For the first time ever, Reuters is making its “Handbook of Journalism” available to the public. So, if you’re looking for some interesting weekend reading or a peek into the international newswire’s journalistic ethics and rules, it’s worth a read.
As Reuters’ global editor of ethics, innovation and news standards Dean Wright points out, some of the wire’s standards in the United States vary from those that apply to its work published abroad.
“We take a global approach to the spelling of many words. Often, it’s the United States against the world,” Wright said. “For instance, our preferred style is ‘artefact,’ except in the U.S., where it’s artifact. Same goes for axe and axeing â€” our standards for most of the world â€” which become ax and axing in the U.S. There’s also ‘backwards,’ which loses its ‘s’ in American stories, and ‘leukaemia,’ which loses that first ‘a’ in the U.S. There’s plenty more: tyre and tire, titbit and tidbit, and defence and defense.”
Another interesting topic explored by the handbook is Reuters’ take on terrorism. The newswire tends to err on the side of caution, in order to maintain its standards of unbiased, “dispassionate language.” Reuters’ refusal to call certain people referenced in articles “terrorists” has raised controversy and debate in recent years, but the wire is sticking to its principles.
“Over the years we have been criticized for this policy on numerous occasions, when people or governments wanted us to label an incident ourselves rather than quote their views,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger told Wright. “Criticism of our policy was especially fierce when the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. Reuters made the decision not to describe the attackers as terrorists, because we thought a label would not add to our vivid description of the thousands of deaths and the destruction of the iconic twin towers of the World Trade Center. In the years since, as the world has witnessed numerous other attacks, we’ve chosen to continue that policy of sticking with the facts and letting our readers make up their own minds based on our reporting and the evidence we present them.”
Reuters opened up its handbook for the public so that it would be more transparent, and we welcome this sort of transparency. Plus, it’s a pretty interesting read.