a shareholder in publicly traded Alphabet, Apple, Compass Pathways, Karuna and Microsoft and holds private equity positions in Alto Neuroscience, Mindstrong Health, NeuraWell Therapeutics, Owl Insights, Uplift and Valera Health. He is a board member of the Foundation for the National Institutes for Health, HealthCare Capital Corp., Valera Health (observer status) and the Steinberg Institute, where he serves as board chair. He is also a member of the advisory boards of the Leonard Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California, Alto Neuroscience, Embodied Inc., Koa Health, NeuraWell Therapeutics, Owl Insights, PsychHub and Cerebral Inc.