Code of ethics

“The good newspaper is fair, accurate, honest, responsible, independent and decent. Truth is its guiding principle.”
– Associated Press Managing Editors Code of Ethics

Free Travel

To remain as free of influence or obligation to report a story, the journalist should not accept free travel, accommodations or meals related to travel. For convenience, sports reporters may travel on team charters, but the publication should pay the cost of the transportation and related expenses. The same pay-as-you-go policy should apply to non-sports reporting as well, including businesses and governments. Free travel and accommodations provided by a vendor that are not related to coverage may be accepted if the primary purpose is for education or training and is related to the fulfillment of an agreement or contract.


Gifts should not be accepted. Any gift should be returned to the sender or sent to a charity. If the gift is of no significant value, such as a desk trinket, small food item or pen, the staff member may retain the gift.

Free Tickets, Passes, Discounts

Free tickets or passes may be accepted by staff members for personal use only if tickets are available on the same complimentary basis to non-journalists.

Ownership of Books, Records, Products Given for Review

Any materials given to The Orion for review become the property of the paper and not of any individual staff member.

Other Employment

The Orion recognizes that because staffers are students, they will often have to hold outside jobs to support themselves. However, other employment must not conflict with the staffer’s first responsibility to The Orion. The staffer must report any other employment to his or her immediate supervisor and to the editor-in-chief in order to minimize any potential conflicts of interest with assignments or other staff editorial or business responsibilities.

Other Media Work

Approval of work for an off-campus medium and freelance work should be sought in advance of any commitment. The staff must report all outside work to the editor-in-chief and adviser; failure to do so could result in termination from The Orion staff. Outside media work is permissible only in a noncompetitive medium, on a staffer’s own time, and should not conflict with the staffer’s obligation to The Orion. Requests to work for other media will be judged by the editor-in-chief in consultation with the adviser case-by-case. Students who are dissatisfied with the editor-in-chief’s ruling are entitled to appeal the decision to a three-person committee made up of the managing editor, the journalism department chair and a full-time journalism faculty member of the student’s choice.

In order for an appeal to be considered, the student must first put in writing specific reasons why the student should be allowed to violate this section of The Orion ethics code policy.

Membership In Campus Organizations

Staffers may not cover a campus organization they belong to or participate in any editorial or business decisions regarding that organization. Staffers may provide story leads about the organizations to which they belong to other staffers. Staffers should report their memberships to their supervising editor. To maintain the role of the press as an independent watchdog of government, a staffer must not be an elected or appointed member of student government.

Outside Activities, Including Political

Political involvement, holding public office off-campus and service in community organizations should be avoided so as not to compromise the staffer’s personal integrity and that of The Orion. The notion of the journalist as an independent observer and fact-finder is important to preserve. Staffers should conduct their personal lives in a manner that will not lead to conflicts of interest.

Close Relationships and Coverage

Staffers must declare conflicts and avoid involvement in stories dealing with members of their families. Staff members must not cover— in words, photographs or artwork—or make news judgments about family members or people with whom they have a financial, adversarial or close relationship.

Use of Alcoholic Beverages

Even though a staffer may be able to drink legally, only very light drinking in a social setting such as a dinner or reception is recommended to avoid any suspicion by a source or the public that the staffer’s judgment, credibility or objectivity is impaired by alcohol. When covering or participating in an event where alcohol is served, staffers should not accept free drinks. Staffers who are impaired by the use of drugs or alcohol will be asked to leave The Orion’s premises and are subject to disciplinary action.

Further, possession or use of illegal drugs or alcoholic beverages by staff members on the premises of The Orion or at Orion events is grounds for immediate termination from the staff and potential judicial measures by the university and/or criminal action by law enforcement. The Orion does not sponsor parties of any sort, so fliers announcing parties should NEVER carry TheOrion name.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is:
Verbal – suggestive comments, sexual innuendo, threats, insults, jokes about sex-specific traits, sexual propositions
Non-verbal – vulgar gestures, whistling, leering, suggestive or insulting noises;
Physical – touching, pinching, brushing the body, coercing sexual intercourse, assault.
This conduct can be called job-related harassment when submission is made implicitly or explicitly a condition of employment, a condition of work-related assignments, compensation and other factors, and if such conduct interferes with the staffer’s performance or creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment is prohibited.

Plagiarism of Words, Art, Other

Plagiarism is prohibited and is illegal if the material is copyright protected. For the purposes of this code, plagiarism is defined as the word-for-word duplication of another person’s writing. A comparable prohibition applies to the use of graphics. Information obtained from a published work must be independently verified before it can be reported as a new, original story. Staffers who plagiarize are subject to disciplinary penalties, including possible termination from the staff and course failure.

Fabrication of Any Kind

The use of composite characters or imaginary situations or characters or quotes will not be allowed. Immediate termination and an “F” grade for the course are the penalties.


Use of any copyrighted material not in the public domain, use of material without permission or use of material not covered by the “fair use” rule is prohibited. In general terms, “fair use” allows the summarizing of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report or the use of images in a critical review (such as use of an album cover in a music review). However, fair use generally does not allow for use of an entire copyrighted image (picture, cartoon, etc.) without consent of copyright owner. To clarify issues of copyright, staff members should consult with the editor-in-chief, adviser and the Student Press Law Center (

Electronically Altered Photos

Readers expect photos and stories to be truthful. Electronically altering the content of photos for news and general features or as stand-alones news and feature photos is not allowed. Content may be altered as a special effect for a limited number of features if the caption or credit line includes the fact and if an average reader would not mistake the photo for reality.

Photo Illustration

Set-ups or posed scenes may be used if the average reader will not be misled or if the caption or photo credit line tells readers that it is a photo illustration.

Use of Photographs of Victims or Accidents, Fires, etc.

Photos have a tremendous impact on readers. The question of privacy versus the public’s right to know should be considered. The line between good and bad taste and reality and sensationalism is not always easy to draw. Care should be taken to maintain the dignity of the subject as much as possible without undermining the truth of the event.

Reporting Names, Addresses of Crime Victims

Staffers need to know the state laws that govern the publication of the names of rape and sexual assault victims. Generally, the names of rape victims are not published. Victims of non-sexual crimes may be identified, but the publication has a responsibility to give some protection to the victim, such as giving imprecise addresses (i.e, the 800 block of Ivy Street). With the exception of major crimes, an arrested person is not named until charges are filed.

Cooperation with Law Enforcement, College Administration

To be an effective watchdog on other agencies, a publication must remain independent. The publication should not ever take 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. Staffers should know any freedom of information, open meetings and shield laws that apply to their work. If a staffer thinks any public authority is interfering with the staffer’s functions as a journalist, the incident should be reported to the editor-in-chief.

Scrutiny of a Public Person’s Life

Conflicts exist between a person’s desire for privacy and the public good and the public’s right to know about a public person’s life. People who freely choose to become public celebrities or public servants should expect a greater level of scrutiny of their lives than a private person— even a private person who suddenly is involved in a public situation. Staffers should make judgments based on the real news value of the situation, common sense and decency. Reporters and photographers should not badger a person who has made it clear that he or she does not want to be interviewed or photographed. One exception is those who are involved in criminal activity or in court. Publishing intimate details of a person’s life, such as their health or sexual activities, should be done with extreme care and only if the facts are important for the completeness of a story and reflect in a significant way upon the person’s public life.

Five Important Ethics Questions for a Reporter

1. Why am I reporting the story?
2. Is the story fair?
3. Have I attempted to report all angles?
4. Who will the story affect?
5. Can I defend my decision to report the story?

The Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Code

The rules outlined in this professional code of ethics offers addional specific rules for ethical behavior.