Table of Contents
1. Mission Statement
i. Asking permission
iii. Manipulation and Staging
3. Letters to the Editor
6. Identifying yourself as a journalist, interviewing and undercover reporting
8. A short legal guide
i. Useful terms
iii. Promises of confidentiality
9. Usage of class stories
10. Conflicts of Interest
11. Anonymous Sources
12. Errors and Clarifications
13. Personal Safety
15. Social media
The Aquinian is the independent student-run newspaper of St. Thomas University. We write stories for the STU student population and greater Fredericton area. The purpose of our stories is to shine a light on campus life by reporting news, telling people stories, bringing clarity to current affairs and exploring ideas of interest to students and their community. We are a professional newspaper and a place where young journalists can find a community. We provide a space for student journalists to grow.
The Aquinian follows CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices and the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Ethics guidelines in addition to the following specialized Practices and Ethics.
When it’s not at a public event, The Aquinian always asks consent before taking photos of people.
We ask permission to use other people’s photographs. We take the publication of other people’s photos seriously. Any images of you are yours first before you consent to give them away.
We ask for permission when covering a sacred or religious ceremony, we are respectful, and take into consideration that it may not be respectful to record the ceremony and ask an organizer first.
When attending an event that usually doesn’t have photographers or videographers present, we let the organizer(s) know in advance to allow them to let the people that will be in the area at the time of the filming photography know. Anyone not comfortable can then let the photographer know to not take their photo.
We will always credit the photographer or photography company for the photo. If it is submitted by an outside source (not a writer or editor) then we will say (Submitted: Jane Smith). Otherwise a simple (Jane Smith/AQ) suffices.
Manipulation and staging
We don’t manipulate images unless it’s to convert it to black and white for the paper or to slightly improve the colouring, or create a vignette. We can crop and edit as long as it doesn’t distort the reality of the image. Photo manipulations for satire or features must be approved by a senior editor. Graphics are created by the photo editor and overseen by the Editor-in-Chief and the Managing Editor.
We can stage images if they have happened before, are symbolic or are a normal occurrence that isn’t happening right now, but we don’t stage events, such as protests. Photos taken in the moment are preferred but sometimes given the circumstances, this is not possible.
Letters to Editor
Letters to the Editor are submitted to the firstname.lastname@example.org. They must be approximately 500 words in length.
We will publish this in our print edition and/or website and retain the right to edit for length or any grammatical or style issues we find. Letters to the Editor may be written by STU or UNB students or faculty.
As a student newspaper, we want to provide our readers with as much information from all sides of a story as possible.
The content that is sent to us in the form of a Letter to the Editor is not a representation of the beliefs of The Aquinian, our editorial staff or our reporters.
In saying that, we don’t condone bullying/cyberbullying, racism, sexism or any form of discrimination. We, as the student press, have an obligation to share opinions in a way that starts a discussion, rather than spreads hate.
Letters to the Editor are meant to be opinion-based. We ask that you prove your opinion in a way that is productive. Statements should be backed up by facts. Personal attacks and defamatory content are not be permitted.
Editors should be careful of legal issues in letters. Apply the same standard of care to letters as we do with our news stories. We hold the right to fact-check statements. The opinions may not be ours, but the legal burden of the content of the letters is our responsibility.
Commentaries may be submitted by STU students and will be placed in the paper at the discretion of the Editor-in-Chief depending on its relevance, timeliness and other factors. Commentaries must not be hateful, defamatory, personal attacks or untrue.
The Aquinian editorial team has the right to edit commentaries for clarity and conciseness. The author has the right to see the edited piece of work before it is published.
If somebody contacts The Aquinian editors, EIC or reporters about an error directly or indirectly online, it must be reported to the Editor-in-Chief or Managing Editor as soon as possible. By deciding the next course of action, if needed, complaints and further outrage can be prevented or mitigated. The Aquinian cares about the accuracy of stories and as such must respond in a calm and understanding way. Acknowledge each comment and respond in a personal way that doesn’t mitigate their feelings but rather states we care about good journalism and practice high ethical and reporting standards.
We correct errors in all stories, online as soon as possible and in the next print edition. We normally do not remove stories from the website, except in extraordinary circumstances involving legal constraints.
Identifying yourself as a journalist, interviewing and undercover reporting
Typically, The Aquinian does not go undercover. With a small budget, we cannot provide the legal fees or professional aid in the case something goes wrong. The final decision will be made by the Editor-in-Chief.
The Aquinian journalists are students who must attend classes and as a result, cannot put their The Aquinian journalism above class attendance, unless in an exceptional circumstance.
Before reaching out to a potential interviewee, staff members of The Aquinian must identify themselves as a journalist working for The Aquinian and where the story shall be published. Writers must make sure that sources, especially those who are not used to doing interviews, are aware of the fact that they will be quoted. Minors should not be interviewed, especially without a parent or legal guardian’s consent. Writers are encouraged to send a copy of the article to those interviewed for the article following its publication.
The Aquinian follows the latest edition of the Canadian Press Style Guide.
A short legal guide
The Aquinian pledges to make each article factually accurate and quote people in a way that maintains their original sentiment of the meaning. If we are unsure of a meaning while interviewing, we will clarify with the source. In addition, staff must always record interviews to keep a factual record of the events. These recordings must not be deleted until after the academic year or three months after the interview.
If a story is questioned by someone or an organization, typically if they are named or mentioned in the story and they bring up the threat of legal action, here are some useful terms to remember. Definitions are taken from the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression website.
Defamation: harming another person’s reputation by making a false written or oral statement about that person to a third party
Slander: defamation with no permanent record, such as a spoken statement or even a hand gesture
Libel: defamation with a permanent record, such as an email, a radio or TV broadcast, a newspaper, a website posting, etc.
For more information, visit this link: https://www.cjfe.org/defamation_libel_and_slander_what_are_my_rights_to_free_expression
In order to avoid publishing false or misleading information while still retaining editorial independence, The Aquinian always corroborates, fact-checks diligently, and makes sure we accurately quote people in context. We avoid assumptions.
Promises of confidentiality
Keep in mind this excerpt from STU’s Journalism Code of Ethics:
“Before you offer a source confidentiality be aware journalists have only limited legal privilege when it comes to source protection. You can be cited for contempt — a criminal offence — for honouring a commitment of confidentiality. It is more prudent to offer qualified confidentiality: you would reveal a source’s identity only if compelled to testify in court after investigators have exhausted all other potential sources of information or testimony.”
Usage of class stories
Stories received from St. Thomas University journalism classes or those that have already gone through an editing process with a professor may be accepted to be published in The Aquinian. Sources in these stories must be contacted to have their renewed consent to be published in The Aquinian. However, stories that have been published in The Aquinian and have gone through the staff’s editing process may not be submitted for a class. Students should not submit a piece, originally published in The Aquinian, to class, even if it is the unedited copy. It should be submitted to class first and then sent to The Aquinian.
Conflicts of Interest
Reporters will not write stories about an event they are involved in unless it is, and is clearly labelled as, a commentary.
Reporters will not use friends, relatives (first cousins are not OK, fifth cousins are as long as you don’t have a close relationship with them), spouses or significant others as sources. If this principle is violated, it can compromise both the reporting and the story.
Anonymous sources are typically only permitted in Letters to the Editors or exceptional circumstances. However, all anonymous sources must only be published after a strict vetting process and after a final approval by the Editor-in-Chief.
The letter must meet these standards to be published:
1) Every claim that is not purely opinion must be corroborated.
2) There must be no lies or defamatory statements.
3) The letter must be in the public interest.
Errors and Clarifications
If The Aquinian does publish disinformation, misinformation or a false statement in an article, an error or clarification must be published in the following issue and online. Before this decision is reached, the writer and complainant must both be heard to understand how this false or misleading statement was published. Both the Managing Editor and the Editor-in-Chief must reach the conclusion that the statement/article requires an error statement or clarification before published in print or online. The statement will be formatted as follows:
Error (online///in paper): A previous version of the article///The article [“article name”] published in the [date] issue of The Aquinian stated [misinformation/false statement here]. In fact, [true statement here]. We regret the error.
Clarification: The Aquinian would like to clarify a statement in the article [“article name”]. It stated [statement here] but it is clearer to say [clarified statement here].
The Aquinian staff should not risk their personal safety for a story. Follow your gut. Avoid interviews in hotel rooms and non-public spaces.
Unless specified as “commentary” or “column” or on the back page as a piece of creative work, The Aquinian will refrain from leaning to an opinion or expressing an opinion. Part of our job as journalists is to get every side of the story and put events into context.
If dealing with hate groups or other extremist groups, make sure to not take their words for granted. They can be interviewed but their interviews must be surrounded by fact about who they actually are.
In opinion and commentary pieces, there shall be no hate speech, defamation, slander or lies. Anybody who is mentioned in the opinion or commentary piece who is not the author must be notified of their existence and the context of the letter to ensure they are OK with being mentioned in the story.
The Aquinian uses our social media on a frequent basis to post live updates and distribute articles to the community. We also answer questions/concerns or occasionally receive story pitches from our followers. Our principle of accuracy applies to social media too and the need to publish on social media quickly should not compromise that.
The Aquinian Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor shall only give its password to editors and trusted staff. It is encouraged that the password be changed every two months of the academic year to prevent hacking or misusage.
Inspiration for this Code of Ethics was taken from University of King’s College, Canadian Association of Journalists’ Ethics Guidelines and CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices. Advice and guidance provided by St. Thomas University journalism, communications and Great Books professor Philip Lee. Written by Caitlin Dutt, 2019-20 Editor-in-Chief. This guide can be updated with the approval of The Aquinian Board of Directors by the Managing Editor and the Editor-in-Chief.