The Williams Record

Editorial Policy

Mission statement:

Founded in 1887, The Williams Record is the independent student newspaper of Williams College, serving the Williams community through fair and independent journalism. It covers news and events relevant to campus and Williamstown; provides space for letters to the editor and opinion pieces written by members of the College community; and has a features section that tells human-interest stories, an arts section that covers a variety of cultural material, and a sports section that covers athletic events, season previews, features on athletes and other issues relevant to the College athletic community. The Record publishes a weekly online issue on Wednesdays and breaking-news reporting all year round.  The Record also produces a biweekly podcast, Press Record, and short-form documentaries and videos on the College community.

Independence of the Record:

The Record operates independently of the College 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 apply 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 ([email protected]) 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 its Standards and Practices if they collaborate with and have explicit agreement from the rest of the editorial 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. Like The New York Times, the Record allows writers to omit extraneous syllables such as “um” and “like” 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 upholding its standard of journalistic integrity, the Record has no tolerance for plagiarism. When the editorial 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. 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 fairly incorporates all relevant perspectives. 

Opinion pieces, letters to the editor, and the board’s editorials:

The Record welcomes and encourages members of the community to submit opinion pieces and letters to the editor. The Record reviews pieces from any person who submits, although it prioritizes pieces submitted by members of the College community and will not guarantee the publication of any letter or op-ed submitted. Op-eds may not be self-promotional, advertisements, or simple explications of facts; the author should express their viewpoint on the chosen topic and explain why they hold that viewpoint. Op-eds can also take the form of a creative essay. In these cases, the piece need not follow the argumentative format described above but should still present a unique perspective. 

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 content, or libel. The quality and relevance of the piece to the community are also factors taken into consideration when determining whether or not to publish an op-ed. 

The opinions editors edit 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 or rearrange publication of op-eds to create a diverse opinions section. All op-eds, including column pieces, express the opinions of only the signed authors. Letters to the editor and op-eds can be submitted to the opinions editors, Katie Jung ([email protected]) and Iman Shumburo ([email protected]).

The entire board also constructs editorials, which represent the opinion of the majority of the editorial board. Editorials can include a range of topics, but usually discuss campus or local issues on which the Record board feels it is well-equipped to share its knowledge and opinion for the benefit of the Williams community. A member of the board can request to have their name removed from the masthead for an issue if they disagree with the opinions expressed in the editorial.

Professionalism:

All Record writers must conduct themselves in a professional matter. They must be on time, show respect to their sources, and be mindful that they are representing the Record. They should also record interviews as long as the person being interviewed explicitly grants the writer permission to do so.

In standard times, the Record believes that the best way to perform an interview is live. If this is not an option, then an interview should be performed over the phone or, as a last resort, over email. During the COVID-19 pandemic, interviews should be conducted in person only when the public health situation allows, and phone or Zoom interviews should be the norm. 

Representing the Record:

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.

On and off the record; anonymity:

The Record defines “on the record” as anything that is said after the writer identifies themselves as a representative of the paper. The Record typically defines statements given “on background” as information a writer can use in developing their article without attributing it to or directly quoting the source.  “Off the record” statements are typically defined as information that the writer cannot reference or use within their article.

The Record finds it important to maintain transparency and therefore avoid anonymous sources; however, if anonymity 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.
  2. 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 granting anonymity to any source. The Editor-in-Chief must be aware of who the source is and, like the writer, is 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 fairly. Therefore, writers should not write about, and editors should not edit, 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 that editorial. 

Gifts:

Writers and members of the Record’s editorial board may not accept gifts or compensation from a source. (Exceptions may be made for gifts worth $10 or less.) 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 attends 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 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. 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 provide quote checks when they are requested. If requested, quotes will be sent to the interviewee so that they can confirm that the content of their quote is factually correct. This is contingent on clear communication between the writer and interviewee about 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 until it is published.

Social media usage:

The Record advises its editors and staff to be judicious with their postings on social media. Opinions expressed on the personal social media accounts of Record board members and staff do not necessarily reflect the views of the Record board. 

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, 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. 

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 alums who graduated within the past four years, when made aware of such passings. In notable cases, the Record may cover deaths of older alums and members of the extended College community, at the editorial board’s discretion. Please send notices of a passing to the news editors, Megan Lin (mrl4@williams.edu), Ella Marx ([email protected]), and Kiara Royer ([email protected]).

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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 2021 and reserves the right to amend these policies.