The Staff members, Employees, and Directors of The Reflector Publications Society recognize the following ethical principles as mandatory in order that The Reflector be a reliable forum for the coverage of events and issues, and for the expression of ideas and opinions deemed relevant to the Society’s membership.
Accuracy is essential. Every error erodes the credibility of the newspaper.
Reporters and photographers are responsible for the accuracy of what they produce. Editors are responsible for the accuracy of any facts added to or deleted from a story, or for any changes made to a story. Headlines, at the discretion of the Publishing Editor, must accurately reflect the tone and content of a story. Editors are also expected to exercise a healthy skepticism in handling stories. If an article, photograph, or artwork holds the potential for legal action, the Section Editor must obtain the approval of the Publishing Editor prior to publication.
When rewrites are needed, special care must be taken to ensure the facts in the rewritten version are accurate, and that the tone correctly conveys the context from which those facts are reported.
Analysis and Opinion
The Reflector has a responsibility to its readership not only to provide fair and balanced coverage of events, but to put the news into perspective by explaining the significance of events.
Opinion pieces and any interpretive articles serve an important function in fulfilling The Reflector’s duty to inform.
However, care must be taken when opinions are offered on ongoing issues; commenting on events while they are unfolding could call into question the impartiality of The Reflector’s coverage.
Analysis or opinion pieces must be clearly identified so that the reader is aware they contain the writer’s views or interpretations rather than unbiased fact. Opinion must not be portrayed as statement of fact.
Every effort must be made to get all information and comments “on the record” and with attribution. If this is not possible, the Publishing Editor may approve the publication of information from unnamed sources. The decision whether or not to publish information from unnamed sources rests solely with the Publishing Editor, in consultation with the Managing Editor.
Unnamed sources must be credible and their information must be supported by at least one other source. Reporters must make an effort to learn as much as possible about the source’s motivation for providing information to ensure that s/he is reliable and not acting out of malice toward any individual or group. As much information as possible shall be used in the story to establish the credibility of the source without revealing her/his identity. It is essential that the reporter clearly identify whether information obtained from a source represents a substantiateable fact or that source’s opinion.
Sources must be made aware that newspaper staff could be forced by the courts to reveal their identity, so there is no guarantee of anonymity. If information is accepted “off the record”,,” the source must be advised that every effort will be made to obtain the information from another source, and that if it is confirmed, it will be published.
Under no circumstances will staff pay a source for information.
Conflict of Interest
No Editorial Staff member of The Reflector may hold any elected or appointed political office.
Under no circumstances shall a Staff member use information obtained through her/his association with The Reflector to her/his own advantage before it is disseminated to the public.
In the event that a member of The Reflector Staff becomes a part of a news story, s/he must immediately remove herself/himself from that assignment and report to the Publishing Editor the circumstances pertaining to this decision.
It is the duty of the newspaper to correct promptly, and with due prominence, significant inaccuracies or misleading statements or photographs. A written explanation of how the error occurred must be submitted to the Publishing Editor by the day following publication.
The Publishing Editor must approve all corrections before they are published.
Journalists should use straightforward means to obtain information. It is the reporter’s obligation to be honest when dealing with interview subjects and news sources, whether in person or by telephone. This necessitates advising the source at the outset of all interviews that s/he is speaking to a reporter and that her/his comments may appear, with attribution, in The Reflector.
Keeping Notes/Tape Recordings/ Photographs
A reporter’s notes may be needed as defense against charges of misquoting or libel. All notes must be kept for a minimum of 90 days in a secure place. If the Section Editor considers the notes to be of a particularly sensitive nature, or if the notes will be required for legal purposes, they must be submitted to and kept by the Managing Editor.
A reporter must not allow anyone outside of The Reflector Staff members and Employees to read her/his notes.
In the interest of accuracy, it is the duty of The Reflector reporters and photographers always to obtain exact addresses and telephone numbers of individuals who figure in an article.
Letters to the Editor
A concise statement of The Reflector’s policy on letters submitted for publication must appear in every issue.
Although the “letters to the editor” column is intended to be a public forum, and therefore to represent as many diverse opinions as possible, personal attacks or defamatory statements will not be published. Letters will be routinely edited, and will not be published unless the submitter offers identification including name, student ID number, and telephone number. The identity of a submitter may be withheld from publication upon request.
All libel notices served on The Reflector must be forwarded immediately to the Publishing Editor, who shall immediately notify the Managing Editor. Anyone receiving a libel notice should note the time and method of service and attach this information to the notice. The Publishing or Managing Editor will notify the Publications Board members, who will contact the Reflector Publications Society solicitors if deemed necessary.
Staff members should not discuss threats of libel actions. Such discussions or comments could seriously jeopardize The Reflector’s position in court. Any editor handling a libel threat should strive to obtain a clear understanding of the complaint and should not express any view on its merits.
All cartoons and/or comics offered for publication in The Reflector are subject to the Society Code of Ethics, Society ByLaws, and, for further clarification, the Editorial Policy.
All cartoons and/or comics must communicate something to the reader. They should be of interest to the majority of The Reflector’s readership and provide them with information and/or entertainment in a professional manner.
Care should be taken in the presentation of cartoons and/or comics that could appear to exploit gender, race, religion, handicaps, deformities, age, or sexual orientation.
All cartoons and/or comics offered for publication in The Reflector will be the responsibility of the Entertainment and News Editors.
Photographs must communicate something to the reader; they should be of interest to the majority of The Reflector’s readership and provide them with information and or entertainment in a professional manner.
Photographers are responsible for accuracy in the same manner as reporters are, because photographs (for example, words on placards) can also constitute libel. Photographers shall not capitalize on the misfortunes of others, nor shall they interfere with a person’s right to privacy.
Editors should be careful in their use of file photographs. Use of an old photograph of a person, building, or location without informing the reader of the age of the picture and/or changes that have occurred is inaccurate and unacceptable.
Care should be taken in the presentation of photographs that could appear to exploit gender, race, religion, handicaps, deformities, sexual orientation or age.
All questions that arise from viewing a photograph should be answered in the caption. It is the responsibility of the photographer to inform the editor of the situations s/he has captured. All principal subjects in photographs must be identified unless circumstances prevent the photographer from obtaining identification or unless the subject refuses to be identified. A photographer may identify subjects from a secondary source, but must ensure the accuracy of the identification.
Bylines and Photo Credits
Bylines must be used by all Staff members on every story or picture.
Reporters and photographers have the right, however, to withhold their bylines and credit stories if they feel their work has been substantially altered.
Ideas, phrases, or substantial passages that are not the writer’s own must be attributed in some way.
Previously published stories, or sections thereof, from The Reflector cannot be reproduced without additional research and new information added.
News is not copyrighted; the form in which it appears is. The Reflector takes other stories only if the facts are accurate, and only if proper attribution is provided.
Publishing material or making inquiries about the private lives of individuals without their consent is not acceptable.
The Reflector should not identify victims of sex offenses, or publish material likely to contribute to such identification.
The Reflector Staff members must respect the safety and privacy of sources, their families and property, and not divulge phone numbers or addresses without their permission.
Style and Language
Vivid, precise, and active writing should be the constant goal of reporters and editors. Straightforward writing with familiar words in simple construction ensures clarity, and writing should reflect the tone and significance of the story.
Stories can be bright, touching, inspiring and humorous without encroaching on the standards of impartiality, accuracy, and good taste. The Reflector discourages writers from using profane or tasteless language unless this imparts compelling significance to a story.