Model Editorial Policies

Important Terms Defined:

  • policy is a guiding principle used to set direction in an organization. 
  • procedure is a series of steps to be followed as a consistent and repetitive approach to accomplish an end result.
  • Code of Ethics outlines the values of the business or organization, how professionals are supposed to approach problems, the ethical principles based on the organization's core values and the standards to which the professional is held.

Problems With Mixing them Together

  • When policies, procedures, and ethical codes are mixed together in a staff manual or are all labeled as "policy" in a scholastic journalism setting, issues with administration can arise.
  • Mixing these can create situations where administrators want to punish student journalists for ethical mistakes that they may have made or feel that they can make changes to content because everything is listed under "policy."

What Goes in the Policy Section of a Staff Manual

  • Defining the publication's forum status - Model policies stress student media as designated public forums 
  • Content Decisions - Model policies establish students as the content decision makers
  • Prior Review - Model policies prohibit prior review by school officials.
  • Mission Statement

Model Policies

Student Press Law Center Model Guidelines for High School Student Media - This is the Student Press Law Center's Model Policy, which they recommend that you have your local school board adopt. It covers the responsibilities of student journalists, defines protected speech, defines unprotected speech, and online student media. It establishes that the adviser is not a censor and that he or she should not be fired for refusing to censor student journalists. It defines non-school sponsored media and the rights of students creating non-school sponsored media. It also establishes that administrators will not use prior restraint. 

JEA Model Editorial Policy - This policy establishes publications as a public forum, explains protections granted by the First Amendment, lists unprotected speech, establishes that administration will not prior review the publication, and that advisers will not act ass censors. It also mentions some items like letter to the editor and advertisements, which I would argue belong in a separate section of a staff manual. 

Sample Combined Editorial Policy for High School Media - This policy is is from JEA Digital Media. It is a combined policy that is written to cover all the media at a single school. It defines the freedom of the press, establishes the composition of the editorial board, the role of the adviser (which includes not acting as a censor), and the role of administration (which includes not engaging in prior review). This example mixes editorial staff procedures with policy, which should be avoided (Sections V, VI and VII, VIII, and IX all belong in a separate part of the staff manual.

Crafting a Mission Statement - This includes a model mission statement, rationale, suggestions for drafting your own mission statement and a link to an article about pitfalls to avoid in crafting one. 

What About Ethics & Procedures?

For more information on model code of ethic policies, editorial procedures and general staff procedures - Please see the appropriate modules.


Last modified: Monday, April 3, 2017, 2:17 PM