On the last day of January, Editor-in-chief Steve Adler sent a memo to Reuters reporters and staff. Reminding reporters that the 45th president has publicly stated that journalists are “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” Adler advised Reuters reporters to cover anything Donald Trump says or does the same way they would cover goings-on in an authoritarian regime such as China, the Philippines, and Yemen.
Other news agencies may appease or oppose an authoritarian regime or even boycott their press briefings, but that’s not the Reuters way, said Adler.
“Reuters is a global news organization that reports independently and fairly in more than 100 countries, including many in which the media is unwelcome and frequently under attack. I am perpetually proud of our work in places such as Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia, nations in which we sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists. We respond to all of these by doing our best to protect our journalists, by recommitting ourselves to reporting fairly and honestly, by doggedly gathering hard-to-get information – and by remaining impartial. We write very rarely about ourselves and our troubles and very often about the issues that will make a difference in the businesses and lives of our readers and viewers.”
Adler’s memo told Reuters reporters to rely on rules the media organization adheres to in “nations in which we sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists.”
The Reuters memo noted a lack of clarity as to how “sharp” the 12-day-old administration’s attacks on media may be or whether the attacks will restrict news gathering and honest reporting. The editor-in-chief explained that current events in the United States provide an excellent opportunity for Reuters reporters to “lead by example” while providing insightful and accurate information.
Reuters reporters are instructed to adhere to the following guidelines when reporting on authoritarian regimes:
- Never be intimidated
- Don’t pick unnecessary fights or make the story about us
- Don’t vent publicly about what might be understandable and personal day-to-day frustration
- Don’t take too dark a view of the reporting environment
- Cover what matters in people’s lives and provide them the facts they need to make better decisions
- Become ever-more resourceful: If one door to information closes, open another one
- Give up on hand-outs and worry less about official access. They were never all that valuable anyway
- Get out into the country and learn more about how people live, what they think, what helps and hurts them, and how the government and its actions appear to them, not to us
The Reuters News Agency was founded at the London Royal Exchange in 1851 by former Berlin book publisher Paul Julius Reuter. In the early years of the service, pigeons and telegraph wires carried the news to subscribers. In the 21st century, Reuters employs some 3,000 journalists and photojournalists in hundreds of locations around the globe. Since its inception, more than a dozen Reuters reporters have been taken hostage or killed while on assignment in authoritarian regimes and war zones.
“This is our mission, in the U.S. and everywhere. We make a difference in the world because we practice professional journalism that is both intrepid and unbiased. When we make mistakes, which we do, we correct them quickly and fully. When we don’t know something, we say so. When we hear rumors, we track them down and report them only when we are confident that they are factual. We value speed but not haste: When something needs more checking, we take the time to check it. We try to avoid “permanent exclusives” – first but wrong. We operate with calm integrity not just because it’s in our rulebook but because – over 165 years – it has enabled us to do the best work and the most good.”
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