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.
The bylaws for DTH Media Corp., the nonprofit that publishes the DTH, can be read here.
The Daily Tar Heel, the independent student-run publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, operates with the following mission:
As one of the primary sources 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.
The DTH is dedicated to the mission of raising awareness about and covering underreported issues that affect underrepresented communities. We recognize that this can only be achieved by actively cultivating diversity, equity and inclusion internally and externally. Our newsroom acknowledges that diversity includes race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, life experience and expertise.
We believe that good journalism requires a diverse staff that reflects the diverse communities we cover, and we are committed to cultivating a newsroom culture that champions this. We seek to accurately reflect these communities by drawing on a multifaceted range of story subjects, sources, experts and analysts.
These are not black-and-white rules, but rather guiding principles to keep in mind throughout your career at the DTH. Please talk to your editors if you need to discuss something; we’re here to help.
Desk editors have the power to discipline through the DTH’s three strike policy and/or terminate staffers who violate these policies, though they are encouraged to provide a warning and open a dialogue rather than resorting to disciplinary action.
Appeals may be made to the editor-in-chief, who is the final arbiter of what constitutes a conflict of interest.
The guidelines are as follows:
The DTH subscribes to a full-disclosure philosophy that asks each staff member to notify their desk editor of all affiliations and involvements outside of the paper to help avoid conflicts of interest:
For DTH staffers enrolled in a class that requires students to produce content for a news source that is not The Daily Tar Heel:
For staffers working on the same story, photo project, multimedia project, etc., for class and the DTH:
Members of the opinion staff can become reporters provided that they do not cover stories or sources on which they’ve opined.
No DTH journalist is for sale. We do not use our positions to gain personal advantages or considerations not available to the general public. We cannot accept gifts or any form of contribution from a source that is not available to the general public.
All staff members are expected to exhibit good personal behavior and conduct themselves with courtesy while representing the DTH. Although not intended to be an exhaustive list, the following actions are considered inappropriate and may result in disciplinary action:
Disciplinary actions may include suspension for varying periods at the editor’s discretion or dismissal. Dismissal may follow after notice of termination was provided in writing to the staff member. Disciplined staff members may reapply to the DTH the semester after being dismissed. Appeals may be made to the editor-in-chief, who is the final arbiter of discipline.
The Daily Tar Heel encourages its reporters to be active on social media. We offer the following guidelines to our staff members:
Plagiarism (the presenting of someone's work as your own) and fabrication (the invention of quotes, sources or information) are not tolerated at the DTH. Also not tolerated is "patch writing," the minimal rewriting of a press release, background information or another news story without original reporting.
Any staffer who has plagiarized or fabricated work will be terminated. The work will be corrected or removed from the website.
The Daily Tar Heel refrains from using information from other news sources in stories. Staffers should independently verify everything through interviews, official documents, etc. The editor-in-chief may approve the use of another news source's investigation or scoop if it is crucial to the story. In those cases, the information must be attributed and hyperlinked to the news source in the text and at the top of the story until the DTH can independently verify the information. When the DTH confirms the information independently, the attribution can be moved or removed, at the discretion of the editor-in-chief.
When The Daily Tar Heel aggregates or curates news from other sources online, the staff must credit and link to the original news source, and take care not to quote large portions of the original story.
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.
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 permission 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 and social media accounts should maintain good journalistic standards, 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.
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 be anonymous, 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. Anonymous sources must be cleared with the editor-in-chief with enough time to find replacement sources or to verify the accuracy of the anonymous source. Consider a source’s motives before asking the editor-in-chief to allow their anonymity. Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Reporters must make clear why a source is anonymous in their story after clearing anonymity with the editor-in-chief.
Stories must have two independent sources if an anonymous source is quoted in the story unless otherwise approved by the editor-in-chief.
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:
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 our commitment to being a nonpartisan news source.
All staff members, except those who work for the opinion section, should not publicly announce their partisan affiliations. This certainly does not mean staff members cannot join organizations such as the Young Democrats or the College Republicans (although writers on the City & State Desk cannot do so, per the desk’s specialized conflict of interest policy), but it does mean staff members should refrain from activities such as endorsing or lobbying for a particular candidate.
Accordingly, we ask that staff members not post their candidate preferences or partisan views in forums including but not limited to:
It is acceptable to sign petitions that directly influence the democratic process. However, staff members should refrain from signing petitions that may pose a conflict of interest to their area of coverage. This responsibility is heightened for desk editors, who manage entire content areas. (See conflict of interest policy for more details and context).
DTH staff members 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 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. For instance, there’s nothing wrong with staff members talking to their friends about politics or with attending campus- or community-based meetings. These guidelines simply are here to provide a framework for thinking about these actions and to avoid conflicts of interest.
The Daily Tar Heel and its website, dailytarheel.com, 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 email with the following information:
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.
The comments you read should engage you. These guidelines are designed to preserve a level of discussion that is welcoming of all views while allowing for disagreement.
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.
DTH staff members should consider the same judgment and guidelines when commenting on DTH social media accounts as they would when posting on their public personal social media accounts (refer to the social media policy for more details). DTH staff members may provide information or insight into the reporting process but should refrain from expressing an opinion or engaging in arguments or debates.
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The Daily Tar Heel is the independent, nonprofit media lab for the University of North Carolina and the communities of Orange County. Since 1893, we have been the community's investigator, advocate and fact-checker.
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