Updated February 16, 2016
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Introduction and purpose
The Pioneer Log is committed to pursuing the truth without sacrificing its integrity to special interests, favors or administrative pressure. The Log enjoys the freedom to publish content without prior approval from administrators and operates with funding from the Student Media Board Fee, giving it greater independence than that of papers at other private colleges.
With this freedom, however, comes 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 greatest concerns are these:
To voice student concerns
To seek the truth without bias
To give students the information they need to make informed decisions
To meet the highest standards of journalism ethics, the senior editors (managing editor and editor-in-chief) have modeled the Log’s code of ethics after that of the New York Times, the Daily Princetonian, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. We understand that our staff members must navigate unique 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 seem murky. We have clarified our position on these issues below.
We encourage readers to hold us to our standards, and give input into our ethical practices by contacting the Editor-in-Chief (email@example.com) or the Managing Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Protecting free speech
Though first amendment protections do not apply to students at private colleges, senior editors of the Log believe that to advance discussion at liberal arts schools, basic rights to free speech must apply in principle. We will work with administrators and other student leaders to ensure that college policies do not become “speech codes.”
Since the Pioneer Log began in 1947, administrators have respected its right to publish without fear of prior review or censorship. If administrators pressure the paper to remove or alter content before publication, the senior editors reserve the right to take necessary steps to defend the principles of free speech.
Honoring our readers
The Pioneer Log is a student-run newspaper serving the student body. While we encourage faculty, staff, parents and alumni to read the paper, all content should cater to current students and their interests. With every word and image in the Pioneer Log, staff members should seek to inform or entertain the student body.
In that spirit, we discourage extensive reporting unrelated to campus events and issues, as well as “top-down” stories like Op-Eds from high-ranking administrators, advertorials or press releases. Those items should only occasionally appear in the paper. Reporters should cover on-campus news first, then look for stories from the wider Portland area.
Separation of Departments
To maintain the newspaper’s freedom from financial ties, the business and editorial departments should operate independently. Reporters and editors should direct requests for advertisements or budget numbers to the business and advertising manager. The business/ad manager may discuss the layout and sizing of advertisements with staff members in the editorial department.
To avoid misleading our readers, we separate the news section from the opinion section, and mark each accordingly. We do not place news stories on the same page as columns or editorials.
Conflicts of Interest
Staff members cannot write about student clubs or organizations they are members of, or about other students with whom they have romantic or deeply personal involvement. Roommates, girlfriends, boyfriends and outside employers are all off-limits. Reporters must discuss potential conflicts of interest with senior editors as soon as possible. If a conflict of interest will harm the a reporter’s ability to fairly cover a story, the EIC will give the assignment to another staff member.
Reporters are entitled to vote in elections for offices of the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark. If reporting on presidential or cabinet elections, they cannot sign petitions, work at tabling events for candidates, or take any other actions that would give the appearance of supporting a particular candidate. Reporters covering ASLC meetings should not intervene in a way that would redirect the discussion at hand.
Reporters may not accept gifts, favors or fees in exchange for coverage. Exceptions include items below $25, or tickets and seats made regularly available to the press, such as front-row seats for an on-campus speaking event or concert tickets from promoters. Reporters must not use their position to obtain special items not normally offered to the public. Before accepting a gift or free tickets, reporters must notify a senior editor. In some cases, reporters may attend free lunches or accept small favors, but independence in financial and other matters, is our guiding principle.
Full quotations must reflect a source’s exact language. Staff members can edit quotes to remove false starts and verbal pauses, but must leave in grammatical errors and colloquialisms. “Ain’t” will not be changed to “isn’t,” for example, or “good” to “well.” Reporters should also minimize use of ellipses to omit significant portions of a quote, and only use brackets when absolutely required to maintain clarity.
Upon request, reporters may allow sources to review their quotes or excerpts from a story before publication, though this the reporter’s choice, and not the source’s privilege. If possible, reporters should read quotes over the phone instead of sending them through email, and should never submit an entire story for review by a source before publication. Sources may check for accuracy, but may not re-word their quotations. The Log reserves the right to reject changes suggested by sources. Reporters must keep their interview notes and recordings on file so that in the event of a conflict, senior editors can determine the accuracy of recorded statements.
The Log permits the use of anonymous sources under the following conditions:
The source has information that the reporter could not—after trying with all legal means—obtain anywhere else.
The source gives a legitimate reason for withholding their name, such as potential retaliation by administrators or their employer for disclosing confidential information.
The source does not use the promise of anonymity to indulge in personal attacks, spread rumors or promote a personal agenda. Sources who deliberately mislead readers sacrifice the protection of anonymity. That said, the Pioneer Log makes every effort to defend its sources from investigations by students or administrators, and at all costs avoids “burning” a source.
Before accepting information under the condition of anonymity, reporters must first establish with the source their reason for seeking protection and a method of attribution. More specific attributions are preferable: “A student,” for example, is less acceptable than “an ASLC senator.”
Only the EIC can approve the publication of information gleaned from anonymous sources. Except in extreme cases, the reporter should reveal the source to the EIC. In some situations, the EIC may need to seek legal counsel before granting approval.
In pursuit of a story, reporters must obey the law. The Log will not resort to bribes, intimidation or any other illegal means to gain information.
Interviews and events
Reporters must identify their affiliation with The Pioneer Log at the beginning of any interview and when speaking with the public at news events. This rule does not apply when the reporter is seeking information normally available to the public—attending an ASLC senate meeting or a public lecture, for example, or requesting public documents. Even when reporters do not wish to identify themselves, or when they are attending a private meeting as an employee or representative of another organization, when asked, they must never lie about their affiliation with the Pioneer Log.
The Log discourages its reporters from conducting email interviews, except when a source cannot be reached in person or over the phone. Reporters may use email to set up interview appointments, but whenever possible, should avoid using email to pose questions. Emails are prepared statements, and therefore less candid than phone or in-person conversations. Sources who refuse to speak to a reporter through any method except email will be noted as “declined to be interviewed.”
On the Record: anything said in a public meeting, hearing or speech. If someone identifies as a reporter at the beginning of an interview, all comments are on the record. An email is on the record if it is sent to a reporter by a person who can reasonably assume they are contacting a current staff member. Any documents attached to the email may also be published.
A source may use one of the following terms before making a statement, but may not change the status of comments after making them. The meanings of these terms differ among both journalists and sources, so the reporter must discuss terms in clear language with sources before accepting information under one of the following conditions.
Off the Record: The Log may not print the information. Reporters should use off-the-record remarks only as background information or to confirm facts gleaned from other sources. The Log discourages off-the-record comments, and whenever possible, reporters should push sources to go on the record with the same information.
Anonymity: Reporters may print the information, but cannot identify the source by name (see: “anonymous sources”).
“Not for attribution” and “On background”: The reporter can print the information, but cannot attribute it to anyone. If possible, information of this kind should be confirmed with at least one other source. Reporters must set terms with the source before taking this information and pressure the source to go on the record, or if that is not possible, to agree to the most specific level of attribution possible.
Reporters must be fair to their sources, and explain missing or incomplete information to the public. If a source is hard to reach—for example, studying overseas—the reporter may use “could not be reached for comment.” If a reporter contacted the source, but did not hear back before publication, they may write “did not respond to a request for comment.” Whenever possible, the Log prefers to inform its readers with specific information: “did not respond to a voicemail message after three days,” is preferable to “did not respond.”
A source may decline to give comment for publication, but their refusal will be noted in publication. “Declined to comment,” will suffice. The reporter must not impose value judgements on the source by using terms like “refused to respond,” or “angrily refused to comment.”
At the request of a source, the EIC may decide to delay a story’s publication date. We generally will not honor these requests unless we find the source’s reason for withholding the information from the public legitimate under journalistic standards.
Staff members should avoid sensationalism and seek all sides of the story. They should only use superlatives, such as “biggest,” “best,” and “greatest” when absolutely sure those terms apply.
Reporters must make every effort to contact anyone accused of wrongdoing and allow them to respond to accusations before publication. Columnists and editorial writers must avoid ad hominem attacks. Columnists are not obligated to contact subjects of their criticism before publication, but are encouraged to do so as a professional courtesy.
The Log prides itself on original content, and whenever possible, we avoid relying on other news sources for information. If we do use information first printed in another source, we give it full attribution.
Plagiarism, misrepresentation of the facts or the fabrication of a story are unacceptable. Senior editors investigate any accusations of these practices, and make the results of their search available to readers.
Photographs must provide an accurate and comprehensive representation of their subjects. Photographers and editors will not stage photographs or digitally manipulate them in a way that alters their meaning.
Photographers must avoid scenes staged by them, the subjects, or another party. Artistic direction is acceptable for portraits as long as the portrait is not presented as candid.
Photographers should also treat all subjects with respect. In a situation in which someone needs assistance and no one else is present, photographers have a responsibility to act rather than document. In all other situations, photographers must strive not to influence events they are photographing. Photographers should also follow national norms and laws regarding subject consent. In the United States, this means that the subject’s permission is required in private, but not public, places.
Photographers may make minor changes to their photographs, as long as they do not alter the meaning of the photograph. Acceptable corrections may include dodging and burning, global color correction, contrast control, and cropping. Any other changes are unacceptable for news stories and should be used rarely, if ever, in other sections. If a photograph is edited beyond the minor changes mentioned earlier, there must be a valid reason discussed with the Editor-in-Chief, and the photograph must be accompanied by a clear, large disclaimer.
Section editors should present photographs in a context that accurately reflects the subject and the information.
If a photograph meets ethical guidelines but presents an issue of taste, the decision of whether to publish the photograph should be based on whether the Lewis & Clark community needs to see the photograph to receive an accurate portrayal of the subject. If another photograph could present the same information offending readers’ taste, then this alternative photograph should be used.
If a photograph presents clear issues of ethics or taste, the following individuals should meet before publication to weigh the value of the information against the potential harm to subjects or audience: Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Photography Editor, Section Editor, and Photographer.
Criticism and Correction
When we make a mistake, we issue a prompt and straightforward correction. Reporters should forward all requests for corrections to the EIC, the student responsible for all content published in print and online. When facing criticism of their work, reporters must discuss the situation with the managing editor or EIC before responding. Reporters should not apologize to sources. The EIC carries the responsibility of determining the truth, apologizing and issuing corrections.
When we issue corrections, we make sure the correction appears as prominently as the mistake and in clear language. We correct mistakes as soon as we spot them, whether or not the errors have drawn the attention of the public.
Working as a Pioneer Log staff member
Staff members may work for the college or for competing media organizations, including public affairs and communications, the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark or any organization under the Student Media Board. Membership in these organizations is unavoidable at a small school with an active student body, but reporters must be aware of potential conflicts of interest. Reporters must disclose employment in any of the above organizations to senior editors, and may not work on stories that involve another employer.
The Daily Princetonian: http://dailyprincetonian.com/the-daily-princetonian-code-of-ethics/
The New York Times: http://www.nytco.com/wp-content/uploads/NYT_Ethical_Journalism_0904-1.pdf
The Los Angeles Times: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/readers/2007/07/los-angeles-tim.html
The Washington Post: http://asne.org/content.asp?pl=236&sl=19&contentid=335
National Press Photographers Association: https://nppa.org/code_of_ethics