Official student newspaper of Alabama State University

The Hornet Tribune

Official student newspaper of Alabama State University

The Hornet Tribune

Official student newspaper of Alabama State University

The Hornet Tribune

Code of Ethics

The mission of The Hornet Tribune is to practice and promote investigative journalism in the public interest. All of the values stated here, and the rules set out here, are intended to contribute to that mission. Much of the language below draws proudly on similar policies in place at other collegiate, distinguished news organizations.  They reflect what we and others have learned over many years. At the same time, however, this Code is not immutable. Most of it consists of guidelines; exceptional circumstances may require exceptions to these rules. We expect to continue to learn, and, as we do so, to revise this document in light of further insight and experience.Everyone affiliated with The Hornet Tribune is encouraged to discuss the matters within the ambit of this Code, and to make that discussion a continuing part of our work. Indeed, the most important wisdom about dealing with these questions is: When in doubt, ask.It is an essential prerequisite for success in the news business that we tell the truth, and that our readers believe us to be telling them the truth. If we are not telling them the truth — or even if they, for any valid reason, believe that we are not — then The Hornet Tribune cannot succeed.  The Hornet Tribune will suffer, for example, if our readers cannot assume that:

  • Our facts are accurate and fairly presented;
  • Our analyses represent our best independent judgments rather than our preferences, or those of our sources; and
  • There are no hidden agendas in any of our journalistic undertakings.

All organizations profess integrity. But the impact of our work on the work of others, and on their lives and fortunes, places special responsibilities upon all The Hornet Tribune staff members.

These responsibilities include following several important guidelines in our approach in news-gathering, while writing and editing, and after publication:

We strive to identify all the sources of our information, shielding them with anonymity only when they insist upon it and when they provide vital information — not opinion or speculation; when there is no other way to obtain that information; and when we know the source is knowledgeable and reliable. To the extent that we can, we identify in our stories any important bias such a source may have. If the story hinges on documents, as opposed to interviews, we describe how the documents were obtained, at least to the extent possible. We do not say that a person declined comment when he or she is already quoted anonymously.

Editors have an obligation to know the identity of unnamed sources in our stories, so that editors and reporters can jointly assess the appropriateness of using their information. Sources need to understand this practice.

We don’t misidentify or misrepresent ourselves to get a story. When we seek an interview, we identify ourselves as The Hornet Tribune journalists.

We don’t pay for interviews.

We don’t plagiarize.

Nothing in our work should be fabricated. We don’t use pseudonyms, composite characters or fictional names, ages, places or dates.

Overall, we must be fair. Investigative reporting requires special diligence with respect to fairness. Whenever we portray someone in a negative light, we should make a real effort to obtain a response from that person, preferably in person. We should give them a reasonable amount of time to get back to us before we publish. What is “reasonable” may depend on the urgency and competitiveness of the story. If we don’t reach the parties involved, we should explain in the story what efforts were made to do so.

No story is fair if it omits facts of major importance or significance. Fairness includes completeness.

No story is fair if it misleads or deceives the reader. Fairness includes honesty — leveling with the reader.

Any time a question of fairness or accuracy is raised about any aspect of our work, whether by a source, subject or member of the public, the reporters involved should discuss the issue with their supervising editor and decide what response is warranted. When mistakes are made, they need to be corrected — fully, quickly and ungrudgingly.

Acceptance of a position at any level or in any part of The Hornet Tribune includes acceptance of individual responsibility to uphold The Hornet Tribune policies governing legal and ethical business practices. It also includes acceptance of individual responsibility for following all legal requirements and ethical business practices, as well as the responsibility to stress proper ethical behavior among colleagues and subordinates.

Any and all information and other material obtained by a The Hornet Tribune staff member in connection with his or her membership is strictly the property of The Hornet Tribune.  Such information includes not only our own work and that of our colleagues, but also information relating to future activities, including as-yet-unpublished news, as well as schedules for publishing the same. Such material should never be disclosed to anyone outside The Hornet Tribune, including friends and relatives. In no event should any information obtained in connection with The Hornet Tribune be disclosed privately to anyone until such information has been made available to the public.

All The Hornet Tribune staff members are expected to conduct themselves at all times in a manner that leaves no grounds for belief, or even suspicion, that:

  • The creation or dissemination, or non-dissemination, of any news or other information was influenced by a desire to affect the price of any security;
  • An employee’s personal financial situation with respect to investments is such that it creates a temptation to violate these rules; or
  • An employee is beholden to newsmakers, information providers or market participants, creating a temptation to violate these rules.

It is important to take care not to discuss confidential matters with family members or business or social acquaintances or in places where one can be overheard. Within The Hornet Tribune, confidential information should be divulged only to other employees who need to know the information in order to carry out their job responsibilities.

The Hornet Tribune employees should not offer or provide to customers or prospective customers, directly or indirectly, any gift, entertainment or reimbursement of expenses of more than nominal value or that exceeds customary courtesies for that time and place. Nor should employees offer or provide, directly or indirectly, any material, equipment or services to any individual in a position to make or influence any business or governmental decision affecting The Hornet Tribune.

Conversely, The Hornet Tribune staff members should not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any payment, loan, services, equipment or any other benefit or thing of value, or any gift, entertainment or reimbursement of expenses of more than nominal value or that exceeds customary courtesies for that time and place from suppliers or customers, or from any company, individual or institution that furnishes or seeks to furnish news, information, material, equipment, supplies or services to The Hornet Tribune, or from anyone else with an actual or prospective business relationship with The Hornet Tribune. Thus, for instance, we accept no free trips. Beyond that, we neither seek nor accept preferential treatment that might be rendered because of the positions we hold.

The Hornet Tribune takes this Code of Conduct very seriously. All employees of The Hornet Tribune are responsible for compliance with all aspects of this Code. All new employees shall be required to read this Code at the outset of their employment, and to attest in writing that they have done so; all The Hornet Tribune employees shall be required, at the time this Code is first promulgated, to read it and so attest. In the case of all members of management, and all news personnel, such written attestations shall be required once each year.

The matters addressed by this Code are sufficiently important that any lapse in judgment within the areas covered here may be considered serious enough to warrant discipline up to and including dismissal.

The Hornet Tribune maintains an open door policy and suggests that employees share their questions, concerns, suggestions or complaints with someone who can address them properly. In most cases, an employee’s supervisor is in the best position to address an area of concern. However, if an employee is not comfortable speaking with his or her supervisor, or is not satisfied with the supervisor’s response, the employee is encouraged to speak with the director of finance & operations or anyone in management whom they are comfortable in approaching. Supervisors and managers are required to report suspected violations of this Code to the president. In serious cases, individuals should feel free to contact the president, the editor-in-chief, or the executive chairman directly. Violations or suspected violations may be submitted on a confidential basis by the complainant or may be submitted anonymously. Reports will be promptly investigated and appropriate corrective action will be taken if warranted by the investigation. Reports of violations or suspected violations will be kept confidential to the extent possible, consistent with the need to conduct an adequate investigation.

Anyone filing a complaint concerning a violation or suspected violation of this Code or other The Hornet Tribune policies must be acting in good faith and have reasonable grounds for believing the information disclosed indicates a violation. Any allegations that prove not to be substantiated and which prove to have been made maliciously or knowingly to be false will be viewed as a serious disciplinary offense.

No employee or director who in good faith reports a violation of this Code will suffer harassment, retaliation or adverse employment consequence. An employee who retaliates against someone who has reported a violation in good faith is subject to discipline up to and including dismissal.

Finally, and to repeat probably the most important point in dealing with these questions: When in doubt, ask.

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Code of Ethics