The Desk holds many of the same standards of practice and ethics of accurate and accountable journalism as its peers who cover the intersections of business, technology, media. Adhering to these principles has allowed The Desk to publish unrivaled and reliable news stories related to companies, products and services since the website launched in 2013.
Everyone at The Desk — from our publisher to our contributors — are expected to abide by the same set of standards of practice and ethics, which is critical to our editorial independence, our reputation and our trust with readers.
Our standards of practice are as follows:
1.) We do not accept anything of material value in exchange for favorable coverage.
This means we will not promise to review a company, a service or a product in a certain way in exchange for something of material value or future goodwill, and we exercise our independent discretion when it comes to whether to rate or review a company, product or service positively or negatively.
2.) We strive to be fair in all our reporting.
This requires an objective approach to newsgathering and reporting on companies, products and services. It does not mean we must offer “both sides” of a story, particularly if one side might misrepresent a topic or issue, but it does mean that our reporting should seek out as many perspectives as reasonable and possible.
3.) We thoroughly disclose our conflicts.
Our editorial contributors and employees are not prohibited from having financial positions (“owning stock) in the companies that they cover, but they are strongly discouraged from doing so. Contributors and employees must disclose any material ownership of or employment with a company at the time of a story’s publication, and must also disclose any nominal facts about that position or employment (i.e., if the contributor or employee sits on the board of a company that is covered).
4.) We do not make promises that we cannot guarantee, and we keep the promises that we do make.
From time to time, a company may send us an announcement regarding a future product, service, employee hiring or some other matter, when the condition that the information not be published until a certain day or time (also known as an “embargo”). We do accept embargoed news releases, and strive to ensure that the material is not published until the agreed upon date and time, though we reserve the right to publish the information earlier if the information becomes public beforehand.
That said, we don’t allow others to dictate our coverage of a company, product or service. We don’t promise favorable coverage in exchange for something of material value or future goodwill. And we don’t allow the subjects of our reporting to wholesale “preview” our articles, stories or columns prior to publication.
5.) We protect our confidential sources.
Like other publications, we rely on sources to provide us with accurate and reliable information to help further our newsgathering and reporting. We may, at our discretion, grant anonymity to sources in limited cases, and we will strive to protect those sources from disclosure. We typically only provide anonymity to sources when there is a high degree of likelihood that a source will face actual harm, retribution or other danger if their identity is disclosed.
The Desk operates in California (our parent, Solano Media LLC, is registered as a business). Our anonymous sources are protected by numerous state laws that affirm journalistic privilege, including the California Shield Law (Cal. Evid. Code § 1070) and the California Anti-SLAPP Law (Cal. C.C.P. § 425.16). Those laws are further recognized by the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes California, as legitimate defenses against source entrapment or revelation. We will vigorously defend our right to report and your right to confidentiality in court, should it come to that.
Please note that those legal protections only cover sources who provide The Desk with information or material that can be used in connection with our journalism; they do not extend to our business partners, readers, followers or advertisers. We also cannot provide our sources with direct legal counsel or representation.
6.) We do not pay for news tips.
Just as we accept nothing of material value in exchange for favorable reporting, we do not provide anything of material value in exchange for newsworthy information from sources (but we may pay for editorial contributions like photographs, video, columns and freelance stories in the form of a license), and we will not agree to provide anything of material value in exchange for information.
7.) Our conversations with sources are “on the record,” unless otherwise agreed to.
Sources who provide us with an interview or information should consider any statements to be “on the record,” in that they are reportable and attributable, without limitation. Any divergence from this — including “on background,” “not for attribution” and “off the record” — must be agreed upon by both the reporter and the source prior to any information exchange or interview — in other words, if you say it, we can report it, unless there’s a prior agreement otherwise. Impromptu assertions from sources that a statement is “on background” or “off the record” does not constitute an agreement.
We treat information obtained “on background” the same as information that is obtained from an “off the record” conversation. Typically, we will only agree to receive information “on background” or “off the record” if it helps us better learn about a company, product or service in a way that prevents a material omission or error in our reporting. We reserve the right to ask a source if we can report some information from an “on background” or “off the record” conversation in a limited capacity; the source reserves the right to accept or decline this offer.
8.) Our business model is separate from our editorial mission.
The Desk is free to access by readers around the world, across a wide variety of devices, including computers, smartphones, tablets and e-readers. To help offset costs associated with newsgathering and reporting (including licensing, server costs and other expenses), the website uses a mixture of advertising and affiliate links to generate revenue.
The Desk earns a commission from goods and services that are purchased by readers using affiliate links found in some articles, columns and reviews. It costs readers nothing to use these links, and it helps keep The Desk free to access and read now and in the future. Additionally, The Desk uses display advertising networks and related services that help generate supplemental revenue. (At the moment, The Desk does not accept advertisements in the form of sponsored content.) Readers who use ad-blocking technology can support The Desk through a one-time or recurring donation.
Our advertising and affiliate revenue partners do not dictate our editorial coverage, and no consideration is given to advertisers or affiliate partners in terms of the stories pursued and reported by The Desk. We reserve the right to terminate an affiliation agreement, or prevent an advertiser from promoting their company, product or service through our advertising network or service, at any time.
Our editorial style
Due to its ever-changing nature, we do not adhere to Associated Press Style, but have franchised some of its core principles. Additionally, our writing employs several unique conventions, which are found throughout our written article and other works:
- We spell out the word “percent,” instead of using the symbol, to ensure our written content is fully accessible (i.e., to those who use screen readers or similar software for the visually-impaired, etc.)
- We make exceptions for information presented as part of a table, database or list, in which case the symbol is preferred.
- We spell out the word “plus,” instead of using the symbol, to ensure our written content is fully accessible. Additionally, we add a space between the word “plus” and the preceding word, and capitalize the word “Plus” if it is part of a brand.
- We reference Disney’s streaming services as “Disney Plus” and “ESPN Plus.”
- We reference Vizio’s free streaming television service as “WatchFree Plus.”
- We reference Verizon’s streaming marketplace as “Verizon Plus-Play.”
- When referring to a broadcast station, we avoid using the station’s on-air branding. Instead, on first reference, we write out the station’s licensed call letters, followed by the channel number (except if the station’s call letters are mentioned in the first paragraph of an article, in which case only the call letters are reference, and the channel number is included on second reference).
- We reference “Action News 37” as “KQPQ (Channel 37).”
- For radio stations, we write “KQZP (94.5 FM).”
- In cases where the station’s virtual channel number differs from the number of its assigned frequency, we use the virtual channel number.
- For TV stations with major network affiliation or ownership, we refer to the network immediately after the channel number, if the network is not earlier referenced in the article. For example, “KQQZ (Channel 71, Fox).”
- For radio stations that simulcast on both AM and FM frequencies, we include the AM frequency first, then the FM frequency. We write, “KZQP (1400 AM, 105.7 FM).”
- For television stations, we only use the word “affiliate” when the broadcast outlet is not owned by the network. We refer to network owned-and-operated broadcast outlets as “stations.”
- KPIX (Channel 5) is a CBS station, while KPHO (Channel 5) is a CBS affiliate.
- Some articles in our archive pre-date certain financial transactions, and may reference affiliates that are now stations, and vice versa. We typically do not update these articles, as they were correct when they were first published.
- We typically only write out a brand or company name in all capital letters if the brand or name is an initialism.
- We write “ABC” when referring to the network, because it is an initialism (American Broadcasting Company).
- We write “Vizio” when referring to the electronics company, even though the company’s preferred branding is to have the name in all capital letters.
- We may truncate a brand or company name into an initialism, even if the initialism is not used by the brand itself or otherwise widely accepted.
- When referring to Warner Bros Discovery, we truncate the name of the company to “WBD” on all but first reference. (In the case of that specific company, we also do not include the full stop at the end of “Bros,” even though it is an abbreviation, because it can be viewed by some readers as the end of a sentence.)
- When referring to government officials, including politicians, we avoid referencing their political party affiliation. While the typical convention among news organizations is to reference a politician’s represented state and party affiliation, we feel the divisive nature of politics can unduly influence readers to form uninformed opinions about a representative’s action, plans or beliefs based solely on their party affiliation. We believe information and perspective should take center stage in all of our work, and that, in most cases, references to political parties can inhibit this mission.
- For political figures and other elected officials, we refer to their represented state, if it is germane to their position. (Example: We refer to an elected official’s state when they are a Member of Congress, but not a county judge.)
- We do not avoid references to political ideologies entirely. For instance, some television channels are referenced as “conservative,” “right-of-center” or “progressive” when it is reflected in their programming (or when the network itself affirms it). However, we avoid labeling a channel as “Republican” or “Democrat,” and avoid using terms like “Liberal” or “Right-Wing,” which could be viewed as disparaging.
Readers or sources who have questions about our standards of practice, our ethics or our editorial style can send us a message here.