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Operating Guidelines

The first amendment to the United States Constitution states that no national law may infringe upon the freedom of the press. Taken literally, it would seem that the American press has been given a free reign to print anything it wishes. American tradition, however, dictates that with freedom comes responsibility and journalists must respect the rights of other people while pursuing the truth in an objective manner.

The journalist has four main responsibilities: To contribute to the function of democracy, to be impartial, to be fair, and to be an agent of change, when appropriate. As such agents of change, newspapers may adopt policies of crusading against community ills, while retaining balance and fairness.

The traditional three-part aim of journalism–to inform, to guide and to entertain–can be expanded to include nine functions of the press:

  • To inform by providing readers with the facts they need to lead their lives.
  • To alert-- by letting readers know about trends and situations affecting their lives.
  • To interpret by putting the facts in perspective so readers can understand the complete story.
  • To educate by interpreting the news (newspapers teach readers through educational features).
  • To lead the community agenda through what is reported and what is overlooked. (Leadership does not confine itself to the opinion pages, but also occurs through headlines and story selection.)
  • To persuade with argumentation aimed to provoke a reader’s response. (It occurs on the editorial page, while crusading uses facts to persuade with intensity through news analysis, series, and investigative reporting. Editors should not begin a crusade with preconceived notions of its outcome.)
  • To provide a forum through letters to the editor and columns (a good newspaper should look for differing perspectives and sources in its news coverage as well).
  • To inspire with stories that feature bravery, courage, determination and love, along with stimulating editorials to provide readers an extra dimension celebrating the human spirit.
  • To entertain by pointing out that all is not dull through human interest and feature stories.

Newspaper reporting distinguishes itself from broadcast because of its permanence and its less restrictive nature. Unlike public relations, newspapers print the good along with the bad to portray the complete story. Readers have the opportunity to respond to what is printed, while broadcast audiences often do not have this chance.


The Appalachian shall be no different than any other American newspaper. The publication should always strive to make truth its ultimate goal; when it fails to do so it loses credibility with the university community. It shall serve as a vehicle of communication in three ways: By providing readers information affecting their lives at ASU, by providing readers a means of responding to this information through letters to the editor and by acting as an historical record of events at the University. While the campus administration recognizes the appalachian as a viable means of communication with the student body, it shall by no means attempt to influence anything the newspaper chooses to print. Staff members of The Appalachian shall always consider themselves professionals and act in a professional manner.

The following Codes of Ethics, adopted by the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi, in 1973, shall be upheld by staff members to the best of their abilities. Code of Ethics

"The Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi, believes the duty of journalists is to serve the truth. We believe the agencies of mass communication are carriers of public discussion and information, acting on their Constitutional mandate and 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 part of the public’s right to know the truth. We believe those responsibilities carry obligations that require journalists to perform with intelligence, objectivity, accuracy, and fairness. To these ends, we declare acceptance of the standards of practice here set forth:

"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 an 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 the 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 of our public and private institutions. Journalists uphold the right to speak unpopular opinions and the privilege to agree with the 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 in 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 which protects them from conflict of interest, real or apparent. Their responsibilities to the public are paramount. 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 confidential sources of information.

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

  1. Truth is our ultimate goal.
  2. 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.
  3. There is no excuse for inaccuracies or lack of thoroughness.
  4. Newspaper headlines should be fully warranted by the contents of the articles they accompany. Photographs and telecasts should be given an accurate picture of an event and not highlight a minor incident out of context.
  5. Sound practices make 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.
  6. Partisanship in editorial comment which knowingly departs from the truth violates the spirit of American journalism.
  7. Journalists recognize their responsibility 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.
  8. Special articles or presentations devoted to advocacy or the writer’s own conclusions and interpretations should be labeled as such.

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 reply.
  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 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.

Pledge: Journalists should actively censure and try to prevent violations of these standards, and they should encourage their observance by all news people. Adherence to this code of ethics is intended to preserve the bond of mutual trust and respect between American journalists and the American people.”

In the University setting, individuals hold positions which may lead them to act in newsworthy situations, such as members of student government, faculty or administrators. Although such persons may be well-known at ASU, there is little justification that they fall into the legal "public figure" category. Following the educational pholosophy of the institution, The Appalachian shall not use people's public functions on campus as an excuse to expose their private lives.

Writers should not, however, allow this policy to inhibit their coverage of public actions and events.

Factual errors must always be corrected as quickly as possible, in the same section in which they appeared. If a mistake occurs on page 1, it shall be corrected there. Desk editors have the responsibility to provide corrections for their sections.

From time to time statements may inadvertently be printed without substantiation or substance and should not have been printed. The editor in chief should be consulted to determine if a retraction is necessary.

Editors have a responsibility to use good judgment in all aspects of editing. They should not add information to stories which they have not gathered first-hand. They must also refrain from changing the intent of the story or inferring information that has no basis in fact.

Editorial policy is the set of guidelines by which the newspaper operates. It includes the newspaper’s attitudes toward its community and aids editors in making editorial decisions.

The editor in chief serves as chairperson. The Editorial Board is comprised of 10-15 student desk leaders. The editorial board meets twice weekly. The board discusses stories for the website and following print issue to insure consistency and to avoid duplicate coverage. The editor-in-chief has final authority on all recommendations of the editorial board and has the prerogative to disregard any and all recommendations.

The editor-in-chief is responsible for formulating editorials based on a consensus of the board. If a consensus cannot be reached a vote will be taken. Any editorials approved by the majority or reached by consensus will be unsigned and considered the opinion of the paper. If a simple majority cannot be reached the editorial shall be signed by those who support it. The editor in chief can overrule the editorial board and refuse to allow an editorial topic to be addressed in the student newspaper.

When determining policy the board should keep in mind the need for readers to know information, community standards, and the effect the newspaper has upon the community agenda.

When questions of policy cannot be resolved by the editorial board or affect the entire organization (the editorial, business and production divisions) the Student Publications Advisory Board may be asked to address the issue. Should the advisory board fail to resolve the question or otherwise choose, the matter may be taken to the Student Media Board, then to the Vice Chancellor of Student Development.

Only currently enrolled, full-time students may be considered for paid staff positions on The Appalachian. All editors and associate editors must have a cumulative 2.25 grade point average and maintain a 2.0 grade point average while serving in the position; writers and photographers must have and maintain a 2.0 grade point average. The Director for Student Publications will verify staff GPAs at the end of each semester. Students whose GPAs fall below the minimum must relinquish their position for the remainder of the academic year. If, at the end of the academic year, they have reached the minimum GPA they may re-apply for a position on the newspaper for the following year. No one on academic probation may join the editorial division.

To retain a sense of professionalism and objectivity, staff members of The Appalachian will not accept gifts, discounts or other favors from any source. Press passes or free tickets for sporting, entertainment or other events may be used only when covering the event and not for personal pleasure. Acceptance of favors constitues reasonable grounds for dismissal of any staff member.

Staff members of The Appalachian should be aware of conflicts of interest, real or apparent, which may affect their credibility and that of the newspaper. As one organization within the educational environment, The Appalachian does not seek to limit its members’ involvement in other campus activities. However, all staff members should inform their editors of membership in other groups and not take any assignments concerning organizations to which they have direct or indirect links.

Section editors’ campus involvement shall be left to the discretion of the editor.

The only exception is that under no circumstances may any staff member be a part of any branch of the student government association.

The use of photographs shall follow the same principles of fairness and accuracy which govern editorial copy. Photography should be used to enhance the newspaper. Photographs must not be cropped to distort the content, manipulated electronically or staged in such a way as to distort the message it is to covey. The use of photography in The Appalachian must conform to prevailing community standards. Photographers must always obtain subject’s permission when not photographing in a public setting.

When at all possible, writers should avoid off-the-record information. When a source wants to reveal information off-the-record, determine if the source means the information is background (information the source does not want attributed to him or her but which may be used if confirmed elsewhere) or confidential (information which may not be used at all).

If it is background it may be accepted, if confidential the writer should decline the information. If writers are not sure whether they should hear information they should discuss the matter with their respective editors first. Information accepted as background must be verified by at least two other sources prior to publication. Rarely are anonymous sources allowed in The Appalachian, so at least one source must be willing to be quoted on the record.

Profanity and obscenities should be avoided unless the editor determines a compelling reason for their inclusion. (Refer to the The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual concerning usage.)

The Appalachian shall promote a policy of non-discrimination in all editorial copy. Writers and editors should recognize racist and sexist language, as well as language conveying negative connotations concerning a person's sexual orientation, and avoid its use.

A person shall not be referred to by race unless the editor determines such reference is pertinent to the story. 

Also avoid the generic he/she and words such as mankind. Use "they" in place of he or she and rewrite the sentence using the plural "them." (In place of “A student may pick up his form,” write “Students may pick up their forms.”) Mankind should be replaced with humanity or humankind

When referring to people in stories, use as complete identification as possible, including full name, year and major (if a student) or professional title. References to employment or membership in organizations or clubs should be used only when pertinent to the story.

No editor or reporter for The Appalachian may publish in the pages of the student newspaper using false names or pseudonyms. Any staff member who publishes in the student newspaper using a false name or pseudonym will be dismissed from staff.

The editor-in-chief is responsible for reviewing all letters to the editor. The associate editor for news is responsible for the verification of identity for all letters to the editor, and verification that such letters are for publication. To be eligible for publication all letters must be typed, double-spaced or hand-written legibly. Letters should include the author’s name, address, phone number and campus affiliation, if any. UNSIGNED LETTERS WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED. No opinion, however controversial, will be refused publication providing it is not libelous or in obvious poor taste. LETTERS MAY BE EDITED FOR PURPOSES OF SPACE OR CLARITY. Names may be withheld from letters by request if the writer includes their name and presents valid reasons for the request. Should the request for anonymity be refused, the letter may not be published unless the writer has agreed, in writing, to the publication of their identity. ALL ORIGINAL LETTERS WILL BE KEPT ON FILE UNTIL THE END OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR.

Copyrighted Materials: no copyrighted materials may be reprinted or reproduced without the expressed, written consent of the publisher.

Use of copyrighted material from the Internet - Staff members will assume any text, photographs or any other material posted on the Internet is protected by copyright and subject to copyright laws.

Such materials are not eligible for publication in The Appalachian unless elicit permission from the holder of the copyright has been obtained. Elicit permission includes media resource links on official Web sites. Written permission is preferred, but oral agreements are acceptable only when the editor in chief, associate editor of production operations or associate editor of news operations obtained the oral permission.

Deadlines are established to provide for an even flow of copy through the production process. A deadline should be thought of as the absolute latest time at which an assignment may be submitted. Deadline extensions will only be granted by the editor in chief or the associate editor of news.

It is the editor-in-chief’s responsibility to plan ahead for projects which can cause delays in the production process.



Designated newspaper racks are for the exclusive distribution of The Appalachian student newspaper. Other student publications may be permitted to distribute from these racks if permission is obtained from the editor-in-chief and Assistant Director for Student Media. Violators will be charged the current insert rate.


It is recognized that many students have off-campus, part-time jobs. The only restriction is that no employee may work for another newspaper, magazine or business which is in direct competition with The Appalachian or The Peel without the approval of the appropriate editor and the Assistant Director for Student Engagement. Also, no employee of Student Publications may also hold a job with the Student Government Association.