Ethical Practices Policy
PURPOSE: The Orient adheres to professional journalistic standards. Our success as a newspaper is dependent upon the trust of our readers and sources. This document seeks to avoid any situations that may compromise this trust.
SCOPE: This document applies to all Orient staffers, staff writers, columnists, and contributors. It does not apply to readers who submit an op-ed or letter to the editors, though such writers are encouraged to follow these guidelines.
AUTHORITY: The editors-in-chief hold sole discretion over material appearing in the Orient and are responsible for the composition of the Orient’s membership. The editors-in-chief reserve the right to modify operating policies as circumstances warrant.
- The Truth. Our duty is to supply truthful information to our readers. Material should be verified to the maximum extent possible. Knowingly supplying false information for publication represents a grave violation of readers’ trust.
- Original Reporting. You may never copy any material verbatim from any source without putting it in quotation marks and citing the source. We consider critical the concept of “original reporting.” Our readers rely on our reporters as first-person witnesses to the events that affect their lives. If a source is quoted or paraphrased, it is assumed that the reporter actually communicated with the source. If this is not the case, you must attribute the source of that information. For example, if you refer to a statement made by the president to the Portland Press Herald, you must indicate that the president made the statement to the Press Herald. Likewise, if you paraphrase a description written in the Brunswick Times Record, you must indicate that the information was originally reported by the Times Record. The key is making sure that it is clear to readers when you have participated in original reporting and when you have not. When the senior editorial staff determines that a writer has plagiarized, the penalty will likely include a permanent expulsion of the writer from the Orient’s ranks. The Orient typically will retract the story and provide a complete explanation in its pages.
- Professionalism. When reporting, you are a representative of the Orient and as such should conduct yourself in a professional manner. When interviewing, arrive on time, speak in a respectful manner, and be prepared with background knowledge.
- Fairness. Individuals or organizations criticized in the preparation of a news story should have the opportunity to respond to criticism.
- Identification. In conversations with a named source that you are planning on quoting or paraphrasing, you must identify yourself as a representative of The Orient. When quoting public remarks at an event that is open to the student body, you do not need to identify yourself; by definition, public remarks are public. Assignments that require anonymity in obtaining information (e.g., a restaurant review) must be approved in advance by the editors-in-chief.
- Quotations. Material that appears in quotation marks must be the actual words used by the source. If you are not sure that you have written an exact quote in your notes, paraphrase or request clarification from the source. In accordance with New York Times policy, you may “omit extraneous syllables like ‘um’ and may judiciously delete false starts.” We recommend that you use quotation marks in your own notes so that you may differentiate between quotations and your own paraphrasing.
- Tape Recording. An interview may be tape recorded only with the interviewee’s consent. This policy complies with the Social Code.
On the Record. As journalists, we always assume that statements made during an established interview are “on the record” unless a subject indicates otherwise. If an interviewee indicates that information is “off the record,” be sure to clarify the stipulations. Some journalists interpret “off the record” to mean that the information can be used but not attributed; others believe that it means the information cannot be used at all.
- Unnamed sources. While a source may ask to remain unnamed, it is always best to have named sources. If a source insists on anonymity and you wish to quote the source, we stipulate three conditions: You should indicate why the source wished to remain unnamed, you must know the source’s name, and the source must know that you may share his name with the editors-in-chief for verification purposes. This follows the policy of most major newspapers, including the Washington Post:
“Sources often insist that we agree not to name them in the newspaper before they agree to talk with us. We must be reluctant to grant their wish. When we use an unnamed source, we are asking our readers to take an extra step to trust the credibility of the information we are providing. We must be certain in our own minds that the benefit to readers is worth the cost in credibility.”
- Conflicts of Interest. Conflicts of interest can cast doubt upon an entire story. Avoid them. You should not report stories that are about a close friend, an extracurricular organization that you take part in, or your professor. If you feel that you have a conflict of interest with a particular assignment, consult with your section editor.
- Orient policy strictly prohibits you from writing a professor profile about an instructor who currently teaches a course you are enrolled in.
- Orient policy strictly prohibits members of campus political or issue advocacy groups from reporting news or feature stories that cover issues relevant to their groups.
- Orient policy currently allows members of sports teams to file reports on their teams. These writers should remember that their stories are being read by a wide audience; as such, inside jokes and nicknames should be avoided.
- Gifts. You may not accept gifts or compensation from a story’s source. Exceptions: A reasonable meal offered by a source as part of an interview, souvenir items offered to all attendees of an event (for instance, at the opening of a new building), and books and CDs sent for review. You may not receive a free meal from a restaurant in the course of conducting a restaurant review.
- Corrections. We print nearly 30,000 words on an average week. Inevitably, some corrections will be required. If you learn of a mistake in an article, please inform your editor. It is our duty to correct or clarify erroneous information.
- Our Independence. The Orient is editorially independent of the College and its representatives. The College and its representatives may not demand conditions regarding publication of any material.
The ethical guidelines of the Washington Post and the New York Times have informed portions of this policy.
Web Non-Removal Policy
In recent years, The Orient has received requests for material to be removed from the web-based version of the newspaper. Specifically, some alumni have objected to the archiving of material that was published in The Orient, since the material is readily accessible through the website’s search engine and search engines like Google.
The editors, after consulting more than a half-dozen professional journalists and journalism scholars, have determined that all requests for material alteration or removal will be declined.
This policy has been created under the ethical premise that history should not be revised to fit private interests. Alteration or removal of material from The Orient’s online archive would be done solely for the interest of a single or small number of individuals. Except in extraordinary circumstances, journalists believe that the public is best served by the uninterrupted and free flow of information.
- The College and the editors of The Orient have archived the physical newspaper since its conception in 1871. A complete physical archive is publicly accessible in the Bowdoin College Library. The web version of The Orient simply provides a new publication medium for new times.
- The removal or alteration of specific online articles presents a slippery slope that would require the editors to make subjective decisions about what alteration requests should be permitted. For example, it is not inconceivable that a public figure would request that statements made in an opinion submission or quotations published in a news article be expunged or altered.
- Were The Orient to comply with requests that ask for the alteration of material that was written by someone other than the requestor, writers who submitted content or were referenced in published content would be silenced without their knowledge.
- Items were posted on the web at the same time as print publication. Thus, at the time of publication, the newspaper’s position as a public forum included the web-based dissemination of content.
Should a discussion of Orient content arise in a job interview situation, the editors would advise any former contributors to the Orient to explain how and why their views have changed, if that is the case.
The Bowdoin Orient encourages its readers to submit thoughtful and relevant comments on its stories. Our goal is to provide a space for considerate discussion, civil debate and informed commentary.
The Orient strongly encourages commenters to use their real names, or at the very least, a relevant descriptor (i.e. class of ’92, parent, sophomore, etc.). Commenters should not misrepresent themselves by using someone else’s name; if this is discovered, the comment will be removed.
When a comment is submitted, the name and email address provided are made available to the Orient. This information is never shared nor made public.
Comments are moderated by a small team of Orient editors and they will not appear on the site immediately. Comments will be approved if they are relevant and contribute to a thoughtful discussion of the article.
Comments will not be approved if:
- They contain hate speech (including speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation).
- They contain obscene, suggestive, vulgar, profane (including insinuated profanity using dashes or asterisks), threatening, disrespectful, defamatory or libelous language.
- They do not relate to the article (including spam, commercial promotion and incoherence).
- They are written by a commenter who continually comments on the same story without adding anything new to the discussion.
- They include personal attacks on reporters
- They are longer than 200 words. If you feel strongly about an issue, we recommend submitting a full Op-Ed or a Letter to the Editor.
- They only point out factual or spelling errors. Comments pointing out errors are appreciated but will not be posted online. Instead, please send corrections to email@example.com.
The Orient strives to be as consistent as possible in moderation, but final judgements are the subjective decision of the moderators. The Orient reserves the right to reject or delete any comment, or disable commenting, for any reason. Due to the high volume of comments, the Orient may not be able to respond to inquiries related to specific moderation decisions.
Commenting may be disabled on high-profile stories that attract spam comments. Additionally, the Orient reserves the right to disable commenting on an article that is no longer topical or that was published more than four years ago.
Once submitted, comments become the property of the Bowdoin Orient. They may be published in print using the name attached to the comment. If a real name is used, the commenter will be contacted to confirm his or her identity before the comment is published in print.
The views expressed in comments are solely those of the commenter. They are not endorsed or promoted by the Bowdoin Orient or Bowdoin College.
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