ASHPE's Preferred Editorial Practice Guidelines
These guidelines are offered to assist our industry members in maintaining the highest level of professional conduct in regard to the policies, practices and ethical standards adhered to by healthcare publication editors.
The Preferred Editorial Practice Guidelines apply equally to all print, media and electronic publications.
Editors should be aware of the trust, confidence and responsibility given them by their readers in the healthcare sector. It is imperative that they avoid any practice that would have a negative impact on the credibility and integrity of themselves and/or their publications.
Editors and contributing writers employed by healthcare publications should:
- Accept as their primary motivation and responsibility the selection of editorial content based upon the needs and interests of their readers.
- Control all editorial content of the publications.
- Avoid all conflicts of interest as well as any potential perceptions of such conflicts.
- Maintain honesty, integrity, accuracy, thoroughness and fairness in the writing and presentation (including headlines, decks and graphics) of articles and all associated elements.
- Show distinction between articles, editorials, columns and any opinion or advocacy content.
- Provide attribution of sources, quotes and published technical information published word-for-word in editorial material. Plagiarism, in any part, is unacceptable.
- Maintain a clear distinction between editorial and advertising content in their publications. Editors have an obligation to their readers to identify what content has been purchased and/or sponsored versus what is independent editorial material.
- All paid/purchased content (e.g., advertorial articles and sections in print, or online pages) that might be confused with independent editorial material should be labeled as advertising.
- Maintain an appropriate professional distance from the direct preparation of special advertising sections, supplements or other advertising-directed content.
Contacts from outside sources on editorial matters should be addressed directly to editors, not through or to anyone else on the publication staff.
Proposed articles, comments, suggestions or complaints should at all times be evaluated independently by the editorial department of a publication, which should reach decisions based solely on editorial considerations. Any alternative procedure creates the risk of bias and allegations of bias, and threatens the integrity of the editor and the publication.
Editors should never solicit or undertake outside employment or enter into any paid or unpaid association with advertisers, editorial information sources, or readers that could result in a potential conflict of interest.
Editors should not undertake any outside or freelance work that:
- is what an editor properly owes his/her own publication (e.g., accepting a non-bylined or "ghost written" assignment on a subject that would be a logical addition for his/her own publication's content).
- is done for the public relations department of a company, or a public relations agency, for use as the product of that specific department or agency.
- is done for a competitor of his/her own publication.
As a general rule, editors should not accept payment (or reimbursement) of travel expenses incurred while performing editorial duties from any source other than their own publishing organization. There are two exceptions: In group press affairs, presentations and other events involving representatives from several publications, editors may accept transportation and whatever accommodations are arranged by the host organization. Secondly, since many editors are expected to speak as authorities within markets served by their publication, they may accept honorariums of nominal value when traveling to fulfill speaking engagements for that purpose.
Gifts can be a source of embarrassment to the editor and the publication receiving them. To be totally safe, editors should discourage such practice.
As a standard rule of thumb, editors should not accept gifts from editorial information sources or advertisers, their agencies or public relations organizations.
However, as in most fields, business gifts are an established practice and are difficult to avoid. Here are some standard recommended guidelines:
- Money or lavish gifts sent to a single recipient or a very select, small group of individuals are not acceptable.
- Modest gifts sent to a large number of recipients are generally acceptable.
- Modest souvenir-type gifts, such as those given to attendees at a press affair, are acceptable.
- Acceptance of even modest gifts sent to an individual is highly questionable, but the decision rests with the individual editor and/or publication.
- Editors may accept meals and/or refreshments offered in the process of conducting business on behalf of their publication.
Relationships with Advertisers
Selection of editorial topics, treatment of issues, interpretation, and other editorial decisions should not, at any time and under any circumstances, be determined by advertisers, advertising agencies, public relations departments or agencies.
Editors should never permit advertisers to review articles prior to publication. This clearly differs from the generally accepted practice of allowing reviews of articles by individuals or knowledgeable sources involved or working with editors in the preparation of a specific article.
Advertisers and potential advertisers should never receive favorable editorial treatment because of their advertising investment in a publication. Along the same lines, non-advertisers should not receive unfavorable editorial treatment or be excluded from editorial mention or content because they do not advertise in a publication.
Joint Editorial/Advertising Efforts
Joint calls made by editors and their advertising sales people are standard practice with most publications. However, the calls should adhere to the following preferred guidelines:
- Under no circumstances should sales of advertising space be solicited by an editor during the call.
- When an editor accompanies his/her advertising people on a call, he/she does so to discuss, explain, or interpret editorial activity or policies.
- When an editor accompanies sales personnel on visits to advertisers, potential advertisers or their advertising agencies, it is acceptable for the editor to discuss editorial material and collect information for specific or future editorial projects.
- Joint calls should not be made to answer or discuss complaints on editorial matters. If, during the call, complaints do arise regarding any editorial matter, they should be handled solely and directly by the editor.
These guidelines are not to be reproduced or published without the expressed written consent of ASHPE management.