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Constitution

The Tartan is a student-produced weekly newspaper maintained in order to provide the Radford University community with important news issues as well as to educate students.  The newspaper exists to provide an experiential ground so that students can attempt to achieve a balance of technique, experience and professionalism as well as courage in journalism, layout, staff development, leadership and management.  As a newspaper, The Tartan exists to provide a fair and balanced version of the news to Radford University and the surrounding area.

The Tartan is advised by the Assistant Director of Student Media and another advisor (an RU faculty member), although the right to publish is vested in the student editor-in-chief.  It is the role of the editor-in-chief to pursue freedoms that shall and must exist in a professional and ethical world.  That world can and must exist on the Radford University campus.

The editor-in-chief, for example, must be more than a merely competent reporter or editor.  The editor must be a decision maker, an organizer, a compromiser, a staunchly independent spokesperson for truth, and a person with a vision.  The editor-in-chief must have persistence, dependability, initiative and a deeply profound sense of professional ethics.  The editor must have a knowledge of the tradition associated with both the newspaper and the university.

The editor-in-chief must know the community, which includes the university and its area of dominant influence and understand the topics prevalent to the residents of this community.  The editor-in-chief must be dedicated to the truth and responsibility as well as to the idea of “responsible truth.”  The editor-in-chief cannot be a tool of any individual, group or cause.  What is expected, thus, of an editor-in-chief is the wisdom of a seasoned professional.

What is expected of the advisor is no less than that of the editor-in-chief.  The advisor is a person who has the professional experience, the educational background, the awareness and knowledge of traditions and the diplomatic skills to work with others to provide the editor with a view that will be “calmly reasoned” in order to permit the editor-in-chief’s decisions to be made from the background of solid advice.  The advisor cannot assume the authority of censorship.

Truth, accuracy, sincerity, and fairness are to prevail in the conduct of the newspaper’s business and its publication.  The ordinary standards deemed appropriate by community definitions of decency, libel, and legality as exemplified by the commercial media of the community are to be kept inconsistency with.  It is the duty of the advisor to provide the consistency of the view and those standards as the editor-in-chiefs change and as times change.  The advisor must do this through advising the editor-in-chief, not through censorship.

To achieve commitment of individuals to professional standards is difficult when working with students.  Yet, being trained and schooled in these standards is as important as being trained in techniques and skills.  Thus, it is extremely important that a set of standards exist for the production of The Tartan.

The feedback by a qualified advisor must be an essential part of the learning process.  It is the point in time at which that feedback may be given that can prove decisive in the guarantees of a free press.  If given before publication, censorship can exist.  If given immediately after publication, some intimidation could be used to prevent some further publication.  At the same time, some critiques would result in immediate improvement in writing and reporting skills, and this is the goal of feedback.

If feedback is given only at the end of the semester, improvement may be delayed, but there may also be a greater feeling of freedom throughout the semester.  The advisor must give consideration to all these points and consider the impact of the critiques and the necessity of them.

The advisor (and editor-in-chief if concerning a staff member other than the editor-in-chief) should develop a contract that states the agreement of the student to abide by at least these requirements:

  1. To abide by the policies set forth in this policy manual;
  2. To abide by regulations that govern conduct and academic achievement of a student as they are stated in the University Student Handbook;
  3. T observe rules and regulations for access to and use of the building; and
  4. To maintain eligibility through proper enrollment and through maintaining an appropriate grade point average as determined by the Student Media Committee.

We believe The Tartan exists for, and is possible because of Radford University students.  Serving the students, and all those associated with Radford University and surrounding areas and their right to news and information is the mission of The Tartan.

We believe that as a medium of public and mass communication, The Tartan must be a carrier of accurate news and information, of public discussion and demonstrate in tangible ways, the value of a higher education.

We believe we act on a constitutional mandate of freedom to learn and report the facts.

We believe in public enlightenment as the forerunner of justice, and in our constitutional role to seek the truth as a part of the public’s right to know the truth.

We believe those responsibilities carry obligations that require us to perform with intelligence, objectivity, accuracy and fairness.

We believe the mission of The Tartan embodies these principles and further believe our specific mission to be:

      I.To provide a newspaper operation for the education and training of students in the rights and privileges, roles and responsibilities, techniques and technologies and the ethics of publication.

     II.To operate professionally in accordance with historically established principles of professional journalism and with creative new approaches age-old problems.

     III. To provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their techniques, their ability to accept responsibilities, their willingness to explore new horizons and to break from past limitations so as to develop sound basis for a future career.

     IV. To serve the reading public with credible sources for a better-informed public.

      V.  To strive for the very highest levels of professionalism and excellence.

Responsibility:

The public’s right to know of events of public importance and interest is the overriding mission of the mass media.  The purpose of distributing news and enlightened opinion is to serve the general welfare.  Journalists who use their professional status as representatives of the public for selfish or other unworthy motives violate a high trust.

Freedom of the Press:

Freedom of the press is to be guarded as an inalienable right of people in a free society.  It carries with it the freedom and the responsibility to discuss, question and challenge actions and utterances of our government and our public and private institutions.  Journalists uphold the right to speak unpopular opinions and the privilege to agree with majority.

Ethics:

Journalists must be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know the truth.

  1. Gifts, favors, free travel, special treatment or privileges can compromise the integrity of journalists and their employers.  Nothing of value should be accepted.
  2. Secondary employment, political involvement, holding public office and service community organizations should be avoided if it compromises the integrity of journalists and their employers.  Journalists and their employers should conduct their personal lives in a manner that protects them from conflict of interest, real or apparent.  That is the nature of their profession.
  3. So-called news communications from private sources should not be published or broadcast without substantiation of their claims to news value.
  4. Journalists will seek news that serves the public interest, despite the obstacles.  They will make constant efforts to assure that the public’s business is conducted in public and that public records are open to public inspection.
  5. Journalists acknowledge the newsman’s ethic of protecting sources of information.
  6.   Plagiarism is dishonest and unacceptable.

Accuracy and Objectivity:  Good faith with the public is the foundation of all worthy journalism.

Objectivity in reporting the news is another goal, which serves as the mark of an experienced professional.  It is a standard of performance toward which we strive.  We honor those who achieve it.

  1. There is no excuse for inaccuracies or lack of thoroughness.
  2. Newspaper headlines should be fully warranted by the contents of the articles they accompany.  Photographs and telecasts should give an accurate picture of an event and not highlight a minor incident out of context.
  3. Sound practice makes clear distinction between news reports and expressions of opinion. News reports should be free of opinion or bias and represent all sides of an issue.
  4. Partisanship in editorial comment that knowingly departs from the truth violates the spirit of American journalism.
  5. Journalists recognize their responsibilities for offering informed analysis, comment and editorial opinion on public events and issues.  They accept the obligation to present such material by individuals whose competence, experience and judgment qualify them for it.
  6. Special articles or presentations devoted to advocacy or the writer’s own conclusions and interpretations should be labeled as such.
  7. A staff member of The Tartan is expected to adhere to a journalistic code of ethics and should remain unbiased and their opinions, while important, should remain out of the public.

Fair Play:

Journalists at all times will show respect for the dignity, privacy, rights, and well-being of people encountered in the course of gathering and presenting the news.

  1. The news media should not communicate unofficial charges affecting reputation or moral character without giving the accused a chance to apply.
  2. The news media must guard against invading a person’s right to privacy.
  3. The media should not pander to morbid curiosity about details of vice and crime.
  4. It is the duty of the news media to make prompt and complete correction of their errors.
  5. Journalists should be accountable to the public for their reports and the public should be encouraged to voice its grievances against the media.  Open dialogue with our readers, viewers, and listeners should be fostered.

Mutual Trust:

Adherence to this code of ethics is intended to preserve the bond of mutual trust and respect between American journalists and the American people.

The Tartan shall—by programs and education and other means—encourage individual journalists to adhere to these tenets, and shall encourage journalistic publications to recognize their responsibility to frame code of ethics in concert with their employers to serve as guidelines in furthering these goals.

     ***Adapted from the Society of Professional Journalists

Members of The Tartan staff are expected to follow these elements of professionalism at all times and by signing the contract to work at the newspaper, accept these rules as conditions of both compensated and uncompensated employment with the understanding that disregard for, or the breaking of these rules and conditions may result in either disciplinary action or dismissal:

  1. All editor meetings are mandatory. It’s optional for staff to come to our weekly meetings.
  2. Failure to meet deadlines on the pages responsible for on production day (Sunday and/or Monday) without previous approval from both the managing editor and the editor-in-chief.
  3. Appointments are to be made well in advance for in-person interviews. As a secondary move, if a phone interview is necessary, the interviewer should ask if the present time is convenient.  Interviews by e-mail should only be used as a last resort or if interviewee prefers it.
  4. The telephones in The Tartan office are to be used by staff members only. No long-distance phone calls are to be made, unless they are necessary for a story.  Long distance access numbers may be obtained from the editor-in-chief.  A log must be signed in order for the access number to be used by any other individual.
  5. The use of racial or sexual slurs will not be tolerated in the Student Media Lab or The Tartan
  6. If food and drink are consumed near equipment, the person or persons possessing them will be held responsible for any damage that may occur as a result.
  7. Members of The Tartan staff who are under the influence of alcohol or non-prescriptive drugs while representing The Tartan will be dismissed.
  8. After dismissal from The Tartan, a student is prohibited from working for The Tartan for a period decided by the current Editor-in-Chief.
  9. Letters to the Editor written by members of The Tartan staff will not be printed in the newspaper.
  10. The Tea Editor, the Editor-in-Chief and any member of the staff shall not respond to Letters to the Editor except to thank the reader for their input.

The Tartan strives to be a professional newspaper.  It insists that this attitude be shared by all connected with it.  It is a highly professional operation in terms of content and approach.

It does not seek to sensationalize. It does not seek to grind axes of discontent.  Rather, it seeks objective, thorough analysis of contemporary life on the college campus.  All connected with The Tartan are expected to conduct themselves as professionals.  To that end, these constitutionally accepted guidelines and policies are to be followed.

  1. The First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protect the rights of students to free press and free speech.
  2. Members of The Tartan staff have the right to report and editorialize on events, ideas and issues in the University, community, state, nation, and world, even though these may be unpopular or controversial.
  3. Members of The Tartan staff should be encouraged to seek and present contrasting views.
  4. Members of The Tartan staff should have the legal and ethical practices expected of professional journalists called to their attention.
  5. Members of The Tartan staff should know about applicable laws pertaining to libel, slander, obscenity, privacy, and copyright, and should consider accepted community standards of decency and good taste.
  6. Members of The Tartan staff have the right to determine the content of the newspaper. The editor-in-chief is the person exercising free press rights and making all final decisions concerning the content of The Tartan.
  7. Members of The Tartan cannot be dismissed because of student, faculty, administrative or public disapproval of editorial policy or content.
  8. Members of The Tartan are solely responsible for all editorial content of the newspaper.

The Editorial Board exists to discuss and debate important, pressing ideas and issues facing the community.The Tartan seeks to inform.  It is important for the Editorial Board to follow these operational procedures:

  1. The Editorial Board is to be comprised of the editor-in-chief, the managing editor, the Op/Ed section editor and at least four other student writers (if available).
  2. Members of the Editorial Board should meet weekly to discuss important issues of the week and to determine the staff editorial(s) that will appear in the week’s paper. Students on the board will vote on the staff editorial topic.
  3. Members should alternate writing the staff editorial(s) and should represent the entire The Tartan staff in the staff editorial(s) as well as present ideas supported in the weekly meeting.
  4. After the Op/Ed section editor approves, the staff editorial(s) must be submitted for approval to the editor-in-chief before publication in the newspaper.

Editorial writing is a profession dedicated to the public welfare and to public service.  The chief duty of its practitioners is to provide the information and guidance toward sound judgments that are essential to the healthy functioning of a democracy. Therefore, editorial writers owe it to their integrity and that of their profession to observe the following functions:

    1. The editorial writer should present facts honestly and thoroughly. Basing an editorial on the half-truth is dishonest.  The writer should never knowingly mislead the reader, misrepresent a situation or place any person in a false light.  No significant errors should go uncorrected.
    2. The editorial writer should draw reasonable conclusions from the stated facts, basing them upon the weight of evidence and upon the writer’s considered concept of the public good.
    3. The editorial writer should never use his or her influence to seek personal favors of any kind.  Gifts of value, free travel and other favors that can compromise integrity, or the appearance of doing so, should not be accepted.
    4. The writer should always be alert to conflicts of interest, real or apparent, including those that may arise from financial holdings, secondary employment, holding public office or involvement in political, civic or other organizations. Timely public discourse can minimize suspicion.
    5. The editorial writer should realize that the public will appreciate more the value of the First Amendment if others are accorded an opportunity for expression. Therefore, voice should be given to diverse opinions, edited faithfully to reflect stated views.  Targets of criticism—whether in letter, editorial, cartoon or signed column—especially deserve an opportunity to respond; editors should insist that syndicates adhere to these standards.
    6. The editorial writer should regularly review his or her conclusions.  The writer should not hesitate to consider new information and to revise findings.  When changes of viewpoint are substantial, readers should be informed.
    7. The editorial writer should have the courage of well-founded convictions and should never write anything that goes against his or her conscience.  Many editorial pages are products of more than one mind, and sound collective judgment can be achieved only through sound individual judgments.  Thoughtful personal opinions should be respected.
      The editorial writer should always honor pledges of confidentiality.  Such commitments should be made only to serve the public’s need for information.
    8. The editorial writer should discourage publication of editorials prepared by an outside writing service and presented as the newspaper’s own.  Failure to disclose the source of such an editorial is unethical, and particularly reprehensible when the service is in the employ of special interest.
    9. The editorial writer should encourage thoughtful criticism of the press, especially within the profession, and promote adherence to the standards outlined in this statement of principles.

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