Ethics, policies and best practices

MN DAILY ETHICAL STANDARDS & 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 ethical guidelines. When faced with difficult situations, editorial staff should consult this ethics guide and its overarching principles for guidance.

These guidelines serve as a living document which can be altered by the editor in chief based on the paper’s current needs. 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.


Conflicts of interest

Maintaining the journalist's purpose as an independent observer and fact-gatherer is essential to upholding the Daily’s ethical principles and standards of coverage. All employees at the Daily must seek to free themselves of any and all real or perceived conflicts of interest. As a general rule, editorial staff should conduct their personal lives in a manner which will not lead to conflicts of interest. 

All Daily staff are expected to complete a conflict of interest disclosure form during their Human Resources on-boarding training. Any other conflicts of interest must be disclosed to the editor in chief as soon as possible during the course of the staff member’s time at the Daily.

Potential conflicts of interest, including but not limited to situations involving friendships or acquaintances with sources, membership in campus groups and media groups, employment and work at off-campus media groups. All other relevant positions will be considered by the editor in chief prior to offering employment opportunities to employees or deciding upon coverage. The editor in chief reserves the right to reassign stories and/or other editorial matters in the event of a conflict of interest.

Involvement with Campus Media

Editorial staff may not work for competitive campus media groups, such as the Wake, Studio-U or Radio K, while they are employed by the Minnesota 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.

Involvement with Off-Campus Media

Internships and employment with non-campus media groups, such as internships or practicums, are encouraged in the interest of learning — assuming the work does not raise conflicts of interest or time commitment issues. Employees of the Minnesota Daily should seek approval from the editor in chief prior to committing to work with off-campus media other than practicum courses.

Editorial staff producing content for an off-campus media group, such as the Star Tribune, are not permitted to reproduce identical content for the Daily, even if the coverage area is the same. For example, a sports reporter covering a game for the Pioneer Press may not use their reporting for both publications.

In cases of “practicum” courses taught at the University of Minnesota, staff members do not need to seek approval from the editor in chief prior to committing to the practicum course. However, Daily staff members simultaneously employed for off campus media groups may not cover the same story, event, or other similar scenarios for two papers at once, as described above. Daily staff members are employed by the Minnesota Daily during practicum courses.

Membership in campus and organizations 

In order to maintain standards of transparency and prevent bias in news coverage, editorial staff may not report on 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

Reporter/editor-to-source relationships should not carry any weight other than journalistic. Editorial staff producing news content, including reporters and editors, must retain and respect the division between source relationships and friendships. Reporters should not source or interview friends, family members, work colleagues, or anyone they may be affiliated with in a non-professional manner. Reporters should consult editors prior to sourcing if they are concerned about conflicts of interests.

Editorial staff should not cover – in new stories, multimedia reporting, artwork or other content for dissemination – or make news judgments about persons with whom they have a financial, adversarial, close, or generally non-professionally based relationship. 

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, including in the newsroom and at school. 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. No support signs should be in your front yard or in your windows. Reporters should not engage in political rallies, events, or sign public petitions.


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 staffers were to win or accept awards from organizations they are assigned to cover. Awards presented to the staff as a whole or to the Minnesota Daily become property of the publication.


Corrections & clarifications

As a standard rule, all copy is expected to be free of errors at the time of publication. But we know that does not always happen, so we have a plan for correcting it.

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 inside the organization and out on how the mistake was made and how we’ll correct it. All decisions pertaining to corrections must err on the side of transparency.

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’ opinions about the correction before making a final decision, as well as the opinion of the individual or group requesting the correction.

All staff are expected to be willing to correct and learn from mistakes in order to ensure the long-term health of the paper and their own growth. We must ensure corrections are 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 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 doesn’t mean as a newsroom we can’t 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 “Joseph Duggan, who organized the event,” but in fact there were three people who organized the event, then the copy appears as if Joseph was the only organizer, although the sentence is not incorrect. In this case, we could issue a clarification that the story does not fully depict who organized the event. Corrections on the other hand are more clearly incorrect, such as if we spelled Joseph’s name wrong or said that he did not organize the event when in fact, he did organize it.

Correction placement and process

When it is brought to a Daily 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, they 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.

All corrections are to be posted online as soon as possible on the Daily’s corrections page.

We generally do not write corrections for grammar mistakes or typos unless it leads to readers misinterpreting the information.

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 of the website.

Where a correction is placed in a story reflects the nature of the correction: more serious corrections may warrant a note at the top of the story, while minor ones simply require changes to the body of the article and a note at the bottom explaining the change.

Corrections to story content online are generally to be made in the body of the article with a note at the bottom specifying what was changed in the article. If the correction is more severe, the editor in chief will decide whether or not to include a note at the top of the article specifying the situation. For example, if the entire of the body of the article is essentially incorrect, then a note should be placed at the top of the article explaining that there is erroneous information, and a more robust clarification should be placed at the bottom.

Correction and clarification format

Never restate the inaccurate information. Instead, use this format:

Correction/clarification: A previous version of the article misstated ... (insert what was misstated generally, but not the incorrect information). Then write what the correct version of the information is here.

Example: A previous version of this story misstated who the president of the United States is. The President of the United States is Donald Trump.

Change the incorrect information in the article to the correct information. Always explain what was changed in the correction so as to remain transparent. 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.


Crime reporting

All editorial staff should be aware of relevant laws relating to crime reporting, both in Minnesota and beyond. Crime reporting requires special attention to ethics; all crime reporters must be aware of this responsibility when reporting for the Daily.

Naming suspects 

As a general rule, the Minnesota Daily does not publish the names of accused criminal suspects until charges have formally been filed against them. We may use suspects’ names in the rare cases that they publicly self-identify themselves relating to their involvement in the situation, when the suspect is a high-level public figure, or when identifying the person serves an important public interest. The Daily reserves the right to treat each story on a case-by-case basis, and is able to report all information included in police reports. However, the decision to name crime suspects must significantly weigh ethics and the public’s right to know into the editors’ decision. 

Identifying and naming crime victims 

Legally, newspapers are able to publish information compiled in police reports, including names. However, that does mean that names should always be published. Releasing victims’ names into the public realm has the potential to cause harm to the victim. The Daily must generally seek to protect the privacy of crime victims, and editorial decisions should be made to follow. Each situation should be treated on a case-by-case basis, erring on the side of protecting the victim’s privacy.

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.

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.

Naming children

It is acceptable to only publish a child’s first name when their full name is unavailable. Editorial staff should be extra-cautious 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 (see above policy) 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 do anything that breaks the law.


Diversity in reporting, editing, sourcing and hiring

Adequately seeking and reporting truth is impossible without a commitment to diversity in reporting, editing, sourcing and hiring. Diversity is a broad term, but at the baseline, it should encompass diversity of identity, thought and experience. Journalism as an industry has not historically been diverse. As current students of journalism, it is our responsibility to change that unfortunate pattern by supporting diversity, in all forms of the work, in our everyday activities. See the Content Diversity Board.

Use of racial, ethnic and other group identifiers

Identification of a person as a member of any population group, such as race, ethnicity and religion, 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 sometimes identifiers cannot be found in the stylebook or contradict the feelings of many members of a group. When possible, seek to use languages that sources prefer.

The Daily capitalizes “Indigenous” and “Black.”


Electronically Altered Images, Sounds

Photo and video editing

Electronically altering the content of images beyond mild editing for clarity is prohibited. Light editing to enhance clarity –while leaving the photo accurate and essentially unaltered — is acceptable.

Audio editing

Podcast material and other audio for dissemination should not be altered other than with light editing to enhance the clarity of the material.

Illustrations and collages using photos

The average reader should not be able to mistake an illustration for a factual photo.  Photo content may be altered as a special effect, to create a photo illustration for a limited number of features. The caption or credit line include that an illustration or collage was created instead of a true photo.

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.


Fact checking

All stories, no matter the department, 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 in their story.

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 communicate about facts throughout the editing process and beyond.


Fairness

Fairness is yet another consideration we must take seriously when reporting and publishing news content. Every member of the editorial staff can, and is expected, to take the proper steps to seek out fairness in reporting, editing, and any other content creation.

Maintaining a commitment to fairness requires strong reporting and editing skills to seek out all angles, sources, avenues for diversity, etc., in reporting a story. Fairness often deals with what is omitted from a story, whether apparent at face value or not, over what is included. What context included is being included with a story, in its sourcing, facts — or what’s not? Are we giving a fair amount of time to accused parties, to busy high-level officials, to average citizens in our interview requests? Are we treating all sources equally?


Freelancing — see the freelancing page.

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 don’t 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 and approved by the features editor, 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 a current University of Minnesota student. Freelancers 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.

Classwork as freelance 

News or multimedia pieces created for a class can be published in the Daily. Freelance pieces already edited by a professor must be re-edited and analyzed for the Daily’s standards of editing and coverage. For students freelancing as a part of their journalism class, it is expected that the student communicates with 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. Typically, the features and freelance editor will complete the first round of editing on freelance pieces. Multimedia freelance pieces will be edited by the multimedia editor.

Pay

Pitched freelance pieces will not be paid. In the rare case that the Daily commissions a freelancer to write a story, they will be paid a flat fee of $50 for the story.


Gifts, Donations 

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.

Free Travel 

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 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 the Daily has 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 awarded extra protections under the law; by design, we are afforded the same legal protections as other citizens. Do not break the law in the course of reporting.


Independence from the University of Minnesota

As a fully independent new organization, The Minnesota Daily is able to report on and investigate happenings at the University of Minnesota without fear of influence by the University. 

The Daily reserves 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. The Daily does receive funding from the University in the form of student services fees; however, this relationship does not determine coverage.

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 at the University, 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.


Interviewing

It is best practice to aim for interviews to be in person or on the phone when possible. When this is not an option, email interviews are permitted.

Reporters must 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. In all interviews that do not take place in person, on the phone or via email, the editor in chief must be consulted. These types of interviews must be identified in the story, such as saying “…President Gabel said over email” instead of simply “President Gabel said.”

It is best practice to establish “ground rules” about the interview before the interview starts. It is common for non-journalists to be confused by what “off the record,” “on background,” “deep background” etc. mean in a practical sense. Interviewees should never be confused by the grounds of the interview during or after it takes place.

Minnesota is a one-party consent state for interview recording. This means that reporters are legally able to record conversations with sources while speaking with them. 

Pay?

No. We do not pay or negotiate for interviews.

Statements

Written statements and news releases must be identified as a source of information in the story, so as to remain as transparent as possible.


Online commenting 

We welcome dialogue about our stories, even if it is not favorable. 

Daily 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 Daily leadership to be directly profane, vulgar or offensive to the average person.


Overview of Opinions & Editorials

The “editorials and opinions” section of the Daily operates within the newsroom, but there is separation between fact and opinion. Opinions staff and news staff are expected to maintain a “wall of professionalism” between them — 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 Minnesota 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. Letters can be submitted to letters@mndaily.com.


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 Daily “owns” the published and unpublished work done on assignment. The Daily reserves the right to republish, reprint, sell and share materials it owns when it chooses to do so. 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 Minnesota Daily for review becomes the property of the publication, not to any individual staff member. Staff members may not obtain materials under false pretenses.


Photo guidelines

Children

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?

Courtesy photos

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 took it and provided it to the Daily.

Editing

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, contract, 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.

File photos

File photos should be used sparingly. All file photos should be marked as such, and 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; using file photos too unrelated to story content can be misleading.

Graphic images

Extremely graphic images should not be published unless doing so serves a significant journalistic purpose. Take care in ensuring all images published serve a 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.


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 community 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.

Information obtained from a published work, such as a book or research report, must be identified as such in all material published for the Daily. This policy also forbids lifting verbatim paragraphs from a wire service without attribution, or pointing out that wire stories were used in compiling a story. 

Giving credit for others’ work

Always provide attribution for material created by outside sources when republishing it in the Daily. 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 Minnesota Daily. Doing so is a form of plagiarism. Remember, simply providing attribution does not mean you do not need permission to republish.


Podcast

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’s being 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.


Professionalism

All editorial staff members are representatives of the Minnesota Daily. Therefore, we all carry the responsibility of acting accordingly. 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 Minnesota 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 the event 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.

Reporter identification

All reporters are expected to identify themselves as such in the course of their reporting and working with sources. This extends to making posts online looking for sources.

Reporters are expected to use press passes when needed.

It is best practice for reporters to tell sources that interviews will be recorded, although state law does not currently require them to do so. 


Pronouns

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.


Profane Language 

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 Daily. Profane and vulgar words are a part of everyday conversations, but not generally used for scholarly writing. Editorial members are discouraged from saturating a story with profanity; it should be used sparingly.

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 U.S. 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 opinions writing, though it may be published depending on its relevance to the content.

Profanity is never allowed in social media postings by the Minnesota Daily.

All final decisions relating to whether or not profane language should be published are up to the editor in chief.


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 as an organization 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 Daily should not generally ever publish information about private individuals 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.


Suicide coverage

Some types of news content about suicide can increase the likelihood of suicide for some 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.”

Reporters should not use the phrase “committed suicide.” They should 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.” Don’t be sensationalist.

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.

Only report on suicide in the case of public figures; even then, take care. Don’t report on suicides by private people.

Always include information about suicide prevention resources.


Transparency

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.


Unnamed sources

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 names 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 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 getting permission from the editor in chief and, ideally, the 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.

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. 


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, may impair staffer’s judgment, credibility or objectivity. Therefore, it should be avoided.

Daily 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 staffer may be able to drink legally, they may not drink alcohol or non-prescription drugs in social settings while on assignment. 


Last updated March 2020 by Cleo Krejci, editor-in-chief. Questions can be directed to eic@mndaily.com.