Code of Ethics

Updated August 20, 2019

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Introduction and Purpose

The Pioneer Log pursues the truth without compromising its integrity to special interests, personal favors or administrative pressure. This newspaper enjoys the freedom to publish content without fear of prior review or censorship by Lewis & Clark College administrators, funded by the Student Media Fee and advertising revenue. The unique relationship between Lewis & Clark College and The Pioneer Log gives the newspaper greater independence than that of publications at many other private colleges.

With this freedom comes increased responsibility to our readers. To properly inform the Lewis & Clark student body, The Pioneer Log holds its staff to the highest standards of ethical conduct. Our most important duties are voicing student concerns, seeking the truth without bias and providing readers with the information necessary to make informed decisions.

To meet the highest standards of ethics, the editor-in-chief and managing editor have modeled The Pioneer Log’s Code of Ethics after those of The New York Times, The Daily Princetonian, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and the National Press Photographers Association. We understand that our journalists navigate ethical dilemmas that arise from their dual roles as students and reporters, and that at a small private college, standards for dealing with media often are complicated. We have clarified our position on these issues below.

We encourage readers to hold us to our standards and provide input on our ethical practices. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Editor-in-Chief Hanna Merzbach (hannamerzbach@lclark.edu) or Managing Editor Nicholas Nerli (nicnerli@lclark.edu).

Protecting Free Speech

Though Amendment I protections do not entirely apply to students at private institutions, The Pioneer Log believes that to advance discussion at liberal arts colleges, basic free speech rights must apply in principle. We work with administrators and community leaders to ensure that campus policies do not infringe upon these basic rights.

Since 1947, when The Pioneer Log was founded, administrators have respected our right to publish without fear of prior review or censorship. If administrators or other community members pressure student journalists to remove or alter content before publication, the editor-in-chief and managing editor reserve the right to defend principles of free speech with any necessary action.

Honoring Our Readers

The Pioneer Log is a student-run newspaper serving the Lewis & Clark College community. While there is a faculty advisor that provides guidance and clarity when needed, The Pioneer Log is run under the leadership of the editor-in-chief and managing editor.

Though we cover all stories pertinent to our readership, we encourage primary coverage of Lewis & Clark College and the Portland–Vancouver–Hillsboro Metropolitan Statistical Area. However, if a community member or student journalist believes a story outside of this geographical area should be covered, they should approach the relevant section editor, managing editor and editor-in-chief.

Separation of Departments

To maintain The Pioneer Log’s freedom from financial ties, the business and editorial departments operate independently. Section editors and contributors should direct all questions and concerns regarding advertisements and the operating budget to the business manager. The business manager should, in turn, communicate with editorial staff on relevant advertisement and budget information without compromising the integrity of a story. The editor-in-chief and managing editor reserve the right to be briefed on advertisement and budget issues, organize fundraising campaigns and advise on issues of revenue, debt and profit. The business manager will not conduct major budgetary actions without informing and seeking advisement from the editor-in-chief and managing editor.

To avoid misleading our readers, the News section and Opinions section are marked accordingly. News stories are not placed on the same page as opinion columns or editorials. 

Section editors possess journalistic autonomy of their own respective sections, working with the editor-in-chief, managing editor, visual editors and contributors to produce content. Section editors may not interfere in the management of other sections. If a section editor has questions or concerns about the behavior of other editorial staff, they should speak with the editor-in-chief and managing editor.

Conflicts of Interest

Staff members may not report on campus clubs or organizations of which they are members, and may not write articles involving persons with whom they have romantic or deeply personal relationships. Roommates, romantic partners, personal friends and outside employers are forbidden from being sources or subjects in a story. Staff members must report potential conflicts of interest with the editor-in-chief and managing editor. If a conflict of interest will jeopardize a staff member’s ability to fairly and accurately report on a story, the editor-in-chief and managing editor reserve the right to assign the story to a different staff member.

Staff members are entitled to vote in all elections, be they for offices of the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) or for local, state and federal offices. When reporting on ASLC elections, staff members may not sign petitions, campaign for specific candidates or participate in events that would endanger impartial coverage. In the event that The Pioneer Log is reporting on a local, state or federal election, these rules also apply.

If covering ASLC meetings, faculty meetings or any other forum where policy debate occurs, staff members may not intervene in a manner that redirects the discussion at hand. At academic symposia, conferences and events, reporters are discouraged from participating in debate, with the exception of asking clarifying questions. Instead, cover the conversations led by participants and audience members.

Staff members may not accept gifts, favors or monetary benefits in exchange for media coverage. Exceptions include offerings extended broadly to the general public or press, including front-row seats for a speaking event and concert tickets given by promoters. Staff members must not use their position to obtain gifts, favors or monetary benefits not normally offered to the general public or press. Before accepting any offering, staff members must notify the editor-in-chief and managing editor. Special circumstances may require staff members to accept unique offerings, such as free meals or transportation costs, each of which must be approved by the editor-in-chief and managing editor. Financial independence is always a guiding principle of The Pioneer Log.

Sourcing

Full quotations must reflect the intent and essence of a source’s comments to a staff member. Writers may make edits that enhance readability, such as removing false starts and verbal pauses, but they may never make changes that alter the meaning of a quote. Writers should minimize use of ellipses to omit significant portions of a quote and may use parentheses only when absolutely required to maintain clarity.

The Pioneer Log does not allow sources or subjects to review their quotes before publication. Exceptions to this rule occur only in the most technical and sensitive situations, and all prior review must be approved by the editor-in-chief and managing editor. When a staff member finds it necessary to review direct quotes with a source or subject, they should, whenever possible, communicate over the phone instead of through email. Sources and subjects may check for accuracy but may not alter their original quotes. Writers and editors must never submit an entire story for prior review by a source or subject before publication. This practice holds sources and subjects accountable to the public by discouraging self-editing and canned statements.

The Pioneer Log reserves the right to reject editorial changes suggested by sources. Reporters must keep all interview notes and recordings on file. In the event of a conflict, the editor-in-chief and managing editor will resolve disputes and determine accuracy using these records.

The Pioneer Log aims to be as transparent as possible, committing to the highest levels of credibility. We owe this to our readers. That said, The Pioneer Log permits the use of anonymous sources under the following conditions:

  1. The source is reliable and reasonably has direct knowledge of the information.
  2. The source has factual information, not opinion or speculation, that is critical to a story.
  3. The source has information that a reporter could not obtain any other way, within the realm of all legal options.
  4. The source provides a legitimate reason for their anonymity, such as potential retaliation by administrators, employers or other authoritative community members.
  5. The source will not use the promise of anonymity to indulge in personal attacks, spread rumors or promote a personal agenda.

Before accepting information under the condition of anonymity, reporters must first establish with a source their reason for seeking protection and a method of attribution. Specific attributions are preferred. For example, “a student” is less acceptable than “an ASLC senator.”

Only the editor-in-chief, with advisement from the managing editor and relevant section editors,  may approve the publication of information obtained from anonymous sources. A reporter should always reveal the identity of an anonymous source to the editor-in-chief and managing editor, unless there are extreme circumstances. In some instances, the editor-in-chief and managing editor may need to seek legal counsel before granting anonymity. The Pioneer Log always takes every possible step to protect sources from investigations or retaliatory actions, at all costs avoiding the “burning” of a source.

Staff members must always obey the law when pursuing a story. The Pioneer Log does not submit to bribes, intimidation or any other illegal means to obtain information.

Interviews and Events

Staff members must identify their affiliation with The Pioneer Log at the start of any interview and when speaking with the public at media events. This rule is not applicable when a staff member seeks information normally available to the public, such as when attending an ASLC Senate meeting or a public lecture, or when requesting public documents. Staff members must never lie about their affiliation with The Pioneer Log. When attending private and personal events, you must honestly identify yourself as a staff member when asked, even if you would prefer not to.

The Pioneer Log heavily discourages its staff members from conducting email interviews, except when a source cannot be reached in person or over the phone. Staff members may use email to schedule interviews but should avoid using email to pose questions. If a source requests sample questions before an interview, inform them that The Pioneer Log does not provide questions in advance to avoid prepared remarks in its reporting. Likewise, email interviews allow for prepared statements and are less preferred. If a source refuses to provide information in a medium other than email, the reporter should contact the editor-in-chief and managing editor.

The Pioneer Log understands that “on the record,” “off the record,” “background” and “deep background” often carry differing definitions. Before an interview, staff members must discuss these terms with sources and determine what can and cannot be published. Sources must state that information is “off the record” before speaking; in other words, sources may not recant quotes by declaring them “off the record” after they have been recorded. The Pioneer Log’s definitions of the above terms are as follows:

    • On the Record: The information can be published without restrictions, identifying the source by name. Anything spoken during public meetings, hearings or speeches are “on the record.” If a staff member identifies themself as a reporter before an interview, all comments are “on the record” unless stated beforehand. An email is “on the record” if it is sent to a staff member by a person reasonably assumed to be contacting a reporter. All contents of these emails, including attachments, are also “on the record.”
  • Off the Record: This information cannot be printed. Staff members should use “off the record” comments only as background information or to confirm facts obtained from other sources. The Pioneer Log discourages “off the record” remarks, and whenever possible, staff members should encourage sources to go “on the record.”
  • Background: The information can be published under conditions negotiated with the source. Often, sources do not want their names attributed to certain information. In these cases, agree on a specific description to accompany a quote (ex. “a senior administrator” or “a faculty member of the history department”).
  • Deep Background (Not for Attribution): The information can be used without any attribution. The source aims for their information to be public but do not want any identification, even under anonymity. Whenever possible, attempt to obtain “deep background” information from another source and print it “on the record.” Always encourage “deep background” sources to go “on the record.”

Staff members must always treat sources professionally and act as fairly as possible. At the same time, missing or incomplete information must be explained to the public. If, after all reasonable attempts, a source cannot be contacted, writers may use “could not be reached for comment.” If a reporter contacted a source but did not receive a response, they may publish using “did not respond to a request for comment.” The Pioneer Log aims to inform its readers with specific information, so “did not respond to a voicemail message after three days” is preferable to “did not respond.”

A source may decline to comment “on the record,” but their refusal will be noted in publication. In these cases, “declined to comment” is appropriate. A writer must not impose judgement on a source by using terms like “refused to respond” or “angrily denied providing information.”

Writing Stories

At the request of a source, the editor-in-chief may decide to delay a story’s publication date. These requests are honored only if the source’s reason for withholding information from the public are legitimate under journalistic standards.

Writers should avoid sensationalism and pursue all sides of a story. Superlatives must never be used unless they are factually accurate.

Reporters must make every reasonable effort to contact persons accused of wrongdoing, allowing them to respond to accusations before publication. Opinion writers, columnists and editorialists must avoid ad hominem attacks. Writers of opinion articles are not required to contact subjects of their criticism before publication but are encouraged to do so as a professional courtesy.

The Pioneer Log prides itself on original content, and whenever possible, writers avoid relying on other news sources for information. If an article does contain information first printed in another source, full attribution is given.

Plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and fabrication of a story are unacceptable practices. The editor-in-chief and managing editor investigate any accusations of these actions and issue statements of their findings to readers. Staff members who plagiarize, misrepresent facts or fabricate stories are subject to punishment determined by the editor-in-chief and managing editor.

Photojournalism Ethics

Photographs must provide an accurate and comprehensive representation of their subjects. Photographers and editors must not stage photographs or digitally manipulate them in a manner that alters their meaning.

Photographers must avoid scenes staged by themselves, story subjects or other parties. Artistic direction is acceptable for portraits unless the photograph is presented as candid.

Photographers must treat all subjects with respect. In situations where someone needs immediate assistance and no one else is present, photographers have a responsibility to act rather than document. In all other situations, photographers must strive to present events factually without influencing or altering activity. Photographers must also follow national norms and laws regarding subject consent. In the United States, a subject’s permission is required in private settings but not in public places.

Photographers may make minor changes to their photographs, so long as they do not alter the meaning of the photograph. Acceptable edits include dodging and burning, global color correction, contrast control and cropping. Any other changes are unacceptable for news stories and should be rarely employed in other sections. If a photograph is edited beyond the minor changes mentioned above, there must be an extreme reason approved by the editor-in-chief and it must be accompanied by a large, explanatory disclaimer.

If a photograph meets all ethical guidelines but presents an issue of taste, the editor-in-chief and managing editor will decide whether it will be published. This decision will be based on whether the Lewis & Clark community needs to view the photograph to receive an accurate portrayal of the subject. If a different photograph could present the same information without offending readers, this alternative photograph should be used.

If a photograph presents clear issues of ethics or taste, the editor-in-chief, managing editor, photography editor, relevant section editor and photographer must meet to weigh the value of the visual information against potential harm to subjects and readers.

Criticism and Corrections

When The Pioneer Log makes a mistake, its editor-in-chief and managing editor issue a prompt and straightforward correction. Staff members should forward all requests for corrections to the editor-in-chief. When criticism for their work is received, staff members must discuss the situation with the editor-in-chief and managing editor before responding. Staff members should not apologize to sources. Instead, the editor-in-chief maintains the responsibility of determining the truth, apologizing and issuing corrections.

All corrections must be presented clearly and prominently. The editor-in-chief and managing editor correct mistakes as soon as they are spotted, whether or not the errors have yet drawn the attention of the public.

Employment with The Pioneer Log

Staff members may work for Lewis & Clark College and other media organizations, including Public Affairs and Communications, ASLC or any other organization funded by the Student Media Fee. Competing membership between organizations is unavoidable at small institutions, but staff members must report potential conflicts of interest to the editor-in-chief and managing editor. Staff members may not work on stories that involve other employers.

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