Editorial: our mission and who we are

Seek truth and report it. Minimize harm. Act independently. Be accountable.

These four components make up the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. These are the same ethics that we, The Cameron Collegian staff, use when creating our product and providing news to our readers.

Seek truth and report it

“Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.”

At some point in every journalist’s life, they will be faced with covering a difficult story or an issue that is highly controversial. In the first edition of the Collegian, the article titled “Understanding SAFAC,” covered a highly controversial campus issue by providing insight into how the process works when allocating SAFAC funds and by accurately reporting the information.

Covering the story was just like any other, including setting up interviews and seeking out the appropriate information. Our staff ensured that all facts were correct and that the main news story was without bias. To “distinguish between advocacy and news reporting,” we reserved our opinions for a Voices piece, “Equality in Student Funds.” A supplemental chart ran with the Voices piece to reflect information presented in both articles.

Approaching the topic in the first issue of the semester would not have been possible without following our Code of Ethics. But this was not the only piece published this semester that sought truth and reported it. Every article published holds these principles highest.

 Minimize harm

“Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.”

The Cameron Collegian staff strives to minimize harm in all that we report. For example, in our new Student Life column, “Dear Aggie,” we ask students and faculty members who submit content to maintain their anonymity. In the case that contributors provide too much information that could distinguish who they are, our editorial board cuts out unnecessary information.

We do not reveal sources. In the fifth issue of the semester, we received a Dear Aggie letter from “Between a Rock and an Ethical Place,” dealing with the issue of student-professor relations. Even if we had the name of the person who wrote the letter, we would not have released it. In order to minimize harm, and to maintain credibility with our readers and sources, we had to ensure that those submitting anonymously remained anonymous. It is our task to inform the public; it is the public’s responsibility to act on that information.

Additionally, our Dear Aggie column states “responses are generated in house by Collegian editorial members and do not represent professional opinion or advice.” While we research a topic before responding, we emphasize that our advice is not professional and should not be treated as such. 

Act independently

“Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.”

The Cameron Collegian is student run; we are the content control; we are here for the learning experience; and we are the Fourth Estate.

We are student run. Decisions made in the office come from the editorial members. Our adviser, David Bublitz, provides instruction and support, but he does not control content.

We are the content control. Our staff dictates what goes in the paper and what goes on AggieCentral. While we are open to suggestions, the decision of what is put in the Collegian is ultimately ours. The Code of Ethics, our personal morals and what we have learned in class help guide us when making these choices.

We are here for the learning experience. While there aren’t as many students in our office as there are in other classrooms, we are the largest classroom on campus because we cover the entirety of campus. Everything we do is a learning experience for us, and we learn new things by covering new stories, by designing new layouts and by meeting new people each and every week.

We are the Fourth Estate. Journalists are watch dogs, checking and balancing the branches of government and people in power. At Cameron, we follow these same principles to promote socially aware, ethical decision-making throughout campus.

Be accountable

“Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.”

Our staff reports accurate information at all times. There are some instances when we make errors; however, we are not afraid to fix our errors promptly, and the Code of Ethics dictates that this is how errors should be handled.

In a few instances, our readers have brought us corrected information. When at fault, we have run a corrections box stating “we regret the error and are happy to set the record straight.” Every week we make mistakes. Every week we acknowledge our mistakes and the publication improves because we are accountable.

The Code of Ethics states that journalists should “encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media,” and we do. All of our editorial board members have had the opportunity to discuss stories with classmates, faculty and staff members and field our readers’ responses. We encourage and consider all constructive feedback as long as it is credible.

To contact The Cameron Collegian editorial board, call 580-581-2260, email aggiecentral@cameron.edu or tweet us @AggieCentral.

Used with permission from the Society of Professional Journalists

Used with permission from the Society of Professional Journalists

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