Bravely Speaking to the Robinson Community

Valor Dictus

Mission Statement and Ethics Code

Valor Dictus serves the Robinson Secondary School community as an open forum. Information and truth are essential components of a democratic society, and members of the staff believe empowering their audience is the best way to strengthen their community. Staff members take seriously their duty to report truth and minimize harm, and they strive to uphold ethical values. The Valor Dictus staff adopts the following ethical code to declare the staff’s principles and standards of practice. This code is modified from the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics.

 

Seek Truth and Report It

The Valor Dictus staff strives to gather and report accurate information and eliminate perceived biases.

Members of the Valor Dictus staff should:

  • Identify reliable, credible sources of information when gathering information.
  • Conduct interviews in person whenever possible. If necessary, interviews may be conducted by phone. E-mail interviews should not be conducted. E-mail is an effective tool for setting up interviews or fact checking, but it is not an acceptable means of interviewing.
  • Make a concerted effort to reach sources who deserve an opportunity to comment. A reporter must attempt to reach a source a minimum of three times before reporting that a source could not be reached for comment. The reporter should keep a record of interviews conducted and attempts to contact sources.
  • Represent themselves as reporters when on assignment. Reporters should state their name, publication and intention to write an article when interviewing sources.
  • Follow up with sources to fact check any unclear information. If a reporter doesn’t know a fact for certain, it must be checked or it may not be printed.
  • Gather information from a minimum of three reliable sources for each full-length article. News or sports briefs may have a minimum of two reliable sources. The best articles tend to have more than the minimum number of required sources.
  • Allow sources to speak freely. Never ask someone to “give a quote.” Reporters conduct true interviews and ask follow-up questions to learn the complete story.
  • Identify sources of information in the article whenever feasible. Decisions to provide a source with anonymity must be approved by the editorial board before a reporter may guarantee anonymity to a source. The reporter must know the source’s identity, but the reporter should only share the identity of the anonymous source with the editor-in-chief.
  • Present the complete story. Every story has more than one, and usually more than two, sides to it.
  • Allow unpopular views to be expressed even if they conflict with the individual reporter’s beliefs or the majority opinion of the staff.
  • Never plagiarize. Never make up facts. Never make up or embellish quotes. Never make up sources.
  • Distinguish between news and commentary. Analysis or commentary placed outside the editorial or entertainment pages must be labeled as such.

Minimize Harm

The Valor Dictus staff serves its community not as a public relations tool but as a source that seeks the truth. The staff recognizes that all stories are about people, and the staff treats its sources and readers as human beings deserving of respect and dignity.

Members of the Valor Dictus staff should:

  • Show compassion and sensitivity when dealing with victims of tragedy. Respect individual’s wishes when they would prefer not to be interviewed about tragedy or have their photograph taken.
  • Protect the identities of victims of sexual crimes.
  • Share facts with the community that the public needs to know. Be cautious when sharing information about private individuals that does not further the public’s interest.
  • Use photographs that accurately display a situation, and carefully consider images that show individuals in a negative light. Carefully word headlines and cutlines to make sure they align with the facts of the story, photography and video.
  • Evaluate the newsworthiness of a story before determining whether it’s deserving of publication.

Act Independently

The Valor Dictus staff believes it’s essential for journalists to remain as objective as possible. We work to avoid conflicts of interest by being as independent as possible, but we acknowledge that we are working within a small community.

Members of the Valor Dictus staff should:

  • Avoid reporting about any activities in which they are directly involved. Athletes may not report on their own sports team or other similar teams. For example, a girls varsity soccer player may not report on girls JV soccer. Reporters who participate in extracurricular activities may not report on those organizations.
  • Choose sources based on reliability rather than friendship with reporter. To stay neutral, reporters should avoid covering topics in which close friends play a key role.
  • Hold themselves to a high standard of behavior inside and outside the classroom to avoid damaging their individual credibility or the credibility of the newspaper.
  • Avoid holding positions at school outside the paper that may be viewed as a conflict of interest. For example, because the student government is featured prominently in our paper, an editorial board member should not be an SGA officer.
  • Disclose unavoidable conflicts. When a potential conflict of interest arises, the article or accompanying note should contain a statement of full disclosure.
  • Clarify facts with sources, but never allow a source or other third party to read all or part of an article before it is published.
  • Refuse gifts, favors and the like in exchange for special treatment of a group or topic in the newspaper. We will, however, accept press packets from entertainment companies to help us write reviews of a diverse selection of movies, TV shows, plays, concerts, music, books and the like.
  • Deny favored treatment to advertisers.
  • Avoid pressure from special interest groups who might insist on coverage of certain events or topics in our newspaper.

Be Accountable

The Valor Dictus staff strives to increase the dialogue in our community about issues that affect us all. The staff is not above the law or our own reporting, and we hold ourselves accountable to our community members for the content and quality of our reporting.

Members of the Valor Dictus staff should:

  • Invite community members to publish letters and editorial columns in our newspaper, particularly those which contain dissenting opinions.
  • Justify our decisions to interested stakeholders. If we cannot justify a decision to ourselves, we should not allow that decision to make its way into print.
  • Admit mistakes and print corrections or retractions as quickly as possible.
  • Respond to e-mail and phone inquiries from community members as quickly as possible.
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Bravely Speaking to the Robinson Community
Mission Statement and Ethics Code