Editorial Policy

Mission Statement:

The Williams Record is the only independent student newspaper at Williams College. It covers news and events relevant to campus, provides space for letters to the editor and opinion pieces written by members of the College community, has a features section that provides stories on people, events or phenomena in the community, an arts section that covers a variety of relevant cultural material within and around the College community and a sports section that covers most varsity athletic events from the previous week as well as season previews and features on athletes.

Independence of the Record:

The Record is an independent newspaper and therefore receives no funding from the administration or College Council (CC). The Record operates independently of the administration and its representatives and therefore will not publish what these parties may demand.

Application of the Standards and Practices:

The Standards and Practices of the Record applies to all of its writers and its editorial board. It does not directly apply to those who submit opinion pieces or letters to the editor, but it is highly recommended that they follow this code.

Authority at the Record:

The Editor-in-Chief of the Record (eic@williamsrecord.com) holds the final say as to what is published every week. They also have the ability to change the operating procedures of the Record, its charter and Standards and Practices if they collaborate with and have explicit agreement from the rest of the upper board. Disagreements must be addressed through discussion and should consensus not be reached, a vote of the board will determine the matter by simple majority.

Journalistic Integrity:

The Record is committed to providing its readers with truthful information and original reporting. All writers should verify that the information they are publishing is factually correct and understand that publishing false information is a violation of the trust that the Record establishes with its readers. It is also important that writers understand that the Record is committed to original reporting. Any quotes that are used in verbatim must be written in quotation marks and a source must be cited. Therefore, if something is in quotation marks it must be exactly what the source said. Like the New York Times policy, the Record allows writers to omit extraneous syllables like ‘um’ and may judiciously delete false starts.” If anything is paraphrased, the Record assumes that the writer spoke with a source, and in any other case, all information must be attributed to a source.

In keeping with the spirit of journalistic integrity, the Record has no tolerance for plagiarism. When the upper board determines that a writer has plagiarized, the standard penalty includes a permanent expulsion of the writer from the Record’s ranks. The Record typically will retract the story and provide a complete explanation in its pages.

The Record firmly believes in fairness and therefore if an organization or individual is criticized in any article, they will be offered the opportunity to defend themselves in order to ensure that the piece is unbiased.

No piece may be submitted anonymously.

Opinion Pieces, Letters-to-the-Editor and the Board’s Editorial:

The Record welcomes and encourages members of the community to submit opinion pieces and letters-to-the-editor. The Record accepts letters from any person that submits, and op-eds from any member of the Williams community. Op-eds must relate to the College in a meaningful way, as defined by the editor-in-chief in consultation with the Opinions editor and upper board. They must be signed with a name, cannot be written by organizations and must not be self-promotional. In addition, op-eds may not be advertisements or simple explications of facts: The author must express their viewpoint on the chosen topic and explain why they hold that viewpoint. The Record reserves the right to deny publication of all or part of a submission for reasons such as the use of derogatory or threatening language, personal attacks, hearsay, factually untrue or libelous content. Quality and relevancy of the piece to the community are factors taken into consideration when determining whether or not to run an op-ed. The Opinions editor edits the article in conversation with the writer, ensuring that the piece remains true to the writer’s vision and voice while meeting the Record’s criteria and conforming to Record style. In a given week, the Record tries to present a variety of opinions and may delay and/or rearrange publication of op-eds to create a diverse Opinions section. The opinions expressed in signed columns are not necessarily those of the Williams Record editorial board.

The entire board also constructs a weekly editorial. A member of the board can request to have their name removed from the masthead for an issue if they do not agree with the editorial.

Professionalism:

All Record writers must conduct themselves in a professional matter. They must be on time and show respect to those who they are interviewing and be mindful that they are representing the Record. They can also record an interview as long as the person being interviewed grants the writer permission to do so.

The Record believes that the best way to perform an interview is in person. If this is not an option, then an interview should be performed over the phone or, as a last resort, over email.

Representing the Record, “on and off the record” and Anonymous Sources:

Writers must identify themselves as representatives of the Record. If the writer is reporting from a public event, they do not need to identify themselves, as all public remarks are public by definition.

The Record defines “on the record” as anything that is said after the writer identifies themselves as a representative of the paper. Before any interview, a writer must clearly define for the interviewee what is “on and off the record,” and what is meant by “off the record”. The Record typically defines statements given “off the record” as information a writer can use in their piece without attributing it to the source.

The Record finds it important that it maintains transparency and therefore avoid anonymous sources; however, if it is required for a given story, the following guidelines from The Associated Press must be adhered to:

  1. The material that is published must be critical to the story being reported on and also factual information.
  1. The information must only be available from the source that is insisting on anonymity. 3. The source must be reliable and be in a position to provide this accurate information.

The writer must seek approval from the Editor-in-Chief before publishing an anonymous source. The Editor-in-Chief must be aware of the source and is, like the writer, obligated to maintain the confidentiality of the source. The writer must be able to confirm that the source is accurate and should do their best to convince the source to move away from anonymity. They must also state in the article why the source material is anonymous.

Conflicts of Interest:

Conflicts of interest can affect the integrity of the Record and therefore should be avoided. For news articles especially, it is of utmost importance to present the facts in an unbiased manner. Therefore, writers should not cover news stories that personally involve them or organizations that they are involved in. For other sections, discretion will be used to determine if a conflict of interest exists and the writer’s involvement will be disclosed in the article. No coverage in the Record will be promotional. If a board member has a conflict of interest during editorial meetings, they are asked to leave and not participate in the discussion for the week. The Record also considers it a conflict of interest to be a member of both its editorial board and CC. As a result, a member of the editorial board cannot run for a position on CC. They can, however, still serve on CC committees.

Gifts:

Writers and members of the Record’s editorial board may not accept gifts or compensation from a source. A writer may not accept a meal from a restaurant when they are writing a review of that restaurant. Writers may be given items that are offered to everyone who attended a specific event.

Correction Policy:

The Record understands that it will make mistakes in publication. Corrections should be sent to the Editor-in-Chief. The Record will publish corrections online as soon as possible and in the next printed issue of the paper. This is part of a commitment to publishing true and factual information and the Record appreciates any assistance from readers and writers.

Comment Policy:

The Record encourages all readers to comment on the articles posted on its website. Constructive comments that promote conversation are welcome. Members of the Record’s upper board will act as moderators of commentary that is posted. A comment will not be accepted if it includes profanity, does not relate to an article, contains hate speech or is a personal attack on reporters. The Record encourages people who feel as though they would like to comment more on an issue to submit an op-ed or letter to the editor. The Record advises its board and writers to avoid writing commentary in the comments section of articles published online.

Quote Checks:

The Record will universally provide quote checks when they are requested. If requested, quotes will be sent to the interviewee so that they can confirm that it is what they said in the interview. This is contingent on clear communication between the writer and interviewee about the what will be permitted to be changed in a quote check. The interviewee will not receive a full text of the article in which they are quoted.

Social Media Usage:

The Record suggests that its editorial board and writers exercise caution when posting or sharing and commenting on articles from the paper on social media due to the fact that their opinion could be taken as that of the board itself.

Archives Policy:

The Record archives form a constitutive part of our mission at the College. We seek to not alter our archives in order to preserve this vital historical record of the College.

Subjects of our articles may dislike published content. Nevertheless, investigative journalism is integral to our function as a college newspaper. Changes to our online archives for reasons other than those listed below would impede our ability to function as a reputable and faithful newspaper. If the Record were to modify or amend its archives at the request of other parties, it would lose its ability to report objectively and effectively and fail in its responsibility to serve the College community. Thus, the Record preserves its right to full editorial control over all archived material.

The Record will consider none but the following reasons for corrections:

1) The article is factually incorrect.

2) The article is defamatory, threatening or otherwise illegal.

The editorial board will manage such claims on a case-by-case basis.

This policy applies to all archives, including online archives, and all articles in the history of the Record, including in its former iterations under different names. Beginning in February 2015, all interviewees for the One in Two Thousand column were warned of this policy before  their interviews. One in Two Thousand articles published before February 2015 may be removed from search engine results at the interviewee’s request.

Obituary Policy:

The Record will cover deaths of immediate community members (i.e., current students, faculty and staff). The Record will also cover deaths of alumni who graduated within the past four years, when made aware of such passings. In notable cases, the Record may cover deaths of older alumni and members of the extended College community, at the editorial board’s discretion. Please send notices of a passing to the news editors, Nicholas Goldrosen (ncg1@williams.edu) and William Newton (wan1@williams.edu). 


The standards and practices outlined above are based off of “The Charter of The Williams Record” and drew additional inspiration from the “Standards and Practices” of The Bowdoin Orient. The editorial board of the Record ratified the preceding set of standards and practices in February 2017 and reserves the right to amend these policies.