Ethics, policies and best practices
A general ethics guideline: why we have it, how we practice it
The Minnesota Daily’s commitment to fairness and accuracy, transparency and accountability, and to serving the community’s right to know necessitates all editorial staff maintain a strong commitment to journalistic ethics.
This guide is meant to serve as a framework for decision making, not a list of steadfast rules. Ethics is a system of practice. Because ethical situations arise on a case-by-case basis, they should be treated as such, while maintaining a commitment to guiding principles.
These guidelines serve as a living document that can be altered by the editor-in-chief as necessary. However, it is the responsibility of the editor-in-chief to make decisions in conjunction with not only the values of the organization, but the opinions of the staff, as their voices are essential to both the construction and the implementation of this document.
These guidelines apply to all members of the Daily’s editorial staff, including those who are on leave and freelancers.
All ethical guidelines should adhere to the Daily’s mission:
1. Provide independent student journalism and comprehensive coverage of news, media and events that serve the public interest and inform the University of Minnesota community.
2. Offer a forum for the free exchange of ideas and civil debate for the members of the University community.
3. Train University students to professional standards, teach best practices and operate an ethical organization in all areas of journalism and the media industry.
4. Operate a fiscally-responsible organization that ensures its viability as an independent student media company that continually serves the University community.
Only public allegations that have a clear factual basis. Always consult the Minnesota Daily’s lawyer in situations which the editor-in-chief determines warrant legal counsel. Allegations require sound ethical decision making; they can harm reputations and should be taken very seriously — especially given that not all allegations are true.
When considering how to publish allegations, consider the source. Is there factual evidence to support what is being alleged? What does the accuser have to gain by making the allegation publicly? How can the reporter verify the credibility of the allegation? Who is impacted by the allegation, an individual, or the public? These and other questions should be consulted before publication. Generally, editors must weigh the public’s right to know and the public importance against the potential damage that publication could create. Consider if the accused is a public or private figure.
Sources should be given a fair chance to defend themselves before publication. It is the responsibility of the reporter to ensure they have made contact with all necessary parties prior to publication in search of comment. Begin contacting the source as soon as possible for comment. A source should not be surprised about negative material being published in a news story — they should know it is coming, even if they choose not to comment. Always attempt to contact the source thorough multiple methods, such as in-person, over the phone, and over email. If it is not possible to reach the source for comment, or the source does not wish to comment, this must be made clear in published material.
Best practices in editing
Editing is a malleable and essential process. The Minnesota Daily’s day-to-day editing processes are up to the discretion of the editor-in-chief, who is expected to work alongside editorial staff to create the most effective editing methods possible. All editing processes decided upon by the editor-in-chief must take into account other aspects of the editing policy outlined in this document.
Editing is a collaborative process, especially at a learning institution like the Daily. Reporters and editors are expected to edit stories together, in order to support the Daily’s mission as a learning institution.
Conflicts of interest, bias
Maintaining the journalist's role as an independent observer and fact-gatherer is essential to upholding the Minnesota Daily’s ethical principles and standards of coverage. All editorial employees must free themselves of any and all real or perceived conflicts of interest when possible, as well as disclose unavoidable conflicts of interest before beginning their employment. All staff are expected to complete a conflict of interest disclosure form during their human resources onboarding training. Any other conflicts of interest must be disclosed to the editor-in-chief as soon as possible.
Conflict of interest guidelines, especially relating to political affiliations, extend to social media.
Potential conflicts of interest include, but are not limited to, friendships and acquaintances with members of the public, membership in campus groups, political organizations and nonprofits, work for outside media groups, and general employment.
All other potential conflicts will be considered by the editor-in-chief prior to offering employment and/or assigning coverage. The editor-in-chief reserves the right to reassign stories and/or other editorial matters in the event of a conflict of interest.
Affiliation with campus media
Editorial staff may not work for competitive campus media groups, such as Studio-U or Radio K while they are employed by the Daily, unless otherwise decided upon by the editor-in-chief. The editor-in-chief may extend similar guidelines to other campus media groups should they see a significant conflict of interest. Membership in non-competing campus media, such as the Wake, is permissible.
Affiliation with off-campus media
Internships and employment with non-campus media groups are encouraged in the interest of learning — assuming the work does not raise conflicts of interest or time commitment issues. Employees of the Daily should seek approval from the editor-in-chief prior to committing to work with off-campus media. Approval is not required for practicum courses.
Editorial staff producing content for an off-campus media group are not permitted to reproduce identical or similar content for the Daily, and/or use their reporting for two organizations. For example, a sports reporter covering a game for the Pioneer Press may not reuse their reporting the Daily.
Editorial staff need not seek approval from the editor-in-chief prior to enrolling in practicum courses at the University of Minnesota. However, editorial staff in practicum courses may not duplicate coverage at the Daily, as described above.
Membership in campus organizations
Editorial staff may not report on, or create content relating to, any campus organization they currently belong to or have belonged to in the past. For example, if a reporter is a current or former member of the Railroad Club, they should not write a profile of the Railroad Club.
The Daily has a specific Memorandum of Agreement with the Minnesota Student Association which should be consulted for all dual-employment questions relating to the two organizations.
Sourcing — the difference between a source and a friend
Editorial staff must retain and respect the division between source relationships and personal relationships. Real or perceived, relationships between reporters and sources, editorial staff and community members that veer outside of the professional realm have the potential to cause harm to the paper.
Editorial staff members are expected to consult their editors and/or managers prior to sourcing or creating work if they are concerned about a conflict of interest.
Reporters should not source or interview friends, family members, work colleagues, or anyone with whom they have a personal relationship, past or present.
Outside activities, including political
Involvement in political organizations, both on and off campus, service in community organizations, or involvement with politically-tied organizations, should be considered carefully before coverage is assigned. If there is any question as to whether involvement with an organization could raise a conflict of interest, the editor-in-chief should be consulted prior to assigning coverage.
It goes without saying that editorial staff should not publicly exhibit any political opinions. For example, editorial members should not share messages such as political references on Facebook, political bumper stickers or other items of support for political organizations on vehicles, backpacks, etc. They should should not engage in political rallies, events, or sign public petitions.
Members of the opinions/editorials department are permitted to publicly exhibit political opinions.
Minnesota Daily’s role in stories:
If a story is in any way related to the Daily, disclose it.
For example, always include an editor’s note when a person mentioned is a current or former employee. For example, in a story about the best teachers ever that quotes Chris Ison, say: “Editor’s note: Chris Ison is a former employee of the Minnesota Daily.”
Participation in Contests, Honors
The publication has a proprietary interest in the material it publishes. Thus, the publication as a voting group or top editors are entitled to determine which entries will represent it in contests. This will avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest that may occur if editorial staff were to win or accept awards from organizations they are assigned to cover.
Awards presented to the staff as a whole or to the Daily become property of the publication.
Corrections & Clarifications
All copy is expected to be free of errors at the time of publication. But we know that is not always the case.
The Minnesota Daily considers corrections and clarifications very seriously. It is our duty to the public, to our sources and to our organization to correct published errors as soon as possible. We must be transparent about how the mistake was made and how we will correct it.
All decisions pertaining to corrections should err on the side of transparency. Corrections should be treated as a learning opportunity in order to maintain our status as a learning institution.
It is the responsibility of the editor-in-chief to make the ultimate decision about issuing corrections and clarifications; however, the editor-in-chief must take into account the reporter and editors’ before making a final decision, as well as the opinion of the individual or group requesting the correction.
All staff should be to be willing to correct and learn from mistakes in order to ensure the long-term health of the paper and their own growth.
It is the responsibility of the editor-in-chief to track all corrections and clarifications. Corrections and clarifications can be issued for all types of content, not just news stories.
Remember: it takes less time to double or triple check for accuracy before publication than it does to fix an error after it has been published. Errors harm morale, harm the paper’s reputation, and harm sources. They are bound to happen, but that does not mean as a newsroom we cannot take every step possible to prevent them.
The difference between a correction and a clarification
A clarification describes a situation where published information is not necessarily incorrect, but it may incorrectly reflect upon factual information. For example, if a story reads “Jack Rogers, who organized the event,” but in fact there were three people who organized the event, then the copy appears as if Jack was the only organizer, although the sentence is not incorrect. In this case, we could issue a clarification saying the story does not fully depict who organized the event. Corrections are more clearly incorrect, such as if it said Jack organized the event, when in fact, he did not.
Correction placement and process
When it is brought to a staff member’s attention that there could be an inaccuracy in published content, the staff member must make it known to their direct supervisor, the managing editor and the editor-in-chief as soon as possible. Together, all three will determine whether or not the situation requires a correction or clarification.
Staff members are expected to communicate efficiently and respectfully with those requesting the correction.
Correct all errors and make a note of it either at the top or bottom of the story, depending on the severity of the error. If the correction is more severe, it the correction should be placed at the beginning of the story. Less serve corrections can be placed at the bottom.
In cases where there are significant things which need to be changed, reflect them in the correction, and explain that there were multiple inaccuracies. Always be transparent about what is being corrected; never leaver readers to guess what was changed.
All corrections are to be printed in the next print cycle of the paper, except in cases when corrections are made between publishing cycles. A notice of the correction should be made within the article on the website and on the corrections page.
Never restate the inaccurate information. Instead, use this format:
Correct: A previous version of this story misstated who the president of the University of Minnesota is. The president of the University of Minnesota is Joan Gabel.
Incorrect: A previous version of this story said Kanye West is the president of the University of Minnesota. The president of the University of Minnesota is Joan Gabel.
Crime reporting requires special attention to ethics; all editorial staff must be aware of this responsibility. All editorial staff should be aware of relevant laws relating to crime reporting, both in Minnesota and beyond.
As a general rule, the Minnesota Daily does not publish the names of accused criminal suspects until charges have formally been filed against them.
Editors may choose to include a suspect’s name in the rare case that they publicly self-identify them self relating to their involvement in the crime, when the suspect is a high-level public figure, or when identification serves a significant public interest. The Daily reserves the right to treat each story on a case-by-case basis. However, the decision to name crime suspects must significantly weigh ethics and the public’s right to know against any potential harm caused by publication.
Identifying and naming crime victims
Legally, news outlets are able to publish all information compiled in police reports, including names. However, that does mean that names should always be published. Generally speaking, the Daily does not publish the names of crime victims unless the victim publicly identifies them self or gives the Daily permission to identify them.
Releasing victims’ names into the public realm has the potential to cause harm to the victim and others. The Daily should always seek to protect the privacy of crime victims. Each situation should be treated on a case-by-case basis, erring on the side of protecting the victim’s privacy.
Names of sexual assault victims should never be published unless the victim publicly identifies them self or gives the Daily permission to publish their name, even in the case of high-profile public figures.
Note that “identity” when it comes to crime victims does not solely describe physical attributes. Victims can unknowingly be identified through releasing attributes of private life such as place of work and home location.
It is acceptable to only publish a child’s first name when their full name is unavailable. Editorial staff should exercise extra caution when reporting with children; this includes being aware of any media release forms which may prohibit media organizations from using children in news gathering and privacy concerns. Most public and private schools cannot release the names of children or allow photographs to be taken without the parents’ permission. Except in rare cases, seek permission to name children.
Use of race in crime reporting
Including race as a descriptor in any crime story is most-always discouraged, unless race has an explicit and clear place in the story. For example, race is necessary in reporting stories involving racially-motivated crimes. Use race when describing reportable suspects in a crime only with significant description of the suspect, such as by including height, weight, age and clothing.
Using photographs of victims
Photos can have a tremendous impact on readers. The question of a victim’s privacy versus the public’s right to know should be considered before publication. The line between good and bad taste, reality and sensationalism is not always easy to draw. Care should be taken to maintain the dignity of the subject as much as possible without undermining the truth of the event.
Demonstrations, disturbances, protests
Do not interfere with what you are reporting on. Come to the event prepared with a press pass and identification. If you are arrested, consult the Minnesota Daily’s lawyer. Editors should be aware of potential threats to reporters when covering these types of events; reporters should not be assigned to cover potentially dangerous events without their consent. Do not break the law.
Diversity in reporting, editing, sourcing
Adequately seeking put and reporting truth is impossible without a commitment to diversity in reporting, editing and sourcing. If coverage lacks in a diversity of perspective and experience, we are not meeting our mission of fully informing the community.
Diversity is a broad term, but at the baseline, it should encompass diversity of identity, thought and experience.
As an industry, journalism has not historically been diverse. As current students of journalism, it is our responsibility to change that pattern by supporting diversity in our newsroom and community.
Use of racial, ethnic and other identity group identifiers
Identification of a person as a member of any group relating to identity such as racial, ethnic and religious identities, should be limited to cases when identifiers are essential to the story. It should be done with great care so as not to perpetuate negative group stereotyping.
It is preferable to use identifiers that are most common to the group being reported on. When identifiers are used, it is important to consult AP style, though not all identifiers are in the stylebook and some may contradict sources’ wishes. When possible, seek to use the language sources prefer.
The Daily capitalizes “Indigenous,” "Native" and “Black.”
All stories, and other content when applicable, must be thoroughly fact checked by at least two individuals, and preferably more, before publication. Reporters must provide “CQs” for all facts, nouns and other pieces of information which necessitate corroboration.
Provide all attribution for facts in stories, when necessary. For example, it may not be necessary to fact check everything said by a neurosurgeon describing a recent brain surgery. But it is necessary to attribute the information they say. Reporters and editors should seek to independently verify and vet the information they include in stories. Who is the source? How does the source know what they are telling you?
It is the editor's responsibility to understand all facts in the story even though they did not report it— therefore, the editor and reporter must work together to fact check the story while editing. Editors and reporters are expected to diligently fact check, analyze attributions, and generally monitor for accuracy throughout the editing process and beyond.
Fairness is yet another consideration we must take seriously when reporting and publishing news content. Every member of the editorial staff is expected to take the proper steps to seek out fairness in reporting, editing, and any other content creation. This includes, but is not limited to, interviewing a number of sources for one story, seeking out a diversity of sources, including multiple viewpoints about one issue in a story, when applicable, and seeking to understand the necessary context for the particular story being told.
Not all stories that are factually correct are accurate. Editorial staff should always examine the context included in a story, or perhaps more importantly, the context that could have been left out, before publication.
It is difficult to gather copious information for breaking news stories. Although reporters should attempt to attain all context necessary in breaking news situations, it is not always possible. In general, it is best practice to add a note at the bottom of a breaking news story saying “This is a breaking news report. More information will be added as it becomes available,” and add to the story as information is attained.
We want freelance content to expand, diversify and deepen our coverage.
Publishing freelance pieces by University of Minnesota students also provides prospective Minnesota Daily applicants or journalists to be published in the Daily, essentially getting their foot in the door with a professional news organization.
Freelance content will be accepted on a case-by-case basis. Generally, we are looking for pieces that fall outside of the rhythm of our coverage; we do not need stories about the Board of Regents, Minnesota Student Association elections, or other “generally covered” topics. Freelance pieces may fall within news, sports, A&E, op-ed pieces, multimedia and features coverage. Letters to the editor are not considered freelance work.
Freelance content should be pitched to the Daily editors and approved by the managing editor and editor-in-chief before proceeding. Accepted freelance stories should not be given to staff reporters.
If a freelancer pitches a story already pitched by a staff reporter, preference will be given to the staff member.
Freelancers must be current University of Minnesota students. They do not need to be journalism students. Previous journalism and/or writing experience is not required.
The freelance policy should be updated as needed to ensure quality content and maintenance of ethical standards.
Freelancers must sign a freelancing agreement before beginning their assignment(s) for the Daily.
Classwork as freelance
Journalistic content created for a class can be published in the Daily. Freelance pieces already edited by a professor must be re-edited and analyzed for our standards and policies. It is expected that the student receives approval from their professor about the possibility of freelancing with the Daily.
The Daily accepts freelance pieces created by multiple members of a class, such as an “in-depth” reporting classes.
Editing & Standards
All freelance content will be held to the same ethical and editing standards as any other content. Freelance pieces will receive the same editing as other news stories before publication. Multimedia freelance pieces will be edited by the multimedia editor.
Freelancers are not paid unless the Daily commissions the work. In this case, they will be paid a flat fee of $50.
Accepting gifts and donations jeopardizes and minimizes our independence and transparency as an organization. Gifts, including but not limited to events or entertainment passes, travel accommodations of any kind, money, food and beverage and other material objects, should never be accepted from parties related to reporting, such as sources or potential sources. Any gift should be returned to the sender or sent to a charity.
To remain free of influence or obligation to report a story, the journalist should not accept free travel, accommodations, or meals related to travel.
For convenience, sports reporters may travel on team charters, but the Minnesota Daily should pay the cost of the transportation and related expenses, not including food.
The same pay-as-you-go policy should apply to non-sports reporting, such as covering business and governments. Free travel accommodations which are non-coverage related and which may be provided by a vendor may be accepted if the primary purpose is for education or training and is related to the fulfillment of an agreement or contract.
Free Tickets, Passes, Discounts
Sources should not provide admittance for editorial staff, particularly reporters, assigned to cover a sporting event, lecture, play, concert, movie or other form of entertainment. Free tickets or passes should never be accepted.
Press passes may only be used by staff members who are assigned to cover the event. Free tickets or passes may be accepted by staff members for personal use only if tickets are available on the same complementary basis for non-journalists. An example includes movie screening passes available to the general public.
Daily staff should apply this standard to all scenarios which include special privilege given to them as a journalist which may raise concerns about bias in coverage.
Following the law
Reporters are not given special privileges under the law. Do not break the law in the course of reporting.
Guide to “asking for help”
All reporters must understand that the information they possess can carry consequences for unintended parties. Editorial staff are encouraged to seek advice relating to their work when needed — especially given that the Minnesota Daily is a learning institution. We often run into situations which require advice from more experienced people. In many cases, those conversations must be handled with caution.
Reporters may seek advice on practicing journalism and ethics from outside mentors such as professors, other faculty or mentors — but, they may not seek legal counsel regarding a story from anyone other than the Daily’s lawyer. If there is any confusion as to whether a prospective situation may include legal concerns, the reporter must seek advice from the editor-in-chief before seeking help.
The Daily’s lawyer is the only person who should answer legal questions relating to reporters’ specific stories. Seeking legal advice from anyone other than the organization’s lawyer has the potential to put others at risk in the event of a lawsuit. Only Daily employees, including our lawyer, are protected by our legal insurance.
All requests to speak with the lawyer must go through the editor-in-chief. It is the duty of the editor-in-chief to ensure that those conversations are carried out as quickly as possible when needed.
Independence from the University of Minnesota
As a fully independent new organization, The Minnesota Daily is able to report on and investigate the University of Minnesota without fear of influence by the University.
The Daily does receive funding from the University in the form of student services fees; however, this relationship does not determine coverage.
We reserve the right to act as a fully independent, operational news outlet no matter its ties to the University such as in the form of memorandums of agreement with campus organizations, funding, or status as a student organization.
As students reporting on our University, we may have closer ties to the subject matter we report on than reporters at non-student news organizations. This must be taken seriously; though we cannot stop being students, we can ensure that extra steps are taken to ensure independence from what we report on, transparency about our editorial decisions, and high-quality, unbiased journalism. Editorial staff must make a commitment to consider their ties to the University before reporting and remain alert for potential conflicts of interest.
Methods: In-person, over the phone, and disclosure
The best interviews take place in person. When this is not an option, aim to conduct interviews over the phone. Email interviews are permitted, but not encouraged. Be extra-diligent if acquiring information from a source via other contact methods, such as Facebook messenger or text message; this is almost always discouraged.
Include in the story that an interview was conducted over email, or through another method of online communication. For example, say “... Gabel said in an email to the Minnesota Daily” rather than simply “Gabel said.”
Written statements and news releases must be identified as a source of information. For example, say “… a University spokesperson said in an emailed statement to the Minnesota Daily” rather than “a University spokesperson said.”
Interviewees should never be confused by the “ground rules” of the interview or how their information will be used. Similarly, they should not be surprised by their description or representation in a story after it is published.
It is best practice to establish “ground rules” before the interview begins. It is common for members of the public to be confused by jargon like “off the record” or “on background”; reporters have a duty to ensure their sources understand what those phrases mean if they apply to them.
Minnesota is a one-party consent state for interview recording. This means that reporters are legally permitted to record conversations with sources without disclosure. However, it is best practice to disclose to that they will be recorded.
Take extra care when interviewing sources who are unfamiliar with the media, especially those from other countries, such as international students. Take extra time and care to explain the process to these sources.
We NEVER pay or otherwise negotiate for interviews.
Reporters must to identify themselves as reporters during the course of their work. This extends to making posts and contact with sources online. Use press passes when required.
We welcome dialogue about our stories, even if it is not favorable.
Staff members should not comment on stories, including in response to readers’ comments. Comments should not be removed from the website unless they are determined by senior leadership to be directly profane, vulgar or offensive to the average person.
Opinions & Editorials
The “editorials and opinions” section of the Minnesota Daily operates within the newsroom — as separate entities.
Opinions staff and news staff are expected to maintain a “wall of professionalism”; news reporters should not influence opinions content, and vice versa.
Opinions staff are entitled to their opinions, but not to facts. Just like any news story, opinions pieces must be thoroughly researched and fact checked prior to publication.
Letters to the editor
Both the editor-in-chief and the opinions and editorials editor receive submissions for letters to the editor; both are expected to manage this system accordingly. Relevant, publishable letters should not go unpublished for an undue amount of time.
Letters can be edited for Daily style, per the style guide, and for AP style, which includes clarity. All letters should be thoroughly fact checked prior to publication. Changes made to letters prior to publication must be communicated to the individual who wrote the letter.
Other ethical guidelines
This is a living document. The Minnesota Daily reserves the right to alter its ethics and editing guidelines. The author is expected to take into account editorial staff opinions about the guide and make changes accordingly.
The Daily maintains a commitment to the Society of Professional Journalist’s Code of Ethics to seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable for our actions.
Ownership of Work, Products
The Minnesota Daily “owns” the published and unpublished work done on assignment. It reserves the right to republish, reprint, sell and share materials it owns when it chooses. It is up to the discretion of the editor-in-chief to decide on the use of published material by other outlets, individuals and current or previous staff members relating to editorial matters.
Books, Records, Other Products Given for Review
Any materials given to the Daily for review become the property of the publication, not to any individual staff member. Staff members may not obtain materials under false pretenses.
Ethics in photo journalism follow the same principles as written or spoken reporting. However, there are certain aspects of photojournalism that warrant particular attention.
Like any other reputable news organization, the Minnesota Daily never stages photos. Studio shots or portraits should be clearly identifiable.
Always take extra steps to ensure that it is ethical and legal to publish photos containing images of children. Any person in a public space can legally be photographed, but that does not mean that the Daily should not consider other ethical guides before publishing.
Take extra caution when identifying children, by name or simply by photo, knowing that putting information about them to the public could potentially be damaging. Do not name the child without permission from a guardian. Use a consent form to obtain this permission.
Consider these questions when publishing photos of children: Is there an adult or parent present to give permission to take the photo? Is the photo of one child, or multiple children? How old are they? Is it in a public space?
When a photo opportunity is not available, it is permissible to publish courtesy photos. Always include “courtesy of…” in the cutline of the photo, so as to give credit to whoever provided it to the Daily.
Do not alter courtesy photos in any way, including cropping.
Edits should never be used to change the meaning of a photo. Photos are only to be edited for clarity; any edits that impact the tone, light, contrast, etc. should not impact the “nature” of the image. In other words, edits should not misrepresent the subject matter of the photo.
Cropping images is acceptable when following the same principles.
The content of the photo must be well-related to the story it is placed with. Do not use file photos when they can be misleading about the content of the story.
Extremely graphic images should not be published unless doing so serves a significant journalistic purpose and are fair and authentic. Always weigh the importance of the public’s right to know that can be served by publishing an image against potential harm caused by publication.
Illustrations and collages using photos
The average viewer should not be able to mistake an illustration for a photo. Photo content may be altered as a special effect, to create a photo illustration. The caption or credit line should include that an illustration or collage was created instead of a true photo.
Plagiarism and Fabrication — Don’t do it
Don’t do it. Ever. It’s cause for immediate termination, and it directly harms our transparency, credibility and relationship with the communities we cover. It’s also illegal if the material being plagiarized is also copyright protected.
For the purposes of this document, plagiarism is defined as the word-for-word or similar duplication of another entity’s content. Plagiarism can also take place by replicating distinctively personal thoughts, uniquely stylized phraseology, or exclusive facts. Fabrication of any kind must also be avoided at all costs.
Giving credit for others’ work
Always provide attribution for material created by outside sources when republishing it.
Information obtained from a published work, such as a book, study or press release, must be identified as such in all material published for the Minnesota Daily. The Daily forbids lifting verbatim paragraphs from a wire service without attribution, or not disclosing that wire stories were used in compiling a story.
For example, do not print an AP photo without the photographer’s byline, thereby conveying to readers that the photo is the property of the Daily. Doing so is a form of plagiarism.
Audio & Visual attribution
The Daily requires that permission be obtained from other news outlets to excerpt their video and audio. This should only be done if the material is significant to the story. Footage by other sources and outlets should also be credited to the person and organization responsible for their creation, even where permission is obtained.
Seeking permission to use material
Remember, simply providing attribution does not mean you do not need permission to republish. Always ensure that the Daily has a legal right to publish content created by other outlets or content creators, such as AP services or photos from the internet, before publication.
Using podcasts as a method for reporting raises specific ethical considerations. Audio is an effective method for embodying emotion and feeling; podcast reporters and editors must be aware of the ways in which audio can misrepresent facts or feeling in editorial content. All audio effects should be put in context with the narrative of what is reported.
Music, ambient sound, and/or other auditory effects should not be added to podcasts in a way which alters the meaning of the content. Sound should not be used to convey a point of view that changes or misrepresents the facts of the story being reported.
All editorial staff members are representatives of the Minnesota Daily. Editorial staff members are expected to conduct themselves professionally during the course of their work, especially while working with sources. When “off the clock,” staff should remember that they represent the Daily, and that reputation matters. As any journalist should, every editorial staff member must conduct themselves in a manner appropriate as a neutral, observing journalist.
Personal entertainment and event coverage should be separate. Reporters covering events should not attend with friends, as it can be perceived as unprofessional and disrupt the reporting process. Do not clap or show admiration when covering events. Wear neutral clothing free from slogans.
However, the most important guide to remember is you are a human first, a journalist second. If on assignment you witness a serious situation threatening someone’s life, or a similar situation, act on it. For example, if you see someone in a burning car, help them out of it, don’t watch as an independent observer.
The Minnesota Daily uses the preferred pronouns of its sources. When clarification is needed about a source’s pronouns, it may be included in the story, but only when necessary. It is acceptable to leave pronouns out of a story if the writing is clear and accurate and the source is accurately identified.
Profanity should be considered for publication on a case-by-case basis, judging the word’s value to the story against the potential negative impacts it could have on the audience. The primary audience of a college publication is adults, though not only adults read the Minnesota Daily. Profane and vulgar words are a part of everyday conversations, but not generally used for scholarly writing. Editorial staff are discouraged from saturating a story with profanity; it should be used sparingly. All final decisions relating to whether or not profane language should be published are up to the editor-in-chief.
Profane words may be published if they are important to the reader’s understanding of the situation, the reality of life, or if the words help establish the character of an interviewee. If profane words are linked with the newsworthiness of the content, they should be published, such as the president referring to countries in Africa as “shitholes.”
Explicit language describing sexual activities and human body functions should be used for accurate reporting, but avoided when possible.
Profane language is generally not suggested in opinion writing, though it may be published depending on its relevance to the content.
Profanity is never allowed in social media postings by the Daily.
Removing published content
Removing published content should be considered on a case-by-case basis, but generally regarded as a last case scenario. We stand behind our standards of transparency, and therefore do not remove content from the public’s eye after it has been published except in extreme circumstances. Circumstances which may warrant content being “taken down” after publication include extreme cases of libel or blatant inaccuracy. All other unforeseen situations must be handled with caution and in line with the standards of the organization.
The editor-in-chief should ensure that a copy of what was removed is easily accessible should it need to be examined.
If content is removed, it must be clearly communicated with the audience, typically in the form of an editor’s note, as to remain transparent.
Scrutiny of a Public Person’s Life
The Minnesota Daily generally does not publish information about private individuals’ person lives without significant news value or service to the public. Editorial staff should make judgments about including information about a private person’s life based on the real news value of the situation and ethical principles. However, it should be considered that people who freely choose to become celebrities or public servants should expect a greater level of scrutiny of their life than a private person.
Editorial staff should not badger a person who has made it clear that they do not want to be used for news gathering. More persistent action can be taken with those who are involved in criminal activity or in court. Publishing intimate details of a person’s life, such as their health or sexual activities, should be done with extreme care and only if the facts are important for the completeness of a story and reflect in a significant way upon the person’s public life.
Social media policy
Minnesota Daily employees represent the Daily at all times. Editorial members should set privacy settings to separate private life from their public role as journalists, refrain from identifying themselves as members of a certain political party or part of student government, and avoid expressing strong beliefs about issues and times related to the Daily’s coverage or other news topics. Every editorial employee plays a part in maintaining the Daily’s reputation as a neutral news organization.
Keep interactions with readers via personal social media accounts professional. This extends to public relationships with sources and/or organizations.
The commenting system on the website is designed to serve as a public forum for our readers, and should not be used by Daily employees.
As a general rule, do NOT express any political opinions on social media – in the form of likes, comments, retweets, etc.
Three types of social accounts employees may have:
Opinions/editorials staff are still expected to remain professional, but they are permitted to share political opinions over social media.
1. Public, Daily account (The best option!)
You identify as a Daily reporter, tweet out Minnesota Daily posts, and your account is professional with no overt political opinions.
2. Public, non-Daily account
You have a public account, but don’t identify as a Daily employee. It is okay to share posts by the Daily, but do not constantly sharing our own links. Overt political opinions are still not permitted. Keep it professional.
3. Private, non-Daily account
You have a private account and don’t identify as a Daily reporter. Share what you want, just nothing relating to the Daily or overt political opinions.
Some types of news content about suicide can increase the likelihood of suicide for vulnerable people. Reporting on suicide, therefore, must be taken extremely seriously.
· Never describe a suicide as the result of one event, or as being “caused” by something. Doing so diminishes the fact that suicides take place resulting from a series of events. Don’t say it was “unexpected” or “sudden.”
· Do not use the phrase “committed suicide.” Instead, use “took their own life” or “died by suicide.” Don’t say a suicide was “successful,” “failed,” or “unsuccessful.”
· Do not report methods for suicide.
· Do not report on details or depictions highlighting locations, detail about the death or other details that glamorize the death.
· Don’t include pictures of grieving family and friends.
· Don’t include details of suicide notes.
· Don’t refer to suicide as an “epidemic” or “growing problem.” I.e., don’t be sensationalist.
· Don’t report on suicides by private people. Only report on suicide in the case of public figures; even then, take care.
· Allow readers to see that reducing suicidal thoughts and behaviors is possible. Make sure readers understand that suicide is preventable, especially through tone, language and multimedia elements.
· Always include information about suicide prevention resources.
All editorial staff members should receive training specific to their role within the organization prior to beginning their employment.
All staff members must maintain a commitment to transparency as an ethical principle. As a news organization, our ability to maintain and seek transparent actions speaks to our readers. Always err on the side of transparency.
Understanding this guide
All editorial staff are expected to consult this guide with questions and adhere to its guidelines. Staff are encouraged to discuss potential problems and new ideas for this guide with editors and contribute to improvements and/or amendments which may be necessary.
Using unnamed sources is appropriate in very few situations. Confidentiality should only be used if there is a real danger that the source would be significantly harmed by releasing their name to the public. Editors should weigh the organization's commitment to transparency in content throughout the process of using an unnamed source to ensure the end product adequately balances transparency with the public’s right to know.
The best practice for all stories is to attribute all information to a named source, be it an individual person, a research study or a press release.
If a reporter learns valuable information from an unnamed source, they should attempt to verify it with a source who is willing to be named before considering the option of including the information as attributed to an unnamed source.
Using unnamed sources does not mean that the reporter is unaware of a source’s identity. It means that the source’s identity will be protected in the article, though the information may be attributed to them as an unnamed source.
All reporters and editors must be trained on relevant laws to confidentiality in sourcing and the Minnesota Daily’s editorial policies before working with unnamed sources. Staff members involved in these negotiations are expected to retain the privacy of the sources in separate conversations.
Negotiating a confidentiality agreement with an unnamed source must be done after obtaining permission from the editor-in-chief and managing editor. If an unnamed source is used, reporters must inform the source that an editor must also know their identity and that a court order may attempt to force them to reveal the source’s identity in the event of a lawsuit.
Reporters should negotiate with unnamed sources on how the information they provide can be attributed to them in the story prior to publication; the editing process should take into account the use of identifiable information such as year and major in school, gender pronouns, job title, etc.
For the sake of transparency, a brief reason for keeping the source unnamed must be included in all stories that use unnamed sources.
It is best practice to not create pseudonyms for unnamed sources; doing so spreads fabricated information.
Before using unnamed sources, consider that they can detract from the credibility of the piece and reflect similarly on the paper; the Daily could be subject to a court order to reveal the names of the source. However, granting anonymity can prevent harm to a source, protect a source’s privacy and better enable journalists to cover significant issues of the public’s interest.
Exercise close judgement in ensuring statements made by unnamed sources are worth publishing. Anonymity is not a free pass for a source to harshly criticize someone else, except in rare cases of sexual assault allegations.
Timeline for a reporter working with an unnamed source:
1. Prior to reporting for the a Daily, reporters must be onboarded regarding the relevant guidelines relating to the use of unnamed sources.
2. For reporters: ask your editor if it is okay to use an unnamed source in your story before negotiating an agreement with the source. Explain to the editor the situation you’re facing and why you think it justifies anonymity.
3. The reporter, desk editor, managing editor and editor-in-chief will communicate about the final decision. Though it is ultimately up to the editor-in-chief, they must take into account others’ opinions in making the final decision.
4. The reporter will contact the source about the decision. If the source can be used anonymously, the reporter should:
5. Negotiate what “can be said” in the story — gender pronouns, major and year in school if applicable, job title, etc. The reporter should use as much information as possible to “humanize” the source while remaining in the source’s “comfort zone” for information used. For example, this sentence retains privacy while still revealing important information about the unnamed source: “the source, who is a faculty member at the University of Minnesota, is unnamed in the story because she fears that revealing her identity would lead to potential retaliation from her employer.” This is preferable to just including that “the source declined to be named because of privacy concerns.”
6. Lastly, the reporter must include in the story a short reason why the source is kept confidential.
Use of Alcoholic Beverages & Non-Prescription Drugs While on Assignment
Consuming alcohol and/or non-prescription drugs in the presence of work colleagues and sources, as well as the public, impairs judgment, credibility and objectivity. Therefore, it should be avoided at all costs.
Editorial staff should refrain from consuming alcohol or any non- prescription drugs while working and/or on assignments for work, such as spending time with sources. Even though a staff member may be able to drink legally, they may not drink alcohol or non-prescription drugs in social settings while on assignment.
Last updated April 2020 by Cleo Krejci, editor-in-chief. Questions can be directed to email@example.com.