The following VPR policies are on this page:
- The Public Media Code Of Integrity
- VPR Editorial Policy
- VPR Programming Policy
- VPR Classical's Mission and Programming Philosophy
- VPR Diversity Statement
- VPR Ethics and Conduct Policy
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 and create broadcast and digital content that meets 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 content choices) to the full-time, professional staff of hosts, reporters, producers, editors, and managers. Their responsibility is to offer content 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 about content.
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 and creation of specific regional, national and international broadcast and digital content.
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 content selected and created is aimed at meeting the goals and objectives as outlined in the plan.
Professional Evaluation: We pursue content that is relevant and interesting to our audience. News and information needs to meet the highest standards of editorial integrity and independence. Our music programs must meet the highest standards of creativity, accessibility and discovery.
Independence: To maintain its independence and integrity, which is paramount, VPR has established a firewall so that all VPR content is free from influence.
Diversity: When selecting and producing content, VPR will deliberately involve a diversity of perspectives and seek out programs, digital content and audience engagement that are inclusive of all segments of our audience and potential audience.
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 producers to deliver consistently high quality content, in a timely manner, with fundraising and promotion support, are essential.
Market Factors: When selecting and producing content we take into account the variety of services, both commercial and non-commercial, which are available throughout the listening area.
Content Expense: The cost of acquiring network content or producing local content can vary widely. VPR must always consider the cost of a project in order to stay within its annual budget.
Audience Comments: Audience responses to programming are evaluated regularly. Audience members contact VPR each week by telephone, letter, voice message, social media and e-mail. Email correspondence is posted for all staff to read. In all cases our principal goal is that each member of our audience will receive an appropriate and timely response.
Partnerships: VPR may enter into partnerships in order to connect with the community and encourage audience participation in the production of content. These partnerships, which must also adhere to VPR’s Programming Policy, may involve community outreach as well as formal agreements with independent content producers.
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
(updated September 2018)
VPR is committed to telling the whole Vermont story, together. We strive to be an essential and trusted independent voice for news, information, music and cultural exploration. To meet these goals, it is particularly important that VPR reflect the diversity of the communities we serve – today and into the future. Accordingly, we foster an environment of inclusion, where a variety of voices from all our constituencies are encouraged to be heard.
We know diversity as all the characteristics and experiences that make each of us unique, including but not limited to race, color, ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, gender identity, socioeconomic status, geography, educational attainment, marital status, military or veteran status, age, physical and mental difference, life experiences, and political views. These attributes are not a comprehensive definition of diversity, but they guide VPR to be aware of the rich range of distinctions that should be reflected in VPR’s policies and content. We view inclusiveness and an inclusive environment as one where people feel welcome and see themselves as valued and understood.
VPR is a proud equal opportunity employer. We work diligently to recruit a broad pool of candidates, enabling us to hire and promote qualified individuals whose personal experiences, characteristics, and talents reasonably reflect the diversity of the communities served by VPR. Our workforce for October 2017 through September 2018 was 72 regular employees – 51% female and 49% male. People of color comprised 4%. Our employees are multigenerational with 2% born prior to 1946; 41% 1946 – 1964, 33% 1965 – 1984, and 24% since 1985.
We also work to reflect the diversity of voices in our communities on our Community Forum and Board of Directors. VPR’s Board consists of 18 voting members -- 45% of whom are women and 55% men. 5% are people of color. Our Board members represent a variety of life experiences and professional accomplishments. Their ages span five decades. Similarly, the membership of VPR’s Community Forum reflects a wide range of ages, and life and professional experiences.
VPR will continue building awareness and taking action to promote fairness and inclusiveness in our culture, staffing, and service to our listeners. To this end, VPR will, in FY19, complete our statewide listening tour, hearing a range of opinions and perspectives from Vermonters of all backgrounds; attend the Annual Vermont Vision for a Multicultural Future Conference for a second year in a row; conducting an “Unconscious Bias Workshop” for our entire staff to raise awareness in all aspects of our culture and public service; improving upon our recruiting and hiring process and practices to ensure that our candidate pool is inclusive and diverse; and aligning departmental projects with the efforts and recommendations of the Diversity Committee.
FY18 Diversity Initiatives
In FY18, VPR continued to make strides in diversifying our staff, board, and programming. These efforts took multiple forms, including enhancing internal practices and more proactively engaging with our audience. To deepen our connection with the communities we serve and to better reflect them in our programming, VPR announced and began a statewide listening tour, stopping in all fourteen counties. Every staff member is required to attend at least one event and many have signed up for multiple events. We have asked the attendees of these events three questions: 1) What should people know about where you live?; 2) What issues are important to you?; 3) How can VPR serve your community better? Recruiting and training staff on diversity and inclusion is an ongoing, multi-pronged effort.
Our hiring process and practices included digital recruiting platforms, to ensure that our candidate pool is inclusive and diverse. The Diversity Committee met several times this fiscal year to discuss ways to better recruit and train staff, board, and community forum members and to better align departmental efforts with the organizational commitment to diversity and inclusion. A record number of Community Forum applicants allowed VPR to reflect as broadly as possible the demographic, geographic, cultural, economic, and social diversity of our listening region.
FY17 Diversity Initiatives
During FY17, VPR continued its efforts to ensure that our culture, staffing, and listener services reflect the diversity of voices in the communities we serve. Our recruitment and hiring process was reviewed, resulting in updates to standard language in all our employment advertising to reflect our commitment to equal opportunity. We refreshed our employment advertising outreach lists to ensure that we reach diverse groups. We conducted individual training with hiring managers to help ensure the inclusion and consideration of diverse voices in hiring pools and hiring decisions. A consultant presented an "Unconscious Bias Workshop" for our entire staff to raise awareness in all aspects of our culture and public service. A second workshop, for managers, focused on hiring and management responsibilities and practices relating to inclusiveness and diversity.
FY16 Diversity Initiatives
FY16 saw VPR engaging in job fairs and revising our job application in an effort to garner a more diverse pool of job applicants. We held three outreach events in the community and conducted an all-staff forum to engage in discussion about diversity and inclusion. We also experimented with new recruitment strategies to fill vacancies on our Community Forum and Board of Directors, resulting in a narrowing of the gender gap as more women joined, and in the addition of younger members. Finally, VPR’s audience grew significantly as we focused on storytelling by new voices from our communities, reporting based on listener-driven inquiry, and direct coverage of “demographics and diversity” stories.
VPR Ethics & Conduct Policy
Updated May 2019
Vermont Public Radio holds the public's trust as a news source, and as an integral community and cultural institution in the region. Employees are the backbone of VPR’s public service, and their personal and professional excellence contributes to VPR's reputation.
We expect and even encourage our staff to lead active lives outside of work, filled with diverse interests, activities and relationships. We are mindful, though, that employees’ activities beyond their work at VPR can affect our reputation and public trust. We therefore ask employees to integrate the principles and values of public media editorial integrity into their public behavior even when “off the clock.”
While we encourage employees to be active members of their communities, they should not engage in an outside activity if it conflicts with his or her responsibilities at VPR. When it appears that a conflict may arise between the personal interests of a staff member and his or her responsibilities to VPR, the staff member should notify their supervisor.
WHO IS COVERED
This Code applies to all full- and part-time VPR employees. Depending on an employee’s specific role at VPR, there may be additional standards that govern his or her conduct, such as our Editorial Policy and the Donor Bill Of Rights. Those standards will be communicated to affected employees by their supervisors or department heads.
“Outward Facing Employees” (OFEs) are those whose work sometimes puts them in the position of representing VPR to the outside world. An OFE should adhere to the same guidelines that our journalists and news staff follow, unless the OFE receives prior written approval from the OFE’s direct supervisor after receiving guidance from news leadership. The determination of whether an employee is an OFE will be made by the OFE’s supervisor, in consultation with the OFE’s Leadership Team member and the President & CEO. The OFE’s status could change if the OFE’s position or duties within the organization change (see below section on “Political Activity and Contributions.”)
All VPR employees should:
- Read and understand the Public Media Code Of Integrity.
- Aspire to high standards of integrity and ethics in their lives outside of work, including dealings with friends and associates, public behavior and use of social media.
- Be alert and sensitive to conflicts of interest between personal interests and their professional public media responsibility.
- Exercise careful judgment about, limit, and in some cases forego, engaging in partisan activities or advocacy regarding controversial issues of public importance.
THIS CODE IN PRACTICE: COMMUNICATE, CONSULT, COLLABORATE
This code is meant to provide guidance, but it is no substitute for open communication. We encourage questions – answers aren’t always self-evident. Consultation and collaboration make us better at what we do.
If you are confronted with an ethical question or issue that warrants the input of another, talk with your supervisor. If there’s any question of whether the matter should be brought to the attention of others, supervisors will err on the side of caution and reach out to a member of VPR’s Leadership Team. If for any reason you feel uncomfortable discussing a matter with your supervisor, talk to a member of VPR’s Leadership Team.
CULTIVATING A “CULTURE OF JOURNALISM”
We are living in a time of heightened political awareness and activity, and we’re seeing politics come up in more issues than ever before. We understand the urge to stand up for what you believe or do something - anything - to help make the world feel less divided and tumultuous. But it’s important to remember that your work for a public media organization is already an extraordinary civic service. We encourage all VPR employees to view their work in public media as what NPR’s Standards and Practices editor, Mark Memmott, calls “enhanced citizenship.” Any U.S. citizen has the right to vote, donate or march. But not everyone has the opportunity to work for a news organization that informs, educates, and improves civic dialog. If we do our job right, we’re getting people the information they need to make decisions about the issues of the day - and that in and of itself is “doing something” and making a difference every day.
POLITICAL ACTIVITY AND CONTRIBUTIONS
Journalists and news staff should not engage in any political activity, sign petitions, run for political office, volunteer for a campaign, make donations to campaigns or advocacy/lobbying organizations, engage in social media use for political purposes or otherwise advocate for a candidate or cause. In general, OFEs should follow the above guidelines, but may be allowed to be involved in local groups and even some non-partisan elected offices on a case-by-case basis (see above guidance about “Who is covered?”)
If at any time you believe an activity you’re involved in could affect people's perception of VPR as a non-partisan organization dedicated to the values of journalism, please inform your supervisor and/or a member of the Leadership Team.
On VPR premises, all employees should refrain from political activity that endorses or opposes a specific candidate, party or cause. This extends to all means of visible support or opposition, including signs or posters, clothing or hats, bumper stickers or signs in or on cars in the VPR parking lot, emails on VPR computers or through VPR servers, and the like. VPR employees’ work time and resources should not be used in furthering an employee’s personal political activities or interests.
Any employee who does engage in political activity (meaning they do not fall into the categories above) should not use his or her affiliation with VPR in any way that would be misleading or falsely create an impression of endorsement of any political position by VPR. Employees may not reference their affiliation with VPR or any of its programs in any public political statement. In any personal political activity, it must be clear that the employee is acting individually and not on behalf of VPR.
NPR answers questions about family members well, so we’ve adopted their language below:
"Some of our family members — including spouses, companions and children — may be involved in politics or advocacy. We are sensitive to the perception of bias. So we inform our supervisors and work with them to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest.
"NPR journalists recuse themselves from covering stories or events related to their family members’ political activities. We may go so far as to change job responsibilities (for instance, moving off the “politics desk” to an area of coverage well removed from that subject). “You have the right to marry anyone you want, but you don’t have the right to cover any beat you want” if the potential conflicts appear to be too great, as Tom Rosenstiel of Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism said to the Los Angeles Times."
EXERCISING YOUR RIGHTS
Alongside our roles as employees of VPR, we are all members of the public ourselves, with a stake in the future of our society and opinions about the direction it should take. Therefore, all employees can and should exercise our right to vote, and to contact our elected officials on individual matters about issues that affect our lives. Of course, we do not use our connection to VPR to try to influence elected officials.
To vote in a Vermont primary, you must declare which party’s ballot you want. If you are a journalist, news staff or OFE and want to vote in a primary it is fine to do so, but not to take any other actions to affiliate yourself with that party, such as making donations, displaying bumper stickers, etc.
RALLIES, MARCHES, VIGILS
Journalists, news staff and OFEs may attend marches, rallies and public events involving political issues or partisan causes that VPR covers or may cover, so long as they don’t participate. Of course, the distinction between being a participant and being an observer can be subtle. Waving a picket sign or joining along in a cheer would be inappropriate. Again, we rely on your good judgment.
Since the nature of each event differs, it’s wise to discuss these matters ahead of time with your supervisor to figure out where ethical pressure points may exist or emerge. If attending such an event as an observer, take care in behavior, comments, attire and physical location not to reflect a participatory role.
The question will be asked: “If I am not an OFE, can I attend and participate in this or any other ‘political’ march?” We can’t give an answer that would cover everyone and every eventuality. The best advice is to discuss it beforehand with your supervisor.
Staff are permitted to attend candlelight vigils, such as ones that pop up in support of a tragedy, but should refrain from wearing VPR branded items or being interviewed by other local media.
Vermont is filled with community groups and fundraising events. VPR is often asked to participate as an organization or to send a well-known host or reporter to participate. Even if not, employees may be inclined to participate on their own. We ask our journalists, news staff and OFEs to exercise caution before participating.
We are generally wary of supporting causes, in part because we don’t want to appear biased, and also because we’d likely have to cover those causes at some point. We’re also wary of charities. If we pick one over the other, what message does that send? That said, supporting cultural, educational or First Amendment-focused institutions is likely OK, but check with your supervisor to be sure. The same goes for showing even indirect support for providing food assistance or helping the homeless. Supporting a group with more partisan leanings isn’t appropriate. Again, check with your supervisor to be safe.
INTERNET AND SOCIAL MEDIA USE
We ask all employees to conduct themselves online just as they would in any other public setting as a VPR employee - with fairness, honesty and respect, and uphold the following principles:
- Exercise good judgment in what they say or express in online forums, keeping in mind that everything posted online is essentially public, even when privacy settings are in place. Good judgment means not posting inappropriate or politically-charged material, for example.
- Verify information before passing it along.
- Use of social media during work hours should be limited to professional use and reasonable, limited personal use, providing it does not interfere with work responsibilities.
If you are a journalist, news staff or OFE, keep in mind that what you tweet or post is going to be perceived as coming ‘from’ VPR. Tweet and post as if what you’re saying or passing along is information that you would put on the air or on VPR.net. If it needs context, attribution or clarification, provide it.
Even if you’re not posting overtly political things on social media, we know it’s tempting to like, favorite or comment on your friends’ political posts. Please exercise good judgment when it comes to this and assume that it holds the same weight as a post you write yourself.
OUTSIDE EMPLOYMENT, HONORARIA, TALENT FEES AND GIFTS
All employees of Vermont Public Radio should be familiar with VPR’s policies on outside employment, honoraria, talent fees and gifts, which can be found in the Employee Information Guide.
PERSONAL GAIN ASSOCIATED WITH VPR EMPLOYMENT
All employees should not use their position as a VPR staffer or VPR property to gain or attempt to gain anything of substantial value for private benefit.
All employees should not solicit or accept from any person or organization anything of value in exchange for express or implied understanding that their conduct of VPR business would be influenced thereby. Employees may not intentionally use or disclose confidential VPR information in any way that could result in the receipt of anything of value for themselves, their families or an organization with which the staff member is associated. Nominal gifts (such as coffee mugs, T-shirts and books) may be accepted as long as it does not impact any action or decision.
PUTTING THIS POLICY INTO PRACTICE
We will fulfill the high standard we owe the public if we hold true to our policies and principles. Doing so requires that we embrace complexity and continually think through difficult decisions. This policy is intended not only to serve as a guide, but also to provoke ongoing discussion and deliberation - the keys to any ethical decision-making process. It should both test and strengthen the moral compass that guides each of us in our work. It aims to foster a culture that compels and empowers us to exercise our consciences each day. We believe it is our shared responsibility to live up to these principles.
Portions of this policy have been adapted & lifted from NPR’s ethics policy, and informed by conversations with our colleagues at member stations.