Code of Ethics
The Manitou Messenger adheres to the Associated Collegiate Press’s ethical guidelines. Below are some ethical FAQs that the Messenger editors often have to consider. If you’re curious about some of the specific guidelines, a full list and descriptions of the guidelines can be found in the Messenger office.
Can I accept free stuff on the job?
In general, you should not accept gifts. You may accept a gift if its value is less than $10, but only one per year from the same giver. You may not accept free travel, accommodations, or meals related to travel while on assignment. Sports reporters may travel with the team, but related expenses should be paid for by the Messenger. You may only accept free tickets or passes if you’re planning to cover the event, and only journalists covering the event are allowed to attend using that free pass. Any books or other materials sent to the Messenger for review are property of the Messenger and will be kept in the Mess office.
Can I report on my other student org/work study position/class project?
You may not cover other students organizations that you are part of, and your campus job should not interfere with your responsibilities at the Messenger.
For example, a reporter working in Human Resources and privy to private documents should not cover a hiring/firing story. If you have a story idea based on what your organization is doing, hand it off to another reporter.
Any information obtained while working another job is off the record. If you’re unsure about a potential conflict of interest, ask your editor before accepting an assignment.
If you’re involved in campus, local, or national political organizations or campaigns may not cover stories related to that organization or campaign.
Relationships and coverage
Writers may not cover stories involving their own family members. Writers should avoid covering stories involving people with whom they have close financial, adversarial, or personal relationships with.
This can be very difficult on a small campus like ours. Use your best judgement. You are not required to disclose personal relationships to your editors, but if at any point during the reporting process you believe that you cannot provide fair, accurate coverage, let your editor know.
Harassment in the workplace
Harassment of any kind is prohibited at the Manitou Messenger. If you ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe in the office or on assignment, please reach out to any of the people listed below so that we can help make the office environment a comfortable and safe place to work.
Plagiarism and fabrication
Plagiarism and fabrication of any kind is prohibited. It includes:
- Copying text, information, or quotes from another news source without proper citation
- Using photos/graphics or publishing creative work without permission
- Electronically altering photos in hard news stories (photo illustrations are an exception)
- Embellishing stories to add interest
- Creating people, quotes, or events (except in Variety)
Cooperation with law enforcement, government and college officials
Cooperation or involvement in the work of these organizations should be limited to what is required by law or by the St. Olaf student media policy.
You are NOT required to disclose source information to a college administrator.
You are NOT required to drop a story even if instructed to by a college administrator.
If you believe that any public authority is interfering with your function as a journalist, report the incident to your editor.
In general, we avoid the use of profanity in the Manitou Messenger. Reporters may not ever use profanity in their news or editorial copy, even when starred out. There are a few exceptions:
Quotes – if a source uses profane language in a quote, you may keep the language but star out all letters of the word after the first letter.
Variety – we do not censor submitted poetry or art work. The Variety column should avoid using profane language. Submitted work with gratuitous profanity runs the risk of being rejected for publication.
Use of racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, or other group identifiers
Identification of a person as a member of any population group should be limited to cases when that identifier is essential for the reader’s complete understanding of the story. When identifiers are used, it is important that they are correct.
When interviewing any source, ask what their preferred gender pronouns are. AP Style accepts the singular “they.” In cases where using the singular “they” could be confusing to the reader, use the last name of the source.
If it’s important to identify the race or ethnicity of your source, ask your source how they prefer to be identified.
Confidentiality and anonymity
Reporters should not promise confidentiality to a source without permission of the editor. Confidentiality is only granted if there is real danger that physical, emotional or financial harm will come to the source if their name were revealed. At least one reporter and editor must know the name and identifying information of a confidential source before that person can be considered for a story.
You MUST talk to your editor before granting confidentiality or anonymity to a source.
No response from a subject
If a source reached for comment declines to respond to your inquiry, you may write “X declined to comment” in your story. If a source cannot be reached for comment, you may write that “X was not available for comment.”
The difference between declining to comment and not being reached for comment should be made clear to the reader. Sources should be given at least 24 hours to respond to requests for comment in the print paper.