The Ethics of MIT Technology Review
1. What We Do; How and Why We Do It
The mission of MIT Technology Review is to inform our readers and attendees at our events about important new technologies. We explain the business, economic, social, and political impact of these advances, describing how the technologies work and how they will change our lives.
Our main criterion in choosing what to write about (and how) is our judgment of what will best serve our audiences. To fulfill our mission, we make accuracy and independence our highest priorities. We do everything in our power to publish correct information; our coverage is independent of any corporate relationships, including our ownership by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), or any business arrangements, such as agreements with advertisers.
Our main satisfaction is excellence. We want to publish smart, authoritative, literate, originally reported journalism and useful information in a variety of beautifully designed media, both digital and print; we want to produce thought-provoking events that make that journalism live and breathe on stage and in videos; and we hope to provide the world an example of an innovative, commercially sustainable, digitally oriented, global media company.
2. Values and Biases
MIT Technology Review is a diverse community of writers and editors, designers and developers, events programmers and producers, advertising-sales and business staff, and freelancers and speakers. There are many international editions of MIT Technology Review, with their own staffs and editorial emphases (see 7, below). Tens of thousands regularly attend the events of the MIT Enterprise Forum, which we own. In all, every month, millions of people around the world read, watch, or contribute to our media and events.
We don't speak with one voice—but of course we share some values.
We are not uncritical boosters of new technology, recognizing that any technological revolution has losers as well winners; but we are disposed to think technology a powerful force for good. We believe that for any large, difficult problem, technology is at least part of the solution, and we're confident that new technologies grow prosperity and expand human possibilities.
3. Journalistic Practices
MIT Technology Review adheres to the traditional best practices of journalism. The guiding principles are based on our responsibility to the reader to produce accurate, fair, and independent editorial. This means, among other things, following the guidelines set by the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) for digital and print publications.
a. Sources. It also means adhering to conventional journalistic standards covering attribution and sourcing of information. Our standard practice is to gather information directly from those involved in creating, financing, and understanding new technologies. We work with these sources to ensure that our content is accurate and presented in its proper context.
In almost all cases, we properly and clearly identify our sources. Only in rare circumstances do we attribute information to unnamed sources, and only when there is a legitimate reason, such as protecting the safety of the source. Writers tell their editors the true identity of unnamed sources, except in extraordinary cases. We clearly explain to our readers why we are using an unnamed source.
In reporting stories with unattributed quotations, we would tell the unnamed sources that they were speaking to us “not for attribution.” If we tell sources they are speaking “off the record,” we mean that nothing we hear will be quoted, even without attribution. We always introduce ourselves as writers or editors for MIT Technology Review. Under no circumstances would we misrepresent ourselves in order to gain information.
b. Accuracy and balance. It is the responsibility of all our editors and writers to be accurate and honest. We rely on our professional experience, judgment, and knowledge, guided by our responsibility to help our readers understand a subject. We don't reflexively give equal weight to all sides of a discussion. In matters of controversy, we will report the arguments of both sides fairly; but our ethical obligation is not to please any interest or party to a debate, but to bear witness to the truth if we know it, or to delineate the terms of the controversy if the truth of the matter is genuinely in doubt.
c. Fact-checking and editing. MIT Technology Review 's features, reviews, and some infographic stories enjoy the thorough fact-checking and multiple edits traditional to magazine journalism. Directories, charts, graphs, and similar data-rich elements are also thoroughly fact-checked. News, news-analysis, opinions, and shorter stories receive the abbreviated fact-checking and editing common to news journalism. Our events cannot, practically, be fact-checked, although we invite only authoritative, responsible speakers. If we are told a speaker has been inaccurate, we correct the record.
d. Social media. MIT Technology Review 's editors and writers are encouraged to use social media as a way to communicate with our audiences, and also to respond directly to readers in the comments to stories. But they should bring to social media the same sense of fairness, honesty, and accuracy that guides their writing and editing. All posts on social networks are essentially public utterances: writers and editors should not compromise their professional credibility.
To preserve our independence, MIT Technology Review maintains strict rules guiding our professional conduct.
a. Gifts. Employees may not accept gifts of any kind, including samples from companies or products handed out at conferences and trade shows.
We solicit and receive electronic products to review; all such products are returned soon after the review is completed. Books, records, music, and software are treated like press releases. They can be kept by the person who reviews them or given away; they cannot be sold for personal profit. Any product reviews reflect our honest opinion of the product and are not affected by the willingness of the company to supply us with samples.
We are sometimes invited to conferences that are closed to the general public; on occasion, the invitations waive or discount the attendance fee as a press privilege. We go to such events and accept the discount when we think we will learn something useful to our audiences.
b. Reimbursements. Our writers, editors, and freelancers do not accept reimbursement for travel or other expenses from the companies we cover, or from public-relations firms or regional development agencies. If a writer, editor, or freelancer flies on a private or corporate plane, or accepts other, similarly funded travel, we repay our hosts the cost of the trip. Non-editorial employees sometimes travel at the expense of regional development agencies.
c. Freelancing. Employees are forbidden to do any freelance work that violates our independence, including providing consulting services to any companies that we cover. They may accept fees for speeches, but they cannot speak for pay to the companies we regularly cover. We ask freelance writers to divulge their business interests and do not knowingly hire writers with connections to the companies about which they write.
d. Investments. MIT Technology Review's editors, writers, or freelancers cannot directly own individual stocks or equities in companies we cover, nor may they sell such shares short. They may own shares in mutual funds that invest in the companies about which we write. If the spouse or partner of an editor, writer, or freelancer owned significant stock or equity in a company we cover, we would disclose the investment in a transparent way. These rules do not apply to non-editorial employees.
MIT Technology Review publishes three annual lists: 10 Breakthrough Technologies (formerly the TR10), which describes the year's ten most innovative emerging technologies; Innovators Under 35 (formerly the TR35), which celebrates thirty-five innovators under the age of thirty-five; and 50 Disruptive Companies (formerly the TR50), which names fifty most innovative companies in the world.
a. 10 Breakthrough Technologies. The editors of MIT Technology Review suggest candidates and may consult with experts. Senior editors, including the editor in chief, editor, and deputy editor, make the final selections.
b. Innovators Under 35. The public and the editors of MIT Technology Review suggest candidates. All candidates are evaluated on the same criteria, whether nominated internally or externally. Candidates are evaluated on the originality of their innovations and the impact they have had on the development of their technological field or on society as a whole. Letters from references and other supporting material are requested from a short list of candidates. These are sent to a panel of expert judges from academic and business backgrounds. The judges provide feedback on the merit of candidates, but senior editors, including the editor in chief, editor, and deputy editor, make the final selections.
c. 50 Disruptive Companies. The editors of MIT Technology Review suggest candidates. Editors may visit or receive briefings from companies seeking to be selected, but selections reflect our honest opinion of a company and are not affected by the willingness of the company to supply us with such access. Senior editors, including the editor in chief, editor, and deputy editor, make the final selections.
No technology, innovator, or company is nominated to any list, whether global or regional, for any reason other than merit. Selections are independent of any business arrangements, including agreements with advertisers.
These are global lists of technologies, people, and companies. The foreign editions of MIT Technology Review have their own regional lists of young innovators (explained below in 7b.)
MIT Technology Review follows the traditional practice of the publishing industry, enforcing a strict separation of “church and state” (editorial and advertisement). In accepting digital advertising, we follow the standards and guidelines of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). With print advertising, we are guided by the standards of ASME and the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA). At our events, we are careful to distinguish between our own programming and that of our sponsors (see 6b, below). Our international editions follow the equivalents of IAB and ASME in their respective regions.
a. Influence. This means that our advertising-sales and business development staff do not attempt to influence editorial coverage and refrain from suggesting to potential advertisers or their agencies that coverage can be purchased. As a business, we do consider whether the broad topics of special issues and reports will be attractive to advertisers or their agencies. The editor in chief, editor, deputy editor, and senior editors may speak or meet with potential advertisers or their agencies, but only to better explain the editorial mission of MIT Technology Review, and will at all times avoid creating the perception that editorial can be influenced by any business arrangements.
b. Transparency. Our publishing platforms, whether digital or print, have been designed to avoid confusion between editorial and advertising. Where there is ambiguity, anything sponsored or otherwise purchased in MIT Technology Review's media is labeled “advertisement.” Ads are positioned to avoid any misperception that they are endorsed by editorial. At our events, displays and speeches by sponsors are clearly and unambiguously described as purchased by the master of ceremonies.
7. International Editions
MIT Technology Review licenses its editorial and brand to independent publishers in China, India, Germany, Italy, Spain, Latin America, and various other regions around the world. We work with publishers that share our ethics and standards, although, inevitably, journalism practices and publishing industry norms vary from region to region.
a. Publications. The international editions of MIT Technology Review have their own digital publishing platforms and, in most cases, their own print publications. They translate our editorial to their local languages with limited changes, and they publish some new editorial of their own. We do not directly edit the international editions, but we check the editorial and terminate contracts with publishers who violate our terms.
b. Lists and events. The international editions have their own locally judged versions of the Innovators Under 35 (see 5, above). Their publishers follow the same process in selecting their lists as we do in choosing our Innovators Under 35, and an editor of MIT Technology Review has a final veto. Selections are independent of any business arrangements, including agreements with advertisers. These regional young innovators are sometimes promoted to the global Innovators Under 35. In addition, the Chinese, Indian, and Spanish publishers produce their own events under our brand.
8. Relationship to MIT
MIT Technology Review is a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit media company, wholly owned by MIT but editorially independent from it. Several members of our board of directors, including its chair, are senior officers of MIT. Our board provides financial oversight and corporate governance, and also offers strategic advice to the company's chief executive and senior staff. The complete list of the board can be found here.
MIT Technology Review is governed by the same integrity and commitment to excellence as other departments, labs, and centers at MIT. We benefit from the Institute's many resources, including easy access to its prominent faculty and researchers. At the same time, our coverage of technology is independent of MIT. We do not favor people or technologies simply because they are associated with the Institute. We are not part of the MIT's communications functions; it is not our job to promote its activities.
The exception to this last rule is MIT News, a supplement to MIT Technology Review: it is paid for by the alumni association and distributed to all the Institute's alumni and most of its students and faculty. Some of the stories in MIT News are written by reporters from the Institute's News Office, although the section's editor is a MIT Technology Review employee.
These guidelines are those of the U.S edition of MIT Technology Review. Our international editions may have different standards (see 7, above).