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Ethics Code


Preamble: Being Ethical in the Travel Writing World

In this modern age, where photographs are easily manipulated and travel writers are pressured to compose less-than honest reviews in return for free hotel stays and plentiful drinks, it is hard to know if you can really trust what you are reading. At ITM, we want readers to know that they can trust everything they are reading.

Our goals are to prevent disrespectful and ignorant portrayals of people, nature and animals through the articles and multimedia published on our platform, as well as instill awareness in readers about how tourism can help or hinder the well-being of communities and ecosystems. Ultimately, we want to inspire a shift in the travel paradigm from frequenting corporate Americanized playgrounds to favoring locally-owned venues that provide meaningful and beneficial experiences for all parties involved. 

To help remind us of our commitment to truth and transparency, we have created a code of ethics to follow. 

Values and Guidelines

Immersion Travel Magazine is:

1. Honest

  • We share the whole experience. If there are mosquitos, we say so. If there are dangerous parts of town, we point them out. If tours didn't fit their descriptions, we explain why.

  • We are truthful in our interactions with others, from interviewing employees at travel venues to working with fellow content creators.

  • Honesty with oneself is incredibly important, especially when traveling. We do our best to step back from our own bias and see the world through different lenses. We also know our limits when traveling and investigating venues.

2. Professional

  • It is our duty to present work we are proud of. We believe in taking responsibility for our actions. 

  • We are prudent to decline all bribes, gifts, discounted services, or preferential treatment from any element of the travel industry, especially in return for positive reviews (including hotels, resorts, lodges, restaurants, tour operators, airlines, railways, cruise lines, rental car companies, tourist attractions, and others). This works both ways; we respect legal and ethical limits to methods of acquiring stories, such as refusing to trade personal or professional goods for services.

  • We strive to demonstrate compassion and care for other sentient beings (humans, animals and insects), as well as ecosystems and we show ultimate respect for local customs, beliefs, religions, laws, and points of view.

  • Negative reviews should be handled with care. While the truth about a particular place should not be understated or misleading in any way, writing a review based on a mood swing, hangover, unfortunate event or a single flaw is unprofessional. Reviews published on our platform must be written with open minds and open hearts, and we must be savvy enough to know the difference between a bad day in the kitchen and a systemic problem with the company.

3. Transparent

  • Everything we do is out in the open. Readers are not left wondering how our contributors obtained information. Our contributors conduct their work honestly.

4. Diligent

  • As our editing staff has a background in professional journalism, comprehensive research and extensive fact-checking is conducted before any article is published.

  • It is our duty to provide material readers will find useful, as well as new content that is surprising, thought-provoking and inspiring.

5. Courageous

  • We know that courage is not the absence of fear, but the strength to not let fear stop us from doing what needs to be done.

  • Our contributors try new things every day; they step outside their comfort zones, and they look through the lenses of other perspectives as often as possible.

6. Innovative

  • Each of us has a voice and the ability to foster new ideas and support each other’s right to be creative and spontaneous.

  • Even when something doesn't go as planned, we work to find new ways to provide content that our readers can trust.

7. Tenacious

  • Stories can be slippery and unwieldy. We owe it to our readers to get the facts for a great story and to not let it slip away from us.

  • If there are obstacles with culture, local law, logistics, or anything else, we do our best to work with them instead of against them. We enjoy finding new ways of telling stories that benefit all parties involved.

8. Thrifty

  • We take on the challenge of being creative when finding exciting activities that appeal to a variety of price ranges. Our readers come from myriad walks of life and deserve to see a selection of eco-friendly vacation options that fit every budget.

  • We endeavor to keep our carbon footprint small and our compassion footprint large. Our contributors walk, ride bikes, and take public transport whenever possible. They eat local, organic and compassionately produced foods that help promote social and environmental justice causes. 

Immersion Travel Magazine's Pledge of Truth in Media Photography

While enjoying Immersion Travel Magazine, you can believe what you see. Photos published on our platform depict the reality that our contributors witnessed and experienced. If we pose or “set up” a photo, it will be due to an instructional or illustrative purpose, as when a person is posing for a portrait or objects are arranged to illustrate an article on travel gear or food preparation. Captions will clear up any ambiguity pertaining to posed photographs. Otherwise, if it looks like a photo of an event or a moment that a photographer captured, then that’s exactly what it is.

Once a photo has been taken, it is processed in accordance with long-established photojournalistic rules that guarantee that what you see is what the photographer saw through the viewfinder. We do allow traditional techniques such as cropping (trimming around the edges), correcting color, improving contrast, and the like as long as it doesn’t mislead the viewer in any way. Excluding minor touch-ups of temporary imperfections that are distracting, such as noticeable blemishes or bruises from volley ball games, we do not add, delete, reposition or rearrange people or objects within the frames of our photos.

If we make exceptions to the policy detailed above, we will tell you what we did and why. Legitimate examples might include a photo of a wildlife preserve altered to illustrate how it would look if every visitor planted a tree in the next ten years, or an aerial photo shaded to reveal how many communities are positively affected by a nearby ecolodge. Disclosure of any such alteration will be explicitly explained in the caption.

With digital technology, it is easy to manipulate entirely fictional or partially fictional illustrations to look like photographs. We will avoid these techniques unless we are sure readers will immediately recognize the images as obviously implausible. An unambiguous label will also accompany the images such as a photo illustration or a digitally altered photo montage

We intend for this policy to assist us in our efforts to use new technologies to do a better job to inform, educate and enlighten readers. This is our pledge of integrity in visual journalism. 

Immersion Travel’s Policy on Photo Alterations

Photographs

All photo submissions must include the original raw images, as well as full disclosure as to the techniques used to take the image (colored filters, staging of scenes, extended exposure time, etc). Photos that don’t portray the reality of the scene as closely as possible will not be published.

Acceptable digital and dark room manipulations include: color correction, cropping (as long as it doesn’t mislead the audience), dodging and burning, improving contrast, and touching-up temporary imperfections such as noticeable blemishes, embarrassing bodily secretions, etc. These touch-ups are minor and are only used to eliminate distractions, as the audience should be focusing on the content. For instance, touching up a noticeable zit on a teenager’s nose is acceptable, but smoothing out the rest of the acne on his or her face is not.

While all photos will be edited according to the guidelines above, each one will be treated with individual and critical attention when decisions on alterations need to be made.

Photo Illustrations

The only time a photo illustration will be published is if it is obviously implausible to the general audience, instructive, and accompanied with an explicit description in the caption of what it is and why it was created. Even when an illustration is obviously implausible, it will have a disclosure. Photo illustrations are defined as: images designed to represent specific instructional paradigms and are not authentic depictions of real scenes.

What to consider when editing:

  1. Was the photo spontaneous or planned?

  2. Did the photographer shoot what they saw upon arriving on the location, or did they pose, place or rearrange elements?

  3. How significant are aspects of the scene or event that were ignored or overlooked by the photographer?

  4. If it’s a photo of people, did they know they were being photographed? Did they give permission or sign a model release form according to legal regulations?

  5. What was the subject’s relationship with the photographer?

  6. Did the subjects alter their behavior because of the camera? To what extent?

  7. Are they looking at the camera?

  8. Might the photographer’s gender, race or social standing have affected the taking of the photo: conscious or subconscious tastes, philosophies or agendas?

  9. What was the effect of commercial considerations?