Policies and Practices
The Public Media Code Of Integrity
VPR supports the Public Media Code of Integrity, a national code which describes our commitment to trust and integrity in public media.
Public broadcasters have adopted shared principles to strengthen the trust and integrity that communities expect of valued public service institutions.
Public media organizations contribute to a strong civil society and active community life, provide access to knowledge and culture, extend education, and offer varied viewpoints and sensibilities.
The freedom of public media professionals to make editorial decisions without undue influence is essential. It is rooted in America's commitment to free speech and a free press. It is reflected in the unique and critical media roles that federal, state, and local leaders have encouraged and respected across the years. It is affirmed by the courts.
Trust is equally fundamental. Public media organizations create and reinforce trust through rigorous, voluntary standards for the integrity of programming and services, fundraising, community interactions, and organizational governance.
These standards of integrity apply to all the content public media organizations produce and present, regardless of subject matter, including news, science, history, information, music, arts, and culture. These standards apply across all public media channels and platforms - broadcasting, online, social media, print, media devices, and in-person events.
Public media, individually and collectively:
- Contribute to communities' civic, educational, and cultural life by presenting a range of ideas and cultures and offering a robust forum for discussion and debate.
- Commit to accuracy and integrity in the pursuit of facts about events, issues, and important matters that affect communities and people's lives.
- Pursue fairness and responsiveness in content and services, with particular attention to reflecting diversity of demography, culture, and beliefs.
- Aim for transparency in news gathering, reporting, and other content creation and share the reasons for important editorial and programming choices.
- Protect the editorial process from the fact and appearance of undue influence, exercising care in seeking and accepting funds and setting careful boundaries between contributors and content creators.
- Encourage understanding of fundraising operations and practices, acknowledge program sponsors, and disclose content-related terms of sponsor support.
- Maintain respectful and accountable relationships with individual and organizational contributors.
- Seek editorial partnerships and collaborations to enhance capacity, perspective, timeliness, and relevance and apply public media standards to these arrangements.
- Expect employees to uphold public media's integrity in their personal as well as their professional lives, understanding that employee actions, even when "off the clock," affect trust, integrity, credibility, and impartiality.
- Promote the common good, the public interest, and these commitments to integrity and trustworthiness in organizational governance, leadership, and management.
The Public Media Code of Integrity was developed by the Affinity Group Coalition and the Station Resource Group, collectively representing public television and radio stations and service organizations from across the country, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
VPR Editorial Policy
VPR News is an essential regional news source that provides coverage of developing news, an overview of regional news, and in-depth reporting. It informs and educates listeners with breaking stories, features, interviews and call-in programs. As a member station, VPR News complements the extensive resources of National Public Radio, which provides coverage of national and world events and issues. Through this unique medium, the station reflects the diverse voices of the region.
Vermont Public Radio is an independent and non-partisan news organization that subscribes to the highest standards of journalism. The public radio journalism guidebook "Independence and Integrity" summarizes our goals eloquently: "Reporting that is fair, accurate and balanced is true to the ideals of journalism. Such reporting filters out bias in the traditional spirit of objectivity, while allowing reporters to apply their personal insights and engagement with the issues they cover. It results in the healthy skepticism, tempered by the positive pursuit of truth that marks the best journalists."
Story selection is determined by a number of factors, including public service, a system of topical coverage, news value, geographic balance, listener interest, and commitment to diversity.
To maintain its independence and integrity, which is paramount, VPR has established a firewall so that VPR News is free from influence to select and report the news fairly and accurately.
VPR News stories and programs advance no political point of view. This standard also applies to talk shows, where Vermont Public Radio believes that the public trust is best served with a non-partisan host, who is a professional journalist and whose goal it is to shine a bright light on important topics of the day. VPR supports energetic examination of issues, robust questioning and balance.
Regional point of view and opinion is provided in VPR's Commentary Series. This series illuminates the diverse points of view of our region. A variety of voices is sought to represent a broad spectrum of ideas. New voices are added regularly to provide continuing new insight and creativity in the series. The goal is to encourage an energetic and civil dialogue without personal attacks. The series strives for balance of opinion immediately and over time. Commentators must make their point with the highest regard for the facts.
VPR News attempts to provide an intelligent approach to news, talk shows and opinion. Ultimately, VPR recognizes that in reporting the news there is more than one side to any story, and listeners expect that VPR, as a public radio station, will always strive for an honest and accurate presentation of the facts in every circumstance.
VPR Programming Policy
As an independent and non-partisan source of news and programming for the region, our goal is to select programs and programming content that meet the broad expectations of our listeners, donors, friends and neighbors.
The VPR Board of Directors delegates the day-to-day operation of the stations (with its various program choices) to the full-time, professional staff of hosts, reporters, producers, editors, and managers. Their responsibility is to offer programming of the highest quality that reflects the communities VPR serves, while maintaining the core values of public radio.
The VPR Community Forum is a statutory resource that meets regularly as a group in locations across the listening area, and provides important feedback to the organization.
This programming model has served the organization well since 1977, and it is reflected in the significant audiences, stable funding, and broad community involvement that Vermont Public Radio is privileged to enjoy.
Here are the broad criteria that we look at in the selection of specific regional, national and international programs:
VPR Purpose And Mission: The station’s goals are informed by the strategic plan, which is updated annually and adopted by the VPR Board of Directors. All programs selected need to meet the goals and objectives as outlined in the plan.
Professional Evaluation: We seek programs that are relevant and interesting to our audience. News and information programs need to meet the highest standards of editorial integrity and independence.
Independence: To maintain its independence and integrity, which is paramount, VPR has established a firewall so that VPR Programming is free from influence in selecting programming.
Audience Research: VPR uses professional radio research tools and data to evaluate and measure audience trends within the region. National research is also an important factor.
Program Availability: The professional reputation and ability of the program producer to deliver a consistently high quality program in a timely manner, with fundraising and promotion support are essential.
Market Factors: When selecting programs we take into account the variety of program services, both commercial and non-commercial, which are broadcast throughout the listening area.
Program Expense: The cost of acquiring network programming or producing local programming can vary widely. VPR must always consider the cost of a program in order to stay within the structure of our annual budget.
Listener Comments: Listener response to programming is evaluated regularly. Listeners contact VPR each week by telephone, letter, voice message, social media and e-mail. Listener correspondence is posted for all staff to read. In all cases our principal goal is that each listener will receive an appropriate and timely response.
VPR Classical's Mission and Programming Philosophy
VPR Classical provides a vibrant and relevant local connection to the timeless beauty and power of classical music. The music is consistently of the highest quality and substance, and it is programmed thoughtfully with deep respect for listeners' lifestyles, values, and worldly curiosity.
Our hosts are welcoming whether you're a casual or passionate classical music fan. Each performance, artist, and composer brings a unique perspective and we share that sense of discovery and delight with you. VPR Classical frequently hosts interviews and studio concerts with local and visiting artists in the area in an effort to further our service as a vital performing arts resource in this community. We are committed to keep listeners connected to the thriving arts and performance opportunities our region provides.
VPR Classical embraces music as a living art form. We program entire works, with a broad and deep repertoire that includes vocal (choral and opera) and contemporary music. We respect and include new artists (musicians and composers) and recordings whose perspectives reflect the exciting, ever-changing landscape of styles and performance practice.
Our hosts provide intelligent context for the music - giving listeners the opportunity to consider what was happening culturally or politically at the time a piece was written, and to learn about the background or motivation for the particular piece or recording. Commentary is conversational, personal, inspired, and directly related to the music. We understand listeners come to VPR Classical for the music.
We strive for excellence in our music choices and individual insight and unique perspective in our comments.
VPR Diversity Statement
Vermont Public Radio is committed to including and reflecting the diversity of people in our region and believes that representing the breadth of social and cultural identities that exist here is central to VPR’s standing as a leading media institution in Vermont. Diversity in our context means finding and telling the stories of people from all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, geographic locations within the region, those of different socio-economic statuses and varied political beliefs. These identities are not an exclusive definition of diversity, but they guide VPR to be aware of the rich distinctions of people’s experience and identity that should be reflected in VPR’s policies and broadcasts.
VPR’s staff of more than 50 employees comprises a diverse group of individuals who are from Vermont and beyond; who evenly are male and female; who hail from varying socio-economic backgrounds; who are of varying ages and generational perspectives; and who represent a spectrum of sexual orientation. Despite these strengths, VPR acknowledges that its staff and Board of Directors is less diverse than the state it serves, and therefore as an organization it must commit to overcoming any deficits through training, awareness and authentic connection to the communities it serves. VPR clearly states in its mission that one of its core values is “seeking diversity in our personnel, our content, and our listeners, and committing to inclusiveness.” VPR will apply these principles when examining the diversity of its programming, staffing, audience and workplace culture.
In summer 2013, VPR created a formal Diversity Committee of staff and managers from across the organization which is committed to advancing VPR’s ability to represent the diverse people of the region it serves. This committee meets regularly to plan trainings for all staff and discuss areas for improvement in the organization. In the past few years, more women’s voices have been added to local on-air programming. VPR’s News Department has increased in size, and its recent hires comprise both younger staff, and staff in geographically distant regions of the state. Prior to the inception of formal diversity training and goal-setting, VPR had already made progress in diversifying its staff and Board of Directors.
VPR’s Board of Directors is committed to diversifying its membership in order to ensure that we provide the strongest public service to our audience. VPR’s Board, and in particular its Nominating & Governance Committee, has agreed and endorsed through its written Criteria and Characteristics for New Board Candidates that diversity at VPR includes categories such as race and gender, as well as a wide range of factors including age, political views, socioeconomic status, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabilities, veteran status, and more. Similarly, VPR convened a Community Forum (community advisory board) with more diverse membership for its current term (2014 – 2016) by considering application factors such as age, geography, occupation, and background.
VPR’s plans for the coming year include follow up training for staff; expanding our sources for recruitment of staff and Board of Directors; conducting an inventory of voices on the air to establish a starting point for our progress moving forward; and sourcing outside of our accustomed pool of experts and voices in the community.
VPR Ethics and Conduct Policy
Vermont Public Radio holds the public's trust as a news source, and as an integral community and cultural institution in the region. VPR's employees are the backbone of the services the station provides, and their personal and professional excellence reflects on the station and contributes to VPR's reputation.
This policy embodies a spirit of trust that VPR has in its staff to protect and elevate the station's community reputation, and it reflects the trust that the community has in the services provided by VPR. All employees of the station are expected to uphold and reinforce these expectations to avoid conflicts of interest and to protect their own personal and community interests.
Our purpose for authoring a code of ethics and conduct policy is to protect/enhance VPR's credibility and reputation as a news and cultural public institution. This policy will serve as an umbrella policy of clear ethical and behavioral standards, as well as a guide for business behavior to ensure ethical conduct.
This policy applies to full- and part-time employees of Vermont Public Radio. Certain employees/departments may be held to additional standards and expectations as communicated by Department heads.
Journalism is at the core of VPR's mission and values, and the NPR News Code of Ethics, NPR News Social Media Guidelines, VPR Editorial Policy, and other standing policies of VPR, clearly communicate the expectations of all news and programming employees.
Officers and Managers Commitment to Ethics
- Officers and Managers of Vermont Public Radio will set a prime example. In all business practice, honesty and integrity will be a top priority for officers and managers.
- Officers and managers will have an open door policy and welcome suggestions and concerns from employees. This will allow employees to feel comfortable discussing any issues and will alert officers and managers to concerns within the work force.
- Officers and managers will disclose any conflict of interests regarding their position at Vermont Public Radio.
All Employees Commitment to Ethics
- Vermont Public Radio employees will treat everyone fairly, have mutual respect, promote a team environment, and avoid the intent and appearance of unethical or compromising practices.
- Every employee must apply effort and intelligence in maintaining this commitment.
- Employees must disclose any conflict of interests with regard to their position at Vermont Public Radio.
Political activities, community activism, volunteering, and public comment:
- These activities may be permitted, on a case by case basis, as long as they don't pose a conflict or the appearance of a conflict, or reflect badly on VPR, including online.
- Employees must take measures to ensure their activities are clearly personal and not a reflection on VPR. Examples of this include not identifying oneself as a VPR employee in a way that would lead to confusion, and not wearing VPR gear when involved in a situation that could reflect poorly on VPR.
Honoraria, talent fees and gifts:
- All Employees of Vermont Public Radio are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the current policies on Honoraria, talent fees and gifts.
- All Employees of Vermont Public Radio are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the current policies on Outside Employment.
Social Media/Networking: The NPR News Social Media Guidelines established in fall 2009 are comprehensive and reflect VPR's thinking about social media participation. The following wording is borrowed liberally from that policy and applies to all VPR employees:
- Employees must recognize that everything written or received on a social media site is public. Anyone with access to the web can get access to activity on social media sites. Regardless of how careful employees are in trying to keep them separate, professional and personal lives overlap in the online world.
- Employees should use the highest level of privacy tools available to control access to personal activity when appropriate. However, those tools are not full proof and the possibility exists for someone to hack those tools and make public private information. Employees should not be complacent with their online activity.
- Employees shall conduct themselves in social media forums with an eye to how their behavior or comments might appear if VPR was called upon to defend them as a news organization. In other words, employees should not behave any differently online than they would in any other public setting.
- While VPR strongly encourages linking to VPR.net, employees may not repost VPR copyrighted material to social networks without prior permission. For example, it is okay to link from a blog or Facebook profile to an employee's story on the VPR site, but the full text or audio should not be copied onto a personal site or Web page.
- Remember that the terms of service of a social media site apply to what is posted and gathered on that site. The terms might allow for material that an employee posts to be used in a different way than intended. Additionally, law enforcement officials may be able to obtain by subpoena anything posted or gathered on a site without consent -- or perhaps even the knowledge of the person who made the posting.
- Employees must not advocate for political or other polarizing issues online. This extends to joining online groups or using social media in any form (including a Facebook page or a personal blog) to express personal views on a political or other controversial issue.
- An employee's simple participation in some online groups could be seen to indicate that they endorse the views expressed by that group. Employees should consider whether they can accomplish the same purposes by just observing a group's activity, rather than becoming a member. If an employee does join a group, it should be made clear that it's to seek information or story ideas. And if an employee "friends" or joins a group representing one side of an issue, do so for a group representing the competing viewpoint, when reasonable to do so.
- Realize that social media communities have their own culture, etiquette, and norms, and be respectful of them.
- If writing about meetings and gatherings at VPR - employees should always ask first if the forum is on or off the record before distributing information or content about it.
And a final caution - when in doubt, an employee should consult with their direct supervisor or a member of the Senior Staff. Social media is a very dynamic environment, and VPR fully expects that this section of this policy will be revised as needed.
- Promotion of ethical conduct within interpersonal communications of employees will be rewarded.
- Vermont Public Radio will promote a trustworthy and honest atmosphere to reinforce the vision of ethics within the company.
Maintaining Ethical Practices
- Vermont Public Radio will reinforce the importance of the integrity message and the tone will start at the top. Every employee, manager, and director will consistently maintain an ethical stance and support ethical behavior.
- Employees at Vermont Public Radio should encourage open dialogue, get honest feedback and treat everyone fairly, with honesty and objectivity.
- Vermont Public Radio reserves the right to decide what's a conflict and what's not, and that determination will be final.
- Vermont Public Radio will avoid the intent and appearance of unethical or compromising practice in relationships, actions and communications.
- Vermont Public Radio will not tolerate harassment or discrimination.
- Unauthorized use of company materials, confidential information, donor lists, or technical information integral to the success of VPR will not be tolerated.
- Vermont Public Radio will not permit impropriety at any time and we will act ethically and responsibly in accordance with laws.
- Vermont Public Radio employees will not use business relationships for personal gain.
- Vermont Public Radio's President and CEO shall have the sole authority to determine if there has been an infraction of this policy and/or if unethical behavior has taken place.
- Any infractions of this code of ethics will not be tolerated and Vermont Public Radio will act quickly in correcting the issue if the ethical code is broken.
- Any employee found to have violated this policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.