Business, Editing, Ethical and Legal Guidelines
The Record is committed to telling the truth. Reporters should not publish fabricated material or suggest they have witnessed an event when they haven’t. They should never fabricate sources or information. As for quotations, the reader assumes that every word within quotation marks is what the speaker actually said. The words of sources should never be altered.
The Record will accept advertising only from businesses or organizations whose primary purpose does not conflict with the mission of Goshen College. Advertisements that violate values associated with the college will not be accepted. The advertising rates will be reviewed and approved annually by the faculty adviser. Advertisers may pay for space online or in print.
The adviser is available to meet with the executive editor and other members of the staff throughout the semester to discuss news coverage, editing, style and usage, advertising and other matters. The adviser and editor will meet for lunch at the start of each week to talk about the paper. On publication night for the print edition, the adviser will be on call. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out. The adviser and executive editor should be sure to exchange phone numbers at the start of the semester. The adviser will also coordinate weekly critiques.
In the event a request is made to remove content already published on The Record’s website, the executive editor should consult with the faculty adviser prior to responding. Together they should seek to 1) confirm the request; and 2) understand the rationale. The concern might be addressed through a correction or an editor’s note. In rare instances, such as when the content poses a risk to the writer, an article might be removed from the website. If an article is taken offline, temporary removal is preferred to permanent removal; all printed copies of The Record, as published, remain available in the Mennonite Historical Library. Unacceptable rationales for removal of online content would include a request to take down an opinion article because the writer’s views on the subject have changed. Removal may be considered, on the other hand, if the writer convincingly argues that said content may put the writer at risk or cause substantial harm. A fundamental and foremost goal should be to protect the impartiality and neutrality of The Record and the integrity of its report, including the archives.
As an important source of information about the college, The Record should be accurate, responsible and balanced in its news coverage and in its opinions. The Record should strive to live up to its name in serving as an authoritative newspaper of record for more than 1,000 students, faculty and staff members, alumni, parents, GC board members and others. Susan Fisher Miller’s reliance on past issues in writing “Culture for Service: A History of Goshen College, 1984-1994” and John Roth’s similar dependence in writing a more recent historical account, “A Mennonite College for Everyone (?): Goshen College and the Quest for Identity and Inclusion, 1960-2020,” reflect the confidence that both researchers and readers extend to The Record as an information source. As the official student newspaper of Goshen College, The Record should strive for journalistic excellence that reflects the core values of the college. At times, the paper may be called on to hold the college accountable for its own expressed values.
When The Record falls short of the mark, as all papers do, it should say so in a prominent box that carries corrections and editor’s clarifications, generally on Page 2 or Page 3. Corrections or clarifications should follow errors of facts (including misspellings of name and place), as well as any omission or distortion that results in an incorrect or unfair impression.
The adviser or a guest will present a critique of the newspaper on Friday each week, with the paper being published on Thursdays. The critique will be held in the Center for Communication Studies at a time agreed to by the editor and adviser; ideally, critiques will follow staff meetings. At times, the adviser will arrange for feedback by another member of the faculty, a local professional journalist or a visitor on campus. Suggestions for guest critics are welcome.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Coverage
Every effort should be made to cover the campus broadly, including a cross-section of departments and majors. Since staff members tend to be heavily drawn from a few majors, editors and reporters should especially be on guard against favoring their own. The paper is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion with regard to gender, race and ethnicity in coverage and in contributions. Be aware of the power and privilege that is inherent in being a white person, a male, a person of wealth, a speaker of English and a North American. The paper should reflect a broad and representative range of viewpoints and experiences, while seeking to treat readers, news sources and others openly and fairly. Editors should take a regular account of who appears in photos, who serves as news sources, who receives bylines. There is an added challenge placed on the Opinion editor, since these pages are especially subject to suggestions of undue favoritism or heavy-handed advocacy or omission of essential viewpoints. The Opinion pages should show balance and a diversity of views, reflecting the campus itself. Balance may be seen in terms of opinions, religious affiliations and so forth. The tendency of opinion writers to self-select will likely require the page editor to actively and thoughtfully solicit writers to ensure a broad range of contributors.
Student editors determine the content of the newspaper. Editors must uphold state and federal laws governing publication, adhere to these guidelines and other commonly accepted best practices in journalism, and act in accordance with the standards of the Goshen College community.
Editors for sections
The Record should encourage teamwork and mutual respect, committed to editing as a collaborative process. Editors are responsible to assign articles and see that they meet the paper’s standards. Ideally, an editor and reporter should agree on the broad outline of a story early on and maintain close communication throughout the process. In that way, no one should be blindsided by what is published.
The job of editors is to help reporters realize their full potential. Individual styles of writing should flourish even when all are subject to common rules of punctuation and usage. The shared goal is to provide readers with the best written and most accurate report possible. If the basic standards are met in an article, an editor should not make gratuitous changes simply because he or she favors a different word or a different cadence. But sometimes articles will need to be rewritten. Whenever possible, the reporter should be given the first opportunity to rewrite the story.
Frequency of Publication
The print edition of The Record will generally be published weekly during the fall and spring semesters, for a total of 9 or so issues each semester. Depending on when holidays and midterm breaks fall, publication will be postponed for a week or two. The editor and adviser will agree on a publication schedule at the start of the semester. On weeks when the print edition is not being published, the staff is encouraged to maintain the flow of news content by publishing online.
Membership in Campus Organizations
In order to maintain independence and credible detachment, staff members should not cover a campus organization to which they belong or a sports team for which they play. That said, they may provide story leads about that organization or team to others on staff or, as appropriate, write first-person accounts. Staff members should report their memberships to their supervising editor. To maintain the role of the press as an independent watchdog of government, including on campus, editors should not be an elected or appointed member of the Student Senate.
Do not assume that your audience is Mennonite or even knows about Mennonites. Goshen College was established in 1894 and is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. As Goshen College’s mission statement says, “Shaped by Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition, we integrate academic excellence and real-world experience with active love for God and neighbor.” Alongside this historic church relationship, Goshen College is open to all. Mennonites now make up a minority of students, though sometimes their presence looms larger than their numbers in the eyes of students of other faith backgrounds. Given family legacy and other connections, this historical Mennonite presence can feel like an exclusionary wall to those who are on the outside. Editors and reporters should seek to be inclusionary in their work and avoid favoring any group over another (including on the Funnies page, where the risk of insider comments and jokes seems especially prevalent).
The paper recognizes that objectivity, in the sense of ultimate disinterest, is impossible. But every effort should be made to be as complete and fair and balanced as possible in pursuit of truthful coverage. And the paper should readily disclose any factors that would have a bearing on partiality. This effort at transparency includes prominently identifying commentaries, analyses and reviews. This also requires being watchful of nuances in language that would suggest taking sides (for example, words such as progressive, liberal, reformer, moderate, centrist, conservative and popular should raise red flags).
The Goshen College Board of Directors are legally and financially responsible for the operation of the college, including The Record. The paper is a co-curricular program administered by the Communication Department, which in the spring term appoints editors for the subsequent year. A member of the department serves as the faculty adviser to the newspaper.
Perspectives, Editorials and Opinion Columns
Opinion articles should be civil and insightful, with points of view supported by evidence. The authors of opinion articles and letters should be clearly identified. With opinion pieces, the identification will usually consist of class year and major (for students) and title (for professors and others). The identification should be economical and of a tone in keeping with the overall seriousness of the page. Editorials written by one or two people should carry their names or initials; it’s understood that unsigned editorials represent the views of the masthead editors or an identified editorial board. The paper should regularly print a notice welcoming comments and submissions to the Opinion pages and specifying a word length for letters and op-ed pieces. A newspaper editorial often speaks most powerfully with a collective voice. Toward that end, the staff is encouraged to have an editorial board that is charged with developing, or at least reviewing, editorials. As much as possible, the content for the opinion pages should be prepared well in advance. The most thoughtful and polished pieces are those that have been thoroughly edited and given time to develop over several drafts. Writing editorials and opinion pieces on deadline is an invitation for error and regret.
The Record should never plagiarize or suggest taking credit when credit belongs to others. This includes credit for any kind of information, including articles, photographs, graphics, Web sites, research and news service reports. The source of the information should always be clear. Care needs to be taken in using information from the Communications and Marketing Office. Editors and reporters can use press releases to suggest article topics, serve as background information or act as a fact provider. If an article is drawn verbatim from a press release, or largely so, the byline should read “Goshen College Communications and Marketing.” If there is substantial information from the press release and original reporting, then Com Mar could be given a tagline credit at the end of the article. The paper should have prior permission to run photos from Com Mar and credit should be duly noted in the paper (“Goshen College Communications and Marketing”).
Relationships with Sources
Reporters are encouraged to check back with sources during reporting, whether to ask additional questions or to verify facts or quotations. A final check back with a source before publication provides an extra safeguard. With highly technical information, it may make sense to have a source double-check whole paragraphs. This can be done either by phone or by e-mail or in person, whichever method is most easily managed before the deadline. Reading a story or portions of a story aloud is usually preferred to sending the full written text of a story to a source. As a general practice, reporters should not have sources look over entire articles before publication. Such a review should only be done with the editor’s approval. In any event, reporters should be clear that they retain editing control, and that reviewing a portion of an article before publication does not mean the source is invited to edit quotations or withdraw information that had previously been shared. Anonymous sources are discouraged. The editor should approve any confidential sources and should know the source’s name. Also, the paper should tell readers why a source is entitled to anonymity.
The reporter should gather information for a story, write it and file it by the deadline, striving to make the report accurate and readable. When stories need to be rewritten, the reporter, whenever possible, should have the first opportunity to do so. To be assured of that opportunity, though, reporters must file stories on time. Reporters should never fabricate sources or information, or alter direct quotations. The reader assumes that every word within quotation marks is what the speaker actually said. Reporters should not cover an event or subject in which they have a direct vested interest (e.g., reporters should not cover sports teams or clubs of which they are members). If such conflicts are unavoidable, then they should be clearly disclosed in the story or in an editor’s note, so that the reader is aware of the relationship.
Size of Publication
The Record will generally consist of eight pages, in a tabloid format. The first issue of a semester, as well as any issues appearing during weeks shortened by holidays or midterm break, may consist of four pages. Beyond that, any change in the number of pages or the size of pages must have the adviser’s approval. Editors may want to consider publishing special inserts as part of 12-page issues.
The Associated Press Stylebook serves as the primary style and usage guide for The Record. A compendium of style and usage entries specific to Goshen College serves as a complementary guide.
Updated: August 24, 2023/ds
Sources: Among the sources used in the preparation of these guidelines were Record editors, Goshen College professors, the Goshen College Communications and Marketing Office, The Associated Press Stylebook, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage and internal Times memos from editors to reporters.