Resource Guide for Local and Niche Sites: Legal & Ethics

One of the goals of the New Business Models for News Project is to help local sites grow into sustainable operations. Toward that end, we’ve identified some of the best sources of information about a variety of legal and ethics topics relevant to running a small website.

MORE: Business, Editorial, Technology sections. Back to Resource Guide Home Page.

The resource guide was compiled by Jordan Shakeshaft and Alex Abad-Santos. Funded under grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism.


• If you’re operating a local site, it would be prudent to familiarize yourself with the “Top 10 Rules for Limiting Legal Risk” from the Knight Community News Network.

• Create a disclosure policy for your site. (Even if you think you have nothing to disclose.)

• The Electronic Frontier Foundation has produced a legal guide for bloggers.

• It’s likely that no company has dealt with as many copyright complaints over the past few years as YouTube. As a result, they’ve produced a comprehensive resource section that provides a wealth of information about copyright issues. In addition, their “Copyright Workshop” is a useful training tool.

• The FTC has a host of rules and regulations pertaining to advertising and endorsements. If their bureaucratese puts you to sleep, check out their video.

• If you hire freelancers or developers, you’ll need to deal with contracts. And here’s more on legal issues regarding freelance writers.


• Here’s the essential guide to ethics for local site operators: Rules of the Road: Navigating the New Ethics of Local Journalism, written by Scott Rosenberg and commissioned by the J-Lab. Covering a host of topics, including privacy, social media, comments, community contributions, advertising, police reports and more, the guide also invites site operators to contribute their own ethical dilemmas.

• The American Society of News Editors provides links to newsroom ethics policies from media companies across the U.S, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times.

• Consult Reuters’ Handbook of Journalism for their code of conduct, in addition to guidelines on their fundamental standards and values.

• The Society of Professional Journalists has a wide-ranging code of ethics that “is intended not as a set of ‘rules’ but as a resource for ethical decision-making.”

• The news values and principles of the Associated Press, one of the leading global news networks, are worth a read.

The Online Journalism Review asks (and answers) “What are the ethics of online journalism?”