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What should go into an editorial policy?
What should not? QT3

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Editorial policies are the foundations for your journalism program. Often short, these statements address forum status, who makes final decisions of content and prior review.

Think of it this way: a strong policy is prescriptive. It says what students will do. A policy is like a constitution and sets the legal framework for student media.

We strongly discourage the inclusion of ethical guidelines or procedures and process in policy documents because ethics and staff manual procedures are suggestive. That means topics like byline suggestions, font choices and how to handle unnamed sources should not be same document as policy. Topics, procedures and details do not have the same purpose as policy.

These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package that protects journalistically responsible student expression and anchors staff manuals.

 

Question: What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?

Editorial policies are the foundations for your journalism program. Often short, these statements address forum status, who makes final decisions of content and prior review.

We recommend this wording as a basic policy statement: [NAME OF STUDENT MEDIA] are designated public forums for student expression in which students make all final content decisions without prior review from school officials.”

Other models could include more material and wording to explain the value of student decision-making, historical or educational reasoning.

Quick Tips are small tidbits of information designed to address specific legal or ethical concerns advisers and media staffs may have or have raised. These include a possible guideline, stance, rationale and resources for more information. This  is the third in the series

A guideline is a stance on an ethical topic. A guideline is more open to change by student staff to staff.

Beyond that, SPRC suggested models could include editorial guidelines (although we recommend several as ethical process and procedures) like:

  • Role of student media
  • Ownership of student content
  • Handling death
  • Advertising decisions
  • Handling letters/comments
  • Policy consistently applied across all platforms

A procedure is a way to do something. These might include how students answer the phone in the room or how they check out a camera. Procedures are how students carry out the policy and implement ethical guidelines. All are part of the staff manual but are clearly separated from policy so their roles are clearly distinct.

Stance:

Think of it this way: a strong policy is prescriptive. It says what students will do. A policy is like a constitution and sets the legal framework for student media.

We strongly discourage the inclusion of ethical guidelines or procedures and process from policy documents because ethics and staff manual procedures are suggestive. That means topics like byline suggestions, font choices and how to handle unnamed sources should not be same document as policy. Topics, procedures and details do not have the same purpose as policy.

Resources: The foundations of journalism: policies, ethics and staff manuals
JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package  that protects journalistically responsible student expression.

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