The Daily Tar Heel's Policies

Below are the policies The Daily Tar Heel abides by. All staff members are required to sign their agreement with these policies before beginning work, and violation of any part of them is grounds for dismissal.

Mission statement

The Daily Tar Heel, the student-run publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, operates with the following mission:

  • To aggressively pursue all news of the University, University community and all who are affected by the University; to consistently beat our competition in terms of breaking news and quality of content; to set the standard for the journalism industry in terms of innovation, accuracy and responsiveness to the community.
  • To serve as a learning laboratory for young journalists with a relaxed atmosphere but serious expectations; to equip all aspiring media professionals with the tools necessary not only to communicate information but also to understand the changing face of media; to train staff members in various aspects of reporting, editing and managing a daily news organization and publishing a daily newspaper; to provide a fun, relaxed working environment for young professionals.
  • To advocate for the tradition of editorial and journalistic freedom among journalists; to be a leader in espousing the ethical standards of the industry; to serve as a beacon of journalistic integrity.
  • To represent the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as its flagship news organization and also to represent the area as Orange County’s news source of record.

Code of Ethics

As the primary barons of our area’s news and information, we must always mind our public image and the perception the public holds of us. The best way we can ensure that image is safeguarded and our product is clean is to be unwavering in our stance on ethical decision-making, to make that stance as transparent as possible and to address reader concerns about ethics and all other content decisions. The DTH also follows the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethical standards, which focus on seeking truth and reporting it, minimizing harm, acting independently and being accountable.

Our priorities:

  • We are committed to truth and accuracy. Without accuracy, we lack credibility and readers’ trust — the foundation of our business. We do not plagiarize or unfairly accept others’ information as our own. All information we obtain from other sources will be correctly attributed.
  • We are focused on fair, impartial treatment of readers, sources and advertisers.
  • We strive to be as open and accountable to our readers as possible. We publish our names and contact information in every day’s paper and on our website, and we encourage reader participation and feedback. Especially incumbent upon us is a goal of involving those seldom-heard voices in our community.
  • We promise to admit when we mess up. When we make a mistake, the only way we can save our credibility is to admit that we made it, apologize and take steps to keep it from happening again.
  • We are dedicated to suggesting change and exposing societal wrongs. Through editorials and clearly labeled commentaries, we add our voice to a public forum that involves and engages as many readers as possible – especially those who disagree with us.
  • We are not afraid to get involved in our community. Our conflict of interest policy helps guide how we as objective journalists gather the news, but we encourage our employees to become active in charitable and civic activities.

Conflict of interest policy

Desk editors have the power to fire staff members who violate the conflict of interest policy. Appeals may be made to the editor-in-chief, who is the final arbiter of what constitutes a conflict of interest.

  • No staff member outside of the opinion section may participate on any of student government’s three branches or in any administrative capacity. This includes any student government committees or external appointments, RHA (students are permitted to serve as resident advisers), Senior Marshals and the CAA. Opinion desk staff are permitted to have a small role in certain organizations, but such involvement must be cleared by the editor-in-chief and fully disclosed.
  • Staff members should not make the news. We offer the following guidelines for our staff:
    • Don’t participate in rallies, protests, demonstrations or controversies. Active and public participation in political events damages the organization’s credibility and destroys any chance of defending our stance as being unbiased.
    • Do not make any public comments or participate in media interviews without talking first to the editor. Staffers will be encouraged to give interviews related to their stories and serve as experts in their fields.
    • It is acceptable to sign petitions that directly influence the democratic process, e.g. a petition to get a bond referendum on the ballot; however, staff members are prohibited from signing petitions that have the purpose of expressing a particular viewpoint or that have a political agenda. While on duty for an assignment, the responsibility to stay out of the action is heightened. Staff members will remember that online forums are public, too. See Election Season policy for more information.
    • Do not publish political views on blogs or social networking sites and profiles. This includes the Facebook “causes” application for any partisan causes. In general, avoid showing your hand. Refer to the social media policy as well.
  • Reporters cannot cover a story where they are friends with or are affiliated with anyone involved in that story. Reporters should be comfortable with their sources but should not go past a source/reporter relationship with anyone involved in that story because it can undermine the credibility of the DTH. Under no circumstances should a reporter interview a roommate or close friend. Refer to the social media policy for more on appropriate online relationships with sources.
  • Staff members may work for other campus or community publications or news organizations, although duties must not overlap. For example, a University Desk reporter may not cover campus issues for another publication and may not write editorials about University-related topics. Additionally, reporters must understand that working at a publication that takes a clear political stance on issues calls their objectivity as staff members of the DTH into question. As such, staff members are prohibited from working for a publication that has a stated political agenda, e.g. The Carolina Review. Refer to the alternate publications policy for more information.

For DTH staffers enrolled in a class that requires students to produce content for a news source that is not The Daily Tar Heel, such as Carolina Week or Reesenews:

  • Generally, the DTH policy on alternate publications does not apply to required coursework. The newspaper does not infringe upon a student’s ability to progress academically.
  • When it’s possible, the DTH would prefer the student to pitch his or her work for publication in the DTH.
  • When it’s possible, the DTH respectfully requests that staffers cover a beat or story for the alternate news source that is different than stories they typically cover for the newspaper.
  • Staffers should let their editor know which beat they’ll be working on for the alternate news source, to avoid future conflicts or misunderstandings with sources.
  • If the staffer wants to do more work for the alternate news source than is required for class, then the conflict-of-interest policy on alternate publications applies. In that case, the staffer should make sure the editor-in-chief knows about the extra work, and that the staffer’s duties at the alternate news source and the DTH do not overlap.

For staffers working on the same story, photo project, multimedia project, etc., for class and the DTH:

  • Staffers must be honest and transparent with sources about the possible publication of a story. It is fraud to represent oneself as a DTH staffer to sources if the story is solely for class. It is also against DTH policy to tell a source that a story is solely for class, then publish it in the paper without the source’s consent.
  • The DTH editor-in-chief has final authority over the content and publication of a story. Any staffer in a reporting class should pitch his story ideas to the appropriate section editor. If the editor is interested in the story, then it’s safe to tell sources the story is for class and for the DTH.
  • Staffers working on a story that’s only for class should be extra clear with sources with whom they’ve developed a relationship through the DTH. If not, the source might assume the story is for the DTH when it is not.
  • When finished with a story, the staffer should turn in his or her own work to the professor for class and to the editor for publication. The reporter should not give a professor a DTH-edited version of his or her work.
  • Reporters must always remember to identify themselves as DTH reporters while on assignment. Misrepresenting, or not representing, a reporter’s role for an article is not acceptable.
  • The DTH takes seriously its unbiased stance, and editors must be informed if any staff member takes a prominent leadership position in another campus group. Working at the DTH does not preclude staff members from membership in other campus groups. But we ask that no staff member or editor take on any prominent leadership position in another campus group unless cleared by the editor-in-chief. Though the DTH applauds student involvement in campus activities and organizations, we don’t want to put ourselves into the uncomfortable position of relying on members of our own staff as sources for our stories. If a staff member applies for a leadership position that could place him or her at odds with this policy if hired, that staff member must inform his or her editor before submitting the application to avoid the appearance of a conflict. In all circumstances of doubt regarding following this policy, staff members should consult an editor. If any controversy arises, the editor-in-chief will determine the appropriate course of action.
  • Anyone who works as a columnist, cartoonist, Opinion Editor and/or associate editor is not eligible to concurrently join the staff as a reporter or editor. Members of the opinion staff can become reporters provided that they do not cover stories or sources on which they’ve opined. During student elections, staff members may not sign any candidate’s petition and may not participate in any campaign activities. Furthermore, involvement in social activities with candidates or members of campaigns during student elections is strongly discouraged and can result in probation or termination. Though the DTH does not in any way want to restrict the political thought or social lives of staff members, student election season is a particularly sensitive time on campus, and the DTH, as the only news organization that comprehensively covers the race, must work overtime to be objective. The organization’s integrity is compromised not only when staff members express a public preference for a particular candidate but also when staff members fraternize with campaigners and/or candidates during such a pivotal time.
  • No DTH journalist is for sale. We do not use our positions to gain personal advantages or considerations not available to the general public. For those reasons, we cannot accept gifts or any form of contribution from a source that is not available to the general public. Gifts can take the form of meal payments, gift bags, etc. In all cases, our staff members politely return the gift.
  • The DTH encourages employees to become involved in community activities and to donate time to civic and charity organizations as long as they are not part of that staffers’ primary coverage area. Ethical guidelines should not be regarded as a barrier to being a good citizen in the community, but we must remain steadfast in our objectivity.
  • The DTH subscribes to a full-disclosure philosophy that asks each staff member to notify his or her desk editor of all affiliations and involvements outside of the paper to help avoid conflicts of interest. Failure to disclose any involvements could result in immediate dismissal from staff.
  • It is important to remember that conflicts of interest can be avoided by simply using common sense. Staff members must ask themselves: “Does doing/saying this or being here undermine my stance as an objective reporter? Would anyone trust my objectivity less after seeing/hearing me?” Any doubts, questions or concerns should be brought to the attention of the editor-in-chief.

Alternate publications policy

All work for other publications must be authorized by the editor-in-chief. The editor will be receptive to staff members who want to gain additional journalism experience outside of The Daily Tar Heel. However, not disclosing involvement in other publications, either print or online, is grounds for immediate termination.
Staff members may work for other campus and community publications, although duties must not overlap. For example, a University Desk reporter may not cover campus issues for another publication and may not write editorials about University-related topics. Additionally, reporters must understand that working at a publication that takes a clear political stance on issues calls their objectivity as staff members of the DTH into question. As such, staff members are prohibited from working for a publication that has a stated political agenda, e.g. The Carolina Review.
Staff members also agree not to share any information obtained at the DTH with the alternative publication. Additionally, anything published in and for the DTH is solely the property of the DTH and only can be republished after obtaining permissions from the editor-in-chief. This includes any information, photos, video, audio, interviews, sources or any other content generated by a DTH staff member while using DTH equipment or the DTH name and media.
Staff members also remember that they represent The Daily Tar Heel in all public forums. In that vein, personal blogs should maintain good journalistic standards that reflect well on the reputation of The Daily Tar Heel, such as linking to another news article if that’s where the information came from rather than making it appear as if the staff member learned it through independent reporting. Refer to the social media policy.

Anonymous source policy

It is the policy of The Daily Tar Heel not to publish anonymous or off-the-record information unless there is no alternative method of obtaining the information and said information is important enough to abandon our core ideal of always identifying any piece of information or any quote not self-generated.
In general, sources going off the record is discouraged. Reporters should only do so if the information might prove useful in tracking down future stories and leads. If sources are unwilling to go on the record with said information, reporters should try and confirm the information in a public way through other avenues.
If a known source asks that all information be kept off the record and already has told a reporter the information, all that information should be kept on the record. The editor-in-chief will be the ultimate arbiter in determining when this rule of thumb might be bent.
Any information that cannot be confirmed on the record and that is of a highly groundbreaking and provocative nature should be brought to the editor-in-chief’s attention. The editor-in-chief is to make the ultimate call as to whether the information may be published without attribution.
If a source asks to go off the record, reporters will immediately ask their supervising editor before promising anonymity. The editor will discuss the content with newsroom management as soon as possible and before deadline.

Corrections policy

Fundamental to The Daily Tar Heel’s mission of provoking thought and inspiring action is accuracy. Failure to report accurately undermines the publication’s credibility in the eyes of our readers and peers. As a general rule, the DTH does not run any piece of information that we are not 100 percent sure is correct. That being said, mistakes are inevitable. Reporters and editors must be responsive and forthright in dealing with accuracy issues. The news organization serves as a historical record and any blemishes must be corrected. As such, the DTH has implemented the following policy with respect to running corrections:

  • It shouldn’t take a complaint from a source to run a correction. Anytime a member of the DTH staff becomes aware of a potential error, he or she should immediately refer it to his or her desk editor and Managing Editor Elise Young.
  • Upon notification, editors will immediately examine the error. Is it a mistake? Why did it happen? How can it be corrected?
  • A call about a correction should not be treated as a headache but as an opportunity to make amends and ensure that our credibility does not suffer. Showing sources that we care about being accurate is essential to our success and often the best way to avoid legal troubles. Calls from sources or readers about potential mistakes should be returned or handled promptly by an editor. If a correction is warranted, the editor and reporter will issue a sincere apology to the caller.
  • Corrections will be printed in the next day’s paper and will run prominently on page 2. Corrections to the print and online product will also be noted on our website.
  • An assistant editor or desk editor will fill out a correction form and submit it to Managing Editor Elise Young as soon as he or she becomes aware of the mistake. Information to be included on the form are date and page of publication, reason for error and an explanation for what can be done in the future to avoid similar mistakes.
  • The reporter or editor will also call the sources involved and apologize directly. During the call he or she should provide an explanation to the source. Mistakes can happen during the course of news flow, and most sources understand this and will be willing to forgive them. Calling gives them an opportunity to do so and shows that we take errors seriously.
  • The editor-in-chief will be the final arbiter as to what constitutes a correction or clarification.

Election season policy

We do not wish to alienate any politically minded staff members, and we make decisions regarding political activity and campaign materials for the good of the paper. Our rationale is based on the organization’s integrity and the need for objectivity and a nonpartisan persona during a particularly heated election season.

All staff members, except those who work for the opinion section, should not publicly announce their political beliefs or affiliations. This certainly does not mean that staff members cannot join organizations such as the Young Democrats or the College Republicans (although writers on the State & National Desk cannot do so, per the desk’s specialized conflict of interest policy), but it does mean staff members should refrain from endorsing or lobbying for a particular candidate or speaking out publicly on particular issues in even the most mundane of visible ways.

Accordingly, we ask that staff members not post their candidate preferences or political views in forums including but not limited to:

  • Bumper stickers
  • Stickers, pins, patches, etc. on a staff member’s person or personal effects
  • E-mail signatures
  • Personal blogs or social media accounts (see alternate publications and social media policies)

It is acceptable to sign petitions that directly influence the democratic process, e.g. a petition to get a bond referendum on the ballot; however, staff members are prohibited from signing petitions that have the purpose of expressing a particular viewpoint or that have a strong political agenda, such as a petition for a moratorium on the death penalty.

Certain DTH staff – all editors, all assistant editors, staff members on the University Desk, general assignment staff members on the Graphics and Design Desk, the Photo Desk, the Multimedia Desk, the Online Desk and the Copy Desk – may not sign petitions to get student government candidates on a ballot. This includes student body president, senior class president, Student Congress, CAA president and RHA president. Staff found to have signed one of the above petitions will be subject to termination. Staff in one or more of the categories above absolutely may vote in all elections, but their names should stay off petitions in order to avoid endorsement of a particular candidate or viewpoint.

We neither desire to nor intend to censor any member of the DTH’s staff – to do so would be antithetical to the paper’s mission, history and ideals. We like to think of this policy as one of common sense and self-discipline. We want staff members to be able to discuss issues and we don’t naively assume that you are inherently objective. However, we also don’t want staffers with bumper stickers or other materials or staffers with public views to lead people to identify the paper as being in any way partisan. That said, there’s nothing wrong with staff members talking to their friends about politics or with attending campus- or community-based meetings. We do not begrudge anyone his or her beliefs, and we often, in fact, tend to empathize with those who feel strongly about issues. There is, however, a problem with saying or doing things in such a manner that you reveal staff members’ hands. We’d like to avoid that.

Social media policy

The Daily Tar Heel encourages its reporters to be involved with social media. We offer the following guidelines to our staff members:

  • Understand that your profile and presence on social networks represents yourself and the DTH. Be thoughtful with what you say.
  • Using your own name and photo is recommended, but you may choose any avatar you wish so long as it is in good taste and does not misrepresent yourself as someone you are not. If you using your account for DTH reporting, identify yourself as a DTH reporter in your profile.
  • Tell your editor if you plan to tweet as a DTH reporter. Likewise, let your editor know if you plan to livetweet something.
  • In general, do not post something online that would not be appropriate to run in the paper or on
  • You must disclose yourself as a DTH reporter to potential sources the same way you would if you were meeting face-to-face.
  • Do not disclose political affiliation on profiles and do not write about your political preferences in updates.
  • Do not criticize a colleague’s work.
  • Promoting your work via social media is encouraged.
  • In the interest of transparency, staff meetings are considered open unless otherwise stated.
  • It is acceptable to “friend” sources, but do it evenly. For instance, if you cover the Chapel Hill Town Council, if you wish to follow one member on Twitter, you should follow all of them.
  • Respond to people who contact you via social media. If you aren’t the appropriate person to answer their questions, refer them to whoever is.

Manipulation of archives

The Daily Tar Heel and its Web site,, strive to report the truth as accurately as possible on news events of the day. Online archives are a part of the institutional memory of the newspaper and a historical record of our community. As such, we will not remove nor attempt to hide from commercial search engines any material in our online archives – news stories, story comments, editorials, opinion columns, photographs or graphic illustrations. If an error in our archived content is brought to our attention and documented to our satisfaction, we will append the original article with an editor’s note acknowledging the change made to the original archive. That decision is solely at the discretion of the current student editorial management.

To make a complaint that archived content is inaccurate, contact the editor-in-chief in writing by letter or e-mail with the following information:

  • Name, telephone number and e-mail address,
  • The URL address of the content in question, and
  • The specific content that is inaccurate and an explanation of how the information is inaccurate.

In the case of content published more than one year ago, the complainant must provide reasonable proof to the editor-in-chief that the content in question is no longer accurate. For example, a copy of expungement papers should be provided in case any criminal charges are dropped. If published more than a year ago, contested quotes are highly unlikely to be amended without written or audio documentation.

If the contested content was published less than a year ago, normal internal procedures for checking the material’s accuracy will apply, and you may be asked to provide written documentation. Updates or corrections may be added if the material is factually inaccurate, but nothing will be removed. In the event of a correction, a note detailing the date and time of the change will be included.

The request will be reviewed and checked by the editor and if the editor determines it to be valid, an update or correction will be posted.

Community guidelines for

The comments you read should engage you, not turn you off. These guidelines are designed to preserve a level of discussion that is welcoming of all views while allowing for disagreement.

  • Be nice. We won’t tolerate posts that insult others by using gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference or disabilities.
  • Be yourself. Users who pretend to be other individuals will be banned from the site. Use one identity on the site.
  • Be honest. We remove comments if we know them to be false.
  • Be appropriate. We won’t tolerate posts that are obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit.
  • Be thoughtful. This is a space for conversation, not attacks. Don’t undermine the debate.
  • Be discreet. We won’t tolerate posts that violate the privacy of others.

We don’t edit comments, but we reserve the right to remove them if they violate these guidelines. And we reserve the right to remove comments that violate the spirit of these guidelines as well. We regularly patrol comments, but sometimes we’ll miss something. If you think a comment violates our guidelines, contact the webmaster.

By posting a comment, you accept these guidelines and our Terms of Service, available online. We’ll try to give you one warning before removing your commenting privileges. We also reserve the right to remove those privileges without warning. If you have a question or want to discuss why we removed a comment, the webmaster is more than happy to do so.

Only the DTH’s editor-in-chief, managing editor and online editors can post comments on our website. These individuals are prohibited from expressing an opinion in a comment, but can provide information or insight into the reporting process. They will fully identify themselves by name and position at the DTH.

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