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Breeze Contributor Policies

Welcome to The Breeze! We are glad to have you as a member of the team. All leaders, editors and contributors to The Breeze must read and review these policies of The Breeze. At the end of these policies, you will click on a link where you can fill out our contributors' form. You must fill out this form before contributing to The Breeze. Completion of the form serves as your agreement that you have read, understand and agreed to follow The Breeze's handbook and Code of Ethics.

These policies are adapted from the organization's complete handbook, which you download at this link.

INTRODUCTION

The Breeze, a multimedia student media group that includes a number of media outlets, is funded through advertising revenue and student fees allocated by the Media Board. However, The Breeze maintains editorial independence. The Breeze is published Thursdays with a few special editions published on Thursdays. The circulation is 5,000 with a readership of about 20,000 students, faculty and staff. 

The Breeze has been recognized many times over the years for its excellence in journalism. In 2014, the newspaper was one of the top 10 newspapers of its size when it won a Pacemaker from the Associated Collegiate Press. In 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018, the paper won the Virginia Press Association’s Grand Sweepstakes as the most-honored mid-sized non-daily in the state, competing against professional newspapers.

Since 2010, the newspaper has expanded more and more online. That year, the organization launched a redesigned website with a content management system run through TownNews.com, which was instrumental in making web management more streamlined. In 2016, The Breeze began publishing once per week on Thursdays to bring added focus to the online site.

The Breeze also publishes several special publications each year, with past topics including a football preview, alumni or homecoming weekend plans, graduation preparations and Best of the ’Burg awards. 

Madison 101 is another publication that is associated with The Breeze. Though editorial content comes from a class in the School of Media Arts and Design, advertising is sold and coordinated through The Breeze advertising department. 

In 2017, The Breeze added a new, exciting component to its operations. That year, in partnership with the School of Media Arts and Design, Breeze TV, a weekly newscast was launched. While The Breeze web and print versions have their own newsroom and The Breeze TV operates its newsroom, the two entities cooperate to provide content at BreezeJMU.org.

Breeze Offices

The Breeze is located at 1598 South Main Street. An on-campus space is also available in Roop Hall, Rooms G08 and G18. 

Mailing Address: 1598 South Main Street, MSC 6805, Harrisonburg, VA 22807.

Phone: (540) 568-6127. 

The Breeze offices are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday except when the university is closed. Breeze offices remain open during the summer. Hours are the same except for Fridays, when the university closes at noon. 

The permanent staff, student editors and student ads staff members have JAC card swipe access to the office. Others who desire swipe access to the office should request it through their student manager for general manager approval. 

The Breeze offices are automatically locked between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. During these hours, do not prop the door open or impede its locking for any reason.

A doorbell is installed at the front door and should be used for staffers without swipe access who need to enter for business purposes after regular business hours.

The Breeze TV studio is the Alison B. Parker Studio in the School of Media Arts and Design.

STAFF POLICIES

Contributing staff

All volunteers are contributing staff members. 

To assist in carrying out its mission to the JMU community, The Breeze has a long-standing tradition of accepting volunteer work from student contributors. In compliance with the Government Volunteer’s Act, this information is intended to ensure that volunteers understand their duties and responsibilities, and their relationship to The Breeze.

There are a variety of volunteer positions available at The Breeze, which accepts regular-service volunteers (those with ongoing activities) and occasional-service volunteers (those performing a one-time or occasional service). Volunteers perform these services at their own free will, without any financial gain. Information about current positions is available from the Editor.

As defined, volunteers are exempt from all provisions of law regarding state employment, hours of work, rate of compensation, leave time and employee benefits except those specifically provided by state law. Volunteers may receive the same benefits as any paid staff member in regard to temporary lodging or food while on assignment, transportation, and coverage under The Breeze libel insurance policy.

There are many benefits to working for The Breeze. Volunteers gain additional skills, knowledge and abilities that should help in applying for positions as interns or paid workers in a variety of communications-related fields. Volunteers may participate in workshops and other training opportunities offered by The Breeze.

Contributors must comply with all Breeze policies.

All contributors must fill out a contributor agreement online (the link is at the end of the policies).

First Rights of Publication

The Breeze maintains first rights of publication on any material assigned to any member of The Breeze, unless both parties have agreed on other specific arrangements. Stories, photography, videography, graphics, news packages and any other content produced for The Breeze is assigned ownership to The Breeze unless specified in writing between the content creator and the Editor.

Academic Requirements 

All Breeze student staff must be enrolled at the university. All editors must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per semester. Additionally, all editors of The Breeze must maintain a 2.0 grade-point average to stay on staff. The Editor-in-Chief and Breeze TV News Director must have taken or be enrolled in a media law class. Exceptions to these policies are decided by the General Manager in consultation with student leaders.

Termination 

Staff members contemplating resignation should meet with their immediate student supervisor to discuss options. Should he or she decide to leave The Breeze, a two-week notice is considered a courtesy but is not required. The supervisor should notify the General Manager of any resignations. 

Any involuntary termination must be discussed with the General Manager. If a supervisor has concerns about a student employee, he or she should consult with the General Manager before taking action. For student staff, the following are grounds for immediate dismissal: 

  • Committing a felony or other serious misconduct
  • Repeated unapproved absences 
  • Misuse and abuse of Breeze equipment
  • Repeated violations of this policy manual
  • Libel
  • Plagiarism
  • Falsifying information
  • Sexual harassment or violen
  • Other violations not listed are left to the discretion of the Editor or General Manager 

In addition to termination, student supervisors or the General Manager reserve the right to report any criminal, Title IX, honor code or other violations to the appropriate university authority. 

Attendance

Attendance at production on Wednesdays is expected of all section editors and any others who have deadlines on those days. Attendance at Breeze TV live shows is also expected. Any absence should be approved in advance by the supervisor. Section editors who miss production may not be paid for that edition. The Editor-in-Chief should notify the General Manager of such an absence for payroll purposes.

Supervisors may also require attendance at other meetings and may hold team members accountable for absences.

During inclement weather, the Editor-in-Chief will decide whether to postpone or cancel a print edition, while consulting with the General Manager, Advertising Manager and the printer. Should a cancelation occur, the Editor will notify staff (including the permanent staff). It is strongly recommended that for safety reasons, The Breeze postpone activities when the university closes for inclement weather.

Staff Members and the Law

Contributors to The Breeze represent the paper at all times, even on weekends and days off. They should try to balance their personal and professional lives accordingly, and be careful to represent themselves in a positive manner. 

Being charged with a crime or judicial violation is grounds for suspension or termination at the discretion of the the supervisor. If a staff member is involved in a newsworthy crime, as a victim, witness or the charged, the editors should follow the guidelines for reporting on police matters to cover such an instance. Staff members should not be treated differently for such a circumstance.

Staff members should immediately and accurately report any of these situations to a supervisor. They should not be involved in any reporting or editing related to the incident or follow-ups. The reporters and editors should still follow all fact-checking and -verification guidelines. 

Activities Outside of The Breeze

To maintain independence, student editors and reporters may not cover any organization, campus or otherwise, that they are affiliated with, no matter how minor their affiliation. They also may not take part in any business or editorial decisions pertaining to that organization. Staff members should report their involvement in outside organizations to their supervisor. The Breeze management should maintain updated records of contributors’ memberships in clubs, sports, etc., and contributors should not withhold information about their affiliations with these organizations. While editorial staff members or contributors may suggest story ideas relating to their organization, they may not assign or produce such stories. 

Political involvement and service in community organizations should be carefully considered by The Breeze employees to avoid compromising both personal integrity and that of The Breeze. The notion of the journalist as an independent observer and fact-finder is important. A Breeze employee involved in a specific political action should not be assigned to cover that involvement. For example, if a reporter or editor regularly takes part in anti-abortion or abortion rights rallies, he or she should avoid covering issues surrounding abortion. 

A general question to ask in case of doubt: “Could the newspaper publicly disclose the situation as a whole without fear or embarrassment or legitimate criticism?”

In the event that the top editor is a member of an organization on or off campus, decisions about coverage of that organization will be left to another designated leader. 

Specific Organizations

  • Members of JMU’s Student Government Association may not serve as a leader at The Breeze or work for the News section. They may contribute to other sections unless there is a conflict of interest. SGA members may write for Opinion but they should refrain from writing about SGA matters, and their SGA affiliation must be included in the column end note. 
  • News and Opinion writers may not contribute to both sections.
  • Varsity and club athletes may not work for the Sports section. 
  • Executive members of University Program Board may not work for the Culture section. 
  • Other conflicts will be left to the discretion of the supervisor. 

Outside Employment

The Breeze employees should report any outside jobs to their supervisors in order to avoid any conflicts of interest with assignments or other business decisions. Outside jobs should not interfere with work hours at The Breeze. At the time of application, outside employment should be discussed with the hiring manager to avoid time-management issues.

Other Journalism Work

An editorial member may not work for a JMU public relations or marketing organization (such as University Communications and Marketing or Sports Communications). This is to maintain The Breeze’s place as an independent news source. 

Participating in two student-media groups at the same time is acceptable, but conflicts and the nature of the position should be discussed with a supervisor. 

Approval of work for an off-campus news medium and freelance work should be sought in advance of the commitment. It is permissible only in a noncompetitive medium, on an editorial staff member’s own time  and should not conflict with obligations to The Breeze. Assignments should be for things not covered by The Breeze. For example, staff members could report on high school sports for the Daily News-Record but should not cover JMU sports. 

If a staff member or contributor submits a story originally intended for Breeze purposes to another publication or scoops The Breeze from a story that would be of the newspaper’s interest, he or she may be reprimanded. 

Travel & Expenses

Any expenses that involves Breeze business must be authorized by the General Manager, who will determine if funds are available. Travel or purchases that are not authorized will not be reimbursed

Unacceptable Use

Travel funds are allocated based on James Madison University policies. Those policies set limits on how much can be spent on each item, such as for meal gratuities. Itemized receipts should be turned in to the General Manager. Additionally, no alcohol can be purchased as part of meals that are funded through The Breeze.

Press Passes 

  • Sports Events The Sports editors should maintain a set of press passes for all JMU athletics events. They can be obtained through Athletics Communications at the beginning of the year. Editors and writers should maintain correspondence with the appropriate sports contacts in order to set up media opportunities. Editors should also request credentials early for any away games or tournaments, as needed. Credentials are to be used only for official Breeze business. 
  • Police Contact the public information officer at the Harrisonburg Police Department in order to acquire police-specific press passes for crime scenes. News editors and writers on the police beat should maintain in contact throughout the year and update these passes. 
  • JMU Public Affairs JMU’s spokesperson and members of the Public Affairs Office typically email The Breeze editors before media events including press conferences. They may offer passes for reporters, photographers and videographers. 
  • Other JMU Events For concerts and other performances, contact the public relations office of University Program Board and the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts. This should be done several days in advance, maybe even weeks depending on the event. Press passes to entertainment events are only for Breeze official business. 

Office Policies

The Breeze provides many resources for staff members and operates like a small business. Therefore, professionalism, courtesy and cleanliness should be apparent in the office. Professionalism extends to how we answer the phone, greet visitors and treat coworkers. Profanity, sexual innuendo and any other unprofessional language or behavior is not acceptable in this work environment. The Breeze is a student organization, so suits and ties are not expected. But you should keep in mind that members of the public visit our offices, and personal appearance can affect their impression of our organization. When representing The Breeze, use common sense and dress professionally and modestly. For example, business attire should be worn on appropriate occasions such as at Board of Visitors meetings. 

Computers

The equipment provided to you for your job is the property of The Breeze and/or the School of Media Arts and Design. None of this equipment should be removed from The Breeze office (with the exception, or course, of photography/video equipment or equipment needed to perform your duties).

Computer security is very important. Therefore, no software should be downloaded to a Breeze computer without approval of the General Manager. Unauthorized installations can result in loss of privileges or termination. Additionally, viewing or downloading pornography on Breeze equipment is strictly prohibited. Downloading illegal content is also prohibited.

Work related to The Breeze is the priority for equipment. Use of machines is limited to Breeze staff members. 

The Breeze permits the use of computers for academic-related use as long as that work does not hinder production. Personal work, however, should be saved to portable media. Material left on the hard drive may be erased without prior notice. Students should supply their own paper for academic projects; Breeze-purchased paper is for Breeze business only. 

Substances in the Newsroom

No illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco or vaping products are allowed in the newsroom or while on assignment for The Breeze; failure to comply will result in immediate dismissal from Breeze participation.

Equipment 

The Breeze owns many pieces of equipment that staff and contributors can check out. These include digital cameras, video cameras and recorders. Staff members should talk to their appropriate section, video or photo editors, and follow their guidelines for recording that the equipment is being borrowed. Editors should keep track of who has what equipment and ensure that it is returned in a timely manner. 

Anyone with Breeze equipment is responsible for taking care of it. In the case that a piece of equipment breaks, the staff members and editors should immediately report it to the General Manager.  

Role of the University 

The Breeze is a student-run media organization and is not tied directly to the university. While the Media Board does allocate a certain amount of funding to The Breeze, the newspaper is not in any way obligated to be a voice of the university itself; that is the role of the university’s public affairs offices. A strong working relationship with JMU’s administration is encouraged, but The Breeze will cover stories as needed that may not present the university in the best light. The paper should be a watchdog, just as a professional newspaper watches governments and organizations. 

 PRODUCTION AND EDITORIAL ETHICS

The following codes of ethics and policies have been compiled by former editors from the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics and from policies from other college and professional newspapers.

 What is “Newsworthiness”?

Editors must develop news judgment to determine what types of stories to publish in The Breeze. Newsworthiness can also help decide what prominence to give stories. Several factors go into newsworthness.

  • Impact: How many people will the story affect? How deeply will it affect them? This can be the story that people don’t realize is there, that doesn’t fill the news hole, but is slowly developing.
  • Proximity: Editors should strive to cover the areas around campus, and also to localize state or national news. 
  • Timeliness: Even if something seems like it could be “old news,” editors and reporters can come up with new angles and questions to make a new report more compelling. 
  • Prominence: Who is most prominent on campus and in the community? (This also relates to headline names, which means that only names that are well known in a readership should be in a headline.)
  • Conflict: Conflict indicates that there is likely news. This indicates an issue that people care about if they are intent on fighting for it. Reporters should talk to all sides in a conflict for a balanced story.
  • Novelty: This raises the question of How is this different from any other event, person, situation, decision, etc.? Unusual things can be news. 
  • Community Interest: People may not need to know certain things, but they simply want to know; this can vary depending on a readership. This brings up another component of news judgment, how well the story is told. 

List adapted from the textbook The Editorial Eye.

Accuracy and Objectivity  

The Breeze staff shall be committed at all times to accuracy and objectivity in all factual reporting. The good faith of the James Madison University students, faculty and administration and the university community is integral to the success of The Breeze. The following rules (adapted from SPJ’s Code of Ethics) are to be followed at all times:

Truth is our ultimate goal. 

Objectivity and fairness in all reporting is another goal toward which every journalist at The Breeze should strive. 

There is no excuse for inaccuracies due to a lack of thorough reporting.

Quotations should reflect the speaker’s intended message. This means never changing one’s words, in any shape or form. One must not purposefully use a quotation out of context with the story to further an agenda.

Headlines should be fully warranted by the contents of the articles they accompany. Graphic elements should depict an event’s happenings accurately. Photographs should never be altered other than standard prepress adjustments.

News reports should be free of opinion or bias and represent all sides of an issue.

Partisanship or dogmatism, which knowingly departs from the truth, in editorial comment is unacceptable.

Student journalists recognize their responsibility to offer informed analysis, comment and editorial opinion on public events and issues in the university community, but this comment should be separate at all times from news reporting. 

News analysis, reviews, opinion columns, editorials and perspective pieces should be labeled as such, so as not to mislead. 

Every effort should be made to ensure each name appearing in The Breeze is spelled correctly. 

Corrections and Clarifications 

The Breeze is committed to accuracy and fairness. If a mistake is made in the reporting of information by The Breeze, the organization is obligated to correct it immediately.

If a reporter or editor realizes they made a mistake, instead of hoping no one notices, they should take steps to fix it and report it to their suoervisir.

All corrections should be verified with sources or someone close to the story to avoid having a mistaken correction and having to run another correction. 

Sources should also be informed that a correction will be run; reporters should not leave them waiting. 

Corrections in print should appear on page two of the paper and labeled as such. Corrections should include the date of the issue, name of the article and corrected information. For example: “The Feb. 21 brief, ‘Federal court date set for professor,’ incorrectly stated that James Query is on administrative leave from the university. JMU no longer employs Query, according to university spokesman Joe Smith.” Generally you do not need to restate the mistaken information (especially in cases where it may have been libelous), but it can be helpful in some situations to clarify. 

For online, section editors should update the original online article as soon as they are aware of the mistake. The incorrect information should be corrected within the text of the article, and a line should appear at the top of the post in the format of this example: “This article was updated at 4:30 p.m. on April 2 to correct the spellings of Bridgeforth Stadium and coach Jim Durning.” 

On Breeze TV, a correction should be appended to the online story, and an announcement of the correction should be made on the next closest show during a block that makes the most sense for that newscast.

Similar to a correction is a clarification. Clarifications are not necessary when a mistake has been made, but rather when a fact or story is taken out of context or inappropriately presented. 

Advertising for Stories

At no time should a Breeze contributor commit to doing a story, taking a photograph, etc. in return for paid advertisements to appear in The Breeze. Writing a story in exchange for advertising is a violation of a journalist’s ethics, and it is prohibited. If an advertiser or potential advertiser repeatedly approaches a Breeze employee (from either the advertising or editorial department) about writing a story in exchange for advertising, they should report it to upper management.

Gifts and Free Travel, Tickets, Discounts

Gifts provided to any Breeze employee are to be turned down as they may contribute to bias on the part of the reporter. Such acceptance of gifts is also discouraged as a safeguard to prevent Breeze staff from being solicited for favorable coverage based upon gifts received in the past. 

Employees and contributors should also not accept free travel, accommodations or meals related to travel. This is to remain free from influence or obligation to report a story. For convenience, sports reporters can travel on team charters if allowed by the team, but The Breeze should pay the cost of transportation and related expenses. This same pay-as-you-go policy should apply to non-sports reporting as well, including coverage of businesses and governments.

In cases of free tickets, passes, discounts etc., if money is available, staffers assigned to cover a lecture, play, concert, movie or other entertainment event should pay for admission. They should save all receipts or tickets and present them to the section editors and the General Manager. Receipts must be itemized with all prices, and they should be dated. 

Press facilities at events may only be used by members of The Breeze assigned to cover the event, not by Breeze members for personal use. 

Free tickets, passes, etc. may be accepted by Breeze personnel for personal use only if the same tickets are available on the same complimentary basis to members of the public. 

Being an Independent Press

To be an effective watchdog on other agencies, a publication must remain independent. The publication should not take over any of the duties of any outside agency; cooperation or involvement in the work of these agencies should be restricted to what is required by law. Staff members should know any freedom of information, open meetings and shield laws that apply to their work. (Consult The Reporters’ Guide to the Freedom of Information Act in Virginia, published by the Virginia Press Association.) If a staff member thinks any public authority is interfering with his or her functions as a journalist, the incident should be reported to the Editor. 

Controversial Content, Profanity, Obscenity

As a student newspaper, The Breeze’s standards of decency may differ from those of other community newspapers. The themes, artworks and language in The Breeze should acknowledge the attitudes and lifestyles of its readers; however, The Breeze does not aim to offend its audience or use shock value. Writers and artists, however, should not have free reign to produce offensive material for the pages of The Breeze. Excessive or unnecessary use or depiction of violence, sex, vulgar language, bigotry, hateful and insulting language or prejudicial material will not be printed­ — unless integral to the story.

Editors should use their best judgment in deciding what material is tasteful for The Breeze’s readership. If there is any question, they should consult with the top editor. 

Profanity is becoming increasingly prevalent in society as a form of verbal expression. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of The Breeze employees and contributors to curtail the use of profanity in stories and artwork appearing in the newspaper. This is not to enact a prohibition of such language; rather, it should be the editors’ duty to encourage the omission of such language if it has no relevance to the story or piece of art. 

If profanity provides an insight into the subject of an article, or is pertinent to the understanding of a comic strip, it is permissible. But profanity for profanity’s sake is not allowed in The Breeze. 

Certain words are also more popular and less offensive in society and the full word can be used in moderation if pertinent to the story, art or voice of the columnist. Other words should not be fully written out and should instead be typed with asterisks. These words are left to the discretion of the Editor-in-Chief. 

Questions that should be discussed for controversial content and profanity:

  • Does the language or image effectively communicate the intended message or is it distracting?
  • Is this being used for shock value or for true journalistic purposes?
  • Can the language or ideas be changed to less offensive forms?
  • What do our advisers think about this use? 

Obscenity is a legal term, and a three-part test must be applied to determine what material is obscene, under the Supreme Court’s 1973 Miller v. California decision:

  1. Whether “a reasonable person applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to a prurient (lustful) interest.
  2. Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined as obscene by the applicable state law.
  3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific values.

A work that meets all three criteria is considered obscene. 

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is prohibited and is illegal if the material is copyright protected. Plagiarism is defined as the word-for-word duplication of another person’s writing and shall be limited to passages that contain distinctively personal thoughts, uniquely stylized phraseology or exclusive facts.

Information obtained from a published work must be independently verified before it can be reported as a new, original story. 

References to other publications in the form of “[news outlet] reported that [something happened]” are acceptable and needn’t require much verification — this form only claims that the news outlet reported something, not that it is true. That being said, these references should be kept to a minimum — all content should be original whenever possible, and the above form of referencing other outlets can be avoided by independently verifying events or facts reported on by other media outlets. In short, reporting in other papers, TV stations or other media outlets may not be taken for granted as true without independent verification from The Breeze, and nothing is ever assumed until facts are checked.

Another form of plagiarism with regards to artwork in The Breeze prohibits the facsimile of a copyrighted comic character, regardless of the appearance of that character within the pages of The Breeze. This policy also forbids lifting verbatim paragraphs from a wire service without attribution or from neglecting to include that wire stories were used in compiling the story. 

A contributor who plagiarizes another’s work will be terminated from The Breeze. Additionally, The Breeze will report on the plagiarism to its readers to maintain transparency. A contributor who plagiarizes also could be referred to the JMU Honor Council for violation of JMU’s Honor Code.

Fabrication

The use of composite characters or imaginary situations or individuals is not be allowed in the pages of The Breeze. A columnist may, occasionally, use this approach in developing a column. However, it must be made clear to the reader that the situation or individual is fictional. 

The fabrication of sources is also prohibited, as is the use of friends or close acquaintances as sources for stories.

False Identity, Inappropriate Reporting

In the ordinary sense of reporting, no staff member shall misrepresent themselves as anything other than representatives of the publication. In extraordinary circumstances, and only when the Editor judges that the information cannot be obtained in any other way and the value of that information to the readers is important, the top editor may authorize undercover reporting. At no time will an editor authorize any misrepresentation which would violate the law (such as representing oneself as a law enforcement officer or some other government official). 

Staff members may not steal or knowingly receive stolen materials. 

Except in rare situations judged by the editor as extraordinary, a staff member shall not record an interview or meeting without the interviewee’s permission or the obvious placement of a recording device (not hidden) at the start of the interview or meeting. Committing an illegal act to eavesdrop on a source is prohibited. 

Privacy and Fair Play in Reporting 

Journalists at The Breeze should show respect for the dignity, privacy, rights and well-being of people encountered in the course of gathering and presenting news. The following guidelines (adapted from SPJ) should be followed:

  • The Breeze should not communicate unofficial charges affecting reputation or moral character without giving the accused a fair chance to comment.
  • The Breeze must guard against invading a person’s privacy.
  • The Breeze should not pander to morbid curiosity about details of vice and crime.
  • The Breeze should make prompt and complete correction of its errors. (See Corrections and Clarifications.)

Reporters and staff at The Breeze should be accountable to the university community for their reports. Readers should be encouraged to voice their grievances against the media group. Open dialogue with readers should be fostered. 

Libel – The Basics

In short, libel is the defamation of someone’s character. Specifically, it is a false statement of fact that damages the reputation of an individual or a business. To constitute libel, the individual must be identified by name, pictures, description, location, etc., and it must be published. 

Libel is a serious offense, and one that could put The Breeze in serious jeopardy if committed. The greatest care must be taken when producing content to ensure fair and accurate reporting of individuals and groups. If libel does occur, editors should handle complaints professionally and immediately write retractions or corrections. 

All editors and news managers are required to attend an annual libel seminar by The Breeze’s legal adviser, who is also available for questions at any time. Editors are also urged to enroll in Mass Communications Law; the top editor is required to take this. 

Anonymous Sources

The use of unnamed sources in stories is discouraged and ideally should never be used. Reporters should always strive to find another source who may be willing to talk to the press with their name attached. However, in the likely chance that anonymous sources will appear in articles, these guidelines should be followed.

Before promising anonymity, a reporter should explain the situation to their section editor and to the top news manager, who must approve anonymity before the reporter makes that promise to a source. 

Anonymous sources should sign a form to identify themselves and to pledge that the information they give is true and accurate. 

Situations that could merit the need of an anonymous source include: 

  • To protect the source from legal ramifications (ex. students who willingly discussed Adderall abuse).
  • To protect the source in case of safety concerns (ex. witnesses to a crime where there is no named suspect or charged).
  • To protect the source from undue harassment from readers or emotional strain (ex. victim of a crime, especially a rape).
  • To protect a source who is not authorized to release information.

The source should be identified generally as one associated with an agency, department or other connection to the situation to give credibility to the information. If a student, their year should be given. The hazards of using anonymous sources exists in that the reader may not believe the information provided by a source if their name is not given; the credibility of The Breeze suffers; information obtained later from a named source and verified may disprove information given earlier by the unnamed or unknown sources.  

Employees as Sources

No employee or contributor of The Breeze may be used as a source in a story, or appear in a photograph, execpt in cases in which the story is about The Breeze or in cases in which it is absolutely necessary. In such cases, every other possible source should be explored first, and the employee must be referenced as a Breeze employee. 

Former employees or contributors may be used as sources but must be identified as such. After three semesters of not participating in the production of the newspaper, they may be referenced without being cited as an ex-Breeze staffer. 

It is the responsibility of the content producer to determine whether sources or subjects have an affiliation with the paper. 

Non-objective Sources

Reporters should not interview roommates, friends or relatives for a story. Other sources should be pursued whenever possible, or the reporter should pass the story and contacts off to another Breeze contributor. Staff members must declare conflicts and avoid involvement in stories dealing with members of their families, their friends, roommates or significant others. Staff members must not cover — in words, photographs, videos or artwork — or make news judgment about family members or persons with whom they have a financial, adversarial or close relationship.  

Prepublication Review

Reporters and editors should not let a source see a story before publication. However, having a source review parts of a story can ensure accuracy, especially for stories with scientific, technical, or specifice nature. Reporters should check with his or her editor if a source asks to read a story before it is printed. If the editor agrees, the source will be given pieces of the story that include their information, and they may be permitted to check facts and quotes. Editors should not allow any arbitrary editing or rewriting of sentences or quotes. 

Photographers should not show photos to sources before publication, except in the case of helping to identify subjects in a photo. 

Exceptions should be discussed with editors.

Race and Sexual Orientation

Unless it is relevant to the story, avoid identifying a person’s race, ethnic background or sexual orientation. 

For appropriate uses of racial or ethnic terms, as well as those dealing with sexual orientation, consult the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, unless The Breeze Stylebook (a separate document) conflicts with it. The Breeze stylebook takes precedent over the AP Stylebook. 

Suicides

The Breeze will follow this policy, adapted from The Roanoke Times:

“Generally, our policy on reporting suicides is intended to protect privacy. If a person takes his or her own life, in a private way and a private place, we normally do not write a story. However, if the person is or has been a public figure - someone who has been in the public eye and whose death would be considered newsworthy and thus warrant a news obituary - we will write the story and report suicide as the cause of death when we confirm it through official or family sources.

We also report suicides that occur in a public setting, whether or not the person was a public figure.

In all cases, we will be sensitive to the family and friends of the dead person, but we will follow our established standards on reporting causes of death.”

Sexism

Writing with a sexist tone should be avoided. Reporters should write with a sense of equality and appropriateness and dignity for both genders. 

Writers should avoid stereotyping jobs and careers. Do not report marital status unless it is relevant to the story. In news writing, use gender-free terms for roles of general groups of people, unless such use would be awkward or artificial or the wording appears in a quote.

Columnists are exempt from this policy only to the extent of using titles such as Mr. or Miss, or to use the gender specific forms of “he” or “she” when creating hypothetical examples in writing. Columnists may examine gender issues in their writing, but again, sexism in any writing published in The Breeze is not acceptable.

For more information, consult The Breeze and Associated Press stylebooks. 

Sexual Assault

The Breeze will not report the names of sexual assault victims. In rare instances where these crimes may have happened in the public eye or to prominent people in the community, or when the victim allows their name to be used, the editor may make an exception. 

Reviews of Alcohol

Any restaurant reviews that include information about alcoholic drink choices must be written by someone 21 and older. 

Ownership of Content

The Breeze owns all content produced for it or any of its publications. Once content has been published, it will not be removed from Breeze archives unless under extraordinary circumstances such as plagiarism, libel or extreme factual errors that go beyond a correction. Content creators may request that their content be reprinted elsewhere; permission should be granted by the top news manager, and the reprinted content should carry a credit to the creator and The Breeze. 

Comments on the Website

Staff members, including all editors and writers, should not comment with their opinions on any articles on the website, whether it is on a piece with their byline or not. Such posts are not protected under the safe harbor and could create liability issues for The Breeze. 

Social Media

Any posts on social media sites should follow the same journalistic ethics as the print and online versions of The Breeze. 

Personal Use 

Employees of The Breeze have individual First Amendment rights for free expression, so The Breeze cannot tell employees how to behave on personal social media sites. However, staff members should remember that they represent The Breeze at all times, even online. Activity that could negatively affect The Breeze or have other harmful consequences could result in disciplinary action. 

As young adults, staff members should strive to balance their fun with professionalism. Ask yourself, do you want your posts to be found by others, just as you may search for other people for stories? Try to keep the highest level of privacy settings on your pages, though this does not guarantee complete privacy. 

Do not publish anything unprofessional about The Breeze, including comments about your work, sources or co-workers. Complaints and rants reflect negatively on the newspaper. 

Further Resources

Full Breeze Policy Handbook

Student Press Law Center

Society of Professional Journalists

JMU Chapter

College Media Advisers

Virginia Press Association 

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