This policy applies to student editors and staff members.
(Most recent update: August 2020)
- University recognizes The Western Front
The University recognizes that The Western Front is the official student newspaper of Western Washington University, as provided for in the Student Publications Council charter. The council acts as the publisher.
- University encourages journalistic freedom with responsibility
The University encourages a climate in which journalism can be practiced freely, while student news staff members are responsible and accountable for maintaining high standards and ethical behavior in their practice of journalism.
Front editors and staff acknowledge the faculty adviser’s crucial role in providing leadership and guidance in these matters. Of major importance in potentially contentious or libelous issues is following Front protocol: reviewing concerns and analyzing the issues with multiple editors and the adviser before exercising the judgment to publish. Ultimately, however, the adviser’s role, as the title indicates, is limited to providing advice. All final decisions regarding content are made by Front editors.
Front editors and staff understand that legal protection provided by the University for any claim, lawsuit or proceeding made against them is dependent on these matters, and whether they were acting in good faith and within the scope of their position’s duties.
- Student editors and staff are dedicated to ethical behavior
Student editors, reporters and photographers adhere to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. All staff members are expected to read and understand the code’s standards of practice, which include:
Seek Truth and Report It: Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information;
Minimize Harm: Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect;
Act Independently: Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know; and
Be Accountable: Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.
Student editors and photographers adhere to the National Press Photographers’ Association Code of Ethics.
Enforcement of the ethical guidelines — including the imposition of any discipline — is the sole responsibility of Front editors.
- Photos will be published ethically
Pictures should always be accurate to the story. Whenever possible, photos should not be staged. If they are staged it must be clearly stated in the caption.
Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups and presenting your own bias in your work.
Be aware that publishing a photo can cause harm to the source, and strive to follow the Society of Professional Journalists’ and the National Press Photographers Association’s code of ethics when deciding whether to take and publish photos. If an identifiable photo could cause harm, consider taking another photo or looking for another story angle.
- The Front respects individuals’ identities
If identifiers (e.g. race, sexuality, gender, age) are relevant to a story, reporters should ask sources how they identify and must never assume. If an individual is uncomfortable sharing this information, reporters should not include it in their story.
Ask all sources if they would like a phonetic spelling included next to their name for pronunciation.
- Each story from the Front should include the voice of someone directly impacted by the issue the story covers
When a story features a specific community or group, the story must feature a voice from that community or group.
- Student editors should avoid conflicts of interest
- Factual errors are corrected
The Western Front strives for accuracy and should correct errors of fact promptly and courteously. This includes correcting the story online and including a clear note at the top of the story that includes the date of correction.
In cases in which there are differing opinions regarding errors of fact, the reporter and editor do additional reporting to determine if a fact is correct or not. If that is not possible, it may be necessary to print a clarification with information from the sources who disagree.
The Western Front may also publish letters to the editor or guest columns to allow parties to further amplify their viewpoints if necessary.
- Archived items are not removed
The Western Front does not remove content from its website after publication except in cases of severe ethical violations, such as if the story is found to be fabricated. Rather, stories with factual errors or needed clarifications will be corrected with a notice at the top detailing when the story was updated with corrections.
This policy is in place to avoid setting a precedent in which anyone who does not like something that was published can simply ask to have it taken down. The Western Front does not change history. If editors thought it was newsworthy enough to run in the paper or online, its value remains.
- Online comments are moderated
The editor-in-chief, managing editor and online editor moderate online comments. Approving and denying comments is at their discretion. Comments may be denied if they are personal attacks or contain hateful language, such as that based on minority identities, rather than addressing issues. Editors may consult other staff members and/or the faculty adviser if they disagree or are not sure about whether to approve a particular online comment. Comments that are clearly spam will be deleted.
If a person feels their comment has been wrongfully deleted, the editor-in-chief, managing editor or online editor will be available to discuss the decision with them if the person chooses.
- The Western Front will ethically cover crimes and litigation
The use of the words “alleged” or “allegedly” may not be a sufficient when reporting about a person who is arrested. Instead, use a person was “charged with…”
The editor-in-chief and managing editor, under advisement by the faculty adviser when needed, determine whether to name crime victims and suspects not charged with a crime. Often, this decision is made after earnest discussion among editorial staff.
- Facts in stories are checked for accuracy
The Western Front does not show the full text of articles to anyone outside of the staff before they are published. Quotes may be confirmed with sources before publication. Staff members adhere to a strict fact-checking policy. If a source states something as a fact, reporters and editors have the responsibility to fact-check the statement to ensure it is correct.
Reporters are required to provide complete contact information for each source in order for editors to have the ability to contact each source and fact-check. This includes the source’s first and last name, pronouns, phone number, email and job title/relevant position. If a source is unwilling to give their phone number, just providing their email is acceptable
If a story levels accusations against someone, The Western Front shall strive to give that person the opportunity to respond and react before publication.
- Editors will be hired anonymously
To ensure fair hiring practices are used every time the Front changes leadership, the editor-in-chief should hire all editorial and other paid staff as anonymously as possible. Candidates will submit their resumes to the former editor-in-chief or managing editor who will strip all identifying information before passing them on to the current editor-in-chief. If the former editor-in-chief is not available, the resumes can be submitted to the faculty adviser.
The editor-in-chief will make all decisions regarding who to interview before names and other identifiable information on their resume is revealed.
- Editors reserve the right to make final edits
Editors will generally not approve comments made on a writer’s work or stylistic choices, facts and quotes until they have given the writer two business days to respond. Writers should review and approve comments within a timely manner following communication from editors. Under the circumstance that the writer does not respond to the editors after numerous honest attempts at communication, editors reserve the right to make final edits.
For a breaking news story, editors may give reporters a shorter deadline to respond to edits that will be clear to the reporter.
A writer reserves the right to remove themselves from a byline if they feel the story no longer reflects their writing or reporting.
- It is easily accessible to submit work to the Front
As long as the Front has a website, there will be a clearly marked area for individuals to easily submit a letter to the editor, guest column or freelance reporting.
These submissions will be checked regularly by the editor-in-chief, managing editor or online editor.
Individuals are also free to email submissions to email@example.com.
- Submitted items are edited at varying levels
Content submitted by people not on staff is published at the discretion of the editor-in-chief.
If published, submitted articles and guest columns are put through the same editing process as stories submitted by staff reporters. The Western Front publishes submitted opinion items on a space-available basis, at the Opinion Editor’s discretion. Staff reserves the right to edit for length, spelling, Western Front style and grammar.
- Sources may remain unnamed only when necessary
Use of unnamed sources should be avoided as much as possible. In some cases, however, editorial policy will allow for such usage to protect the source(s) from physical harm, legal ramifications or other serious risks.
Editors will generally follow the AP guidelines when making the decision whether or not to grant anonymity to a source
— The material is information and not opinion or speculation, and is vital to the news report.
— The information is not available except under the conditions of anonymity imposed by the source.
— The source is reliable, and in a position to have accurate information.
The reason for anonymity will be explained in the story and, when relevant, the source’s motives for disclosing information. Attribution that proves that source’s credibility must be provided.
Reporters should never guarantee a source will remain unnamed before consulting with editors and, often, the faculty adviser. If the reporter, editors and source agree not to use a name, staff will adhere to that agreement over the course of coverage, unless the source grants permission or the source’s identity is revealed to the public through other means.
- The Western Front can publish photos to social media websites
The Western Front can use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites to post photos and stories already published on our website.
- The Western Front may publish photos not owned by people employed by or working for The Western Front
The Western Front may publish photos from people or organizations (1) not employed by or working for The Western Front and (2) who have given The Western Front explicit permission to publish these photos, in print or online, hereafter referred to as courtesy photos. The Western Front will clearly credit these photos as “Photo courtesy of [person or organization]” below the photo or after the cutline both in print and online.