The Fresno Documenters program trains and pays community members to document local government meetings.

Documenters play an important role in our local democracy and information ecosystem. Many of the meetings that Documenters record are rarely attended by members of the public, and especially journalists. The public record for these meetings is often sparse. 

The work of Documenters is therefore to create a fact-based, comprehensive record of public meetings, that includes the perspectives of the community, which often get left out of official meeting minutes.

The work that Documenters create is often used as the basis for news reporting and is increasingly the only source of information that some people have of public meetings in their communities. It is important that the diversity of people that live in the central San Joaquin Valley consider Documenters’ work as reliable, trustworthy, and accurate.

At Fresnoland, we look to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics to guide our conduct. Documenters are not professional journalists, but there are some ethical guidelines we expect community members to observe while working in this capacity.

“Recognize a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government. Seek to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.”  

To that end, we expect Documenters to hold themselves accountable to the following standards:

Conflicts of Interest

  • Documenters cannot hold any elected or appointed public office.
  • Documenters cannot work for a public agency that they cover.
  • Documenters are discouraged from publicly endorsing specific candidates or ballot measures in the jurisdiction they cover.
  • If Documenters are involved in community organizing or advocacy, they should avoid covering meetings related to their topic of advocacy.
  • Consider any personal conflicts of interest before taking on an assignment – such as personally benefiting from a contract awarded at a meeting.

Corrections and Accuracy

  • Always attribute, and never plagiarize.
  • Take care to verify information, data, and quotes as much as possible.
  • If a mistake is pointed out, be sure to correct it immediately.
  • Provide as much information about speakers and the public as possible.

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I created Fresnoland so we can make policy public for everyone.