MANITOBAN NEWSPAPER PUBLICATIONS CORPORATION JOURNALISTIC STANDARDS AND POLICIES

Introduction

The Manitoban is the University of Manitoba’s student newspaper. Our responsibility is to provide in-depth and unbiased coverage of on-campus events and goings-on in the larger province that relate to students. 

The newspaper’s primary mandate is to report fairly and objectively on issues and events of importance and interest to the students of the University of Manitoba, to provide an open forum for the free expression and exchange of opinions and ideas and to stimulate meaningful debate on issues that affect or would otherwise be of interest to the student body and/or society in general. The Manitoban serves as a training ground for students interested in any aspect of journalism.

We are funded through student fees collected by the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU), the University of Manitoba Graduate Students’ Union (UMGSA) and advertising revenue. We operate independently of UMSU, UMGSA and our advertisers and they maintain no editorial control over our content. Advertisers have no control over our content beyond their ads, and ads are clearly defined so as to prevent any confusion with editorial content. We are also not affiliated with the University of Manitoba administration. 

This is our Journalistic Standards and Practices (JSP) document. It is a framework for how we make every decision here at the Manitoban, serving as both a guide for our journalists and a constant reminder of our mandate as a public service in the interests of U of M students. To put it in practical terms, this document lays out the guidelines and best practices for our reporting and can be used by the public to understand our editorial decisions. 

Journalism is changing, becoming increasingly digital and expanding to new mediums in pursuit of the public’s preferred method of consumption. With a staff made up primarily of students, we often find our team naturally exhibits an inclination to adapt to the next popular platform or to try innovative ideas. This document serves as a guide to current and future Manitoban editors within which experimentation and change may continue to exist while being bound by a core set of principles and practices that ensure we fulfill our responsibilities as journalists, always.

The Editor-in-Chief of the Manitoban is responsible for interpreting and applying the JSP. Every staff member of the Manitoban is responsible for familiarizing themselves with the contents of the JSP.

Final editorial decisions reside with the Editorial Board. Any decision that could affect the Manitoban’s credibility should be referred to the Editor-in-Chief and Editorial Board. 

We take our responsibilities not only as a respected and credible source for information but as a beneficiary of student fees very seriously. With the oversight of our board of directors, each year our Editor-in-Chief and Business Manager formulate a budget that covers everything from staff salaries to projected office supply expenditures. This budget is then approved by the board of directors. We take great care to manage the resources bestowed upon us by students responsibly.

We are accountable to not only students of the University of Manitoba, but to our entire readership. Should you have questions or concerns about anything we produce, including this document, feel free to contact our Editor-in-Chief at editor@themanitoban.com.

Clandestine methods

Clandestine methods can negatively impact our credibility and transparency, even when lawful. Before engaging in any clandestine methods, senior editorial management is consulted on the proposed method(s), what purpose it serves and on whether material gathered will be for research or for publication. Under no circumstances will we engage in clandestine methods that are unlawful or do not serve the interest of our readers.

We may conceal recording equipment in a public place to record behaviour when the presence of such equipment might affect our ability to do our work.

We may bring concealed recording equipment into a private place if we believe that there is illegal or antisocial activity occurring that we would be unable to openly record. Information gathered this way will be carefully evaluated by the Editor-in-Chief before it is used in publication.

Occasionally, our journalists may conceal their identity as a journalist if the revelation would hinder their ability to perform their duties or put their safety at risk. Before doing so, the Editor-in-Chief will be consulted.

Our journalists may listen in to a conference call if we are given access with the consent of at least once participant to the call, we believe listening in to the call would assist us in proving the occurrence of illegal or antisocial activity and we believe that an open attempt to gather information sought would fail. The Editor-in-Chief will be consulted beforehand.

Before publishing information obtained through such clandestine methods, the person exposed will be informed and given the opportunity to provide a reaction that may be published alongside the exposed information.

Conflict of Interest

Being funded by University of Manitoba students, it is integral that we remain impartial. We serve students. Any conflict between this and our personal or professional interests risks impairing that impartiality.

We must be mindful of our behaviour in public and we must remember that our relationship outside of our work with the Manitoban may affect public perception of our work.

Transparency to both senior editorial management and to the public when necessary is key to maintaining our credibility.

Editorial staff members contributing to outside projects should consult editorial management beforehand. This includes books, articles, speaking events or any related projects.

Editorial staff members must disclose possible real and perceived conflicts of interest to senior editorial management including employment, personal relationships, professional relationships, etc. Should senior editorial management deem it necessary, the staff member may be kept away from the story.

Our editorial standards remain the same when the Manitoban itself becomes the subject of a story. Should a staff member be a subject in a story, they will remove themselves from coverage planning and editorial discussions relevant to the story.

Editorial staff should not accept gifts, including meals and drinks. Food provided as hospitality at events may be permissible.

Tickets to events for the purposes of coverage can be accepted.

Awards for journalistic work may be accepted, though senior editorial management should be informed.

Corrections

In the event of a significant error in content we have published, we promptly amend the concerned article online and, if necessary, shall issue a correction in print.

There is a difference between information that was accurate at the time of publishing and information that was improperly reported. If published information was accurate at the time of publication, we will consider an update should we feel it is of necessary importance and impact.

Senior editorial management will decide on the form of any correction or clarification. A correction or clarification made to an article online should be accompanied by an explanation.

Coverage of hateful or violent individuals or organizations
We may cover individuals or organizations promoting hate or violence. We are constantly aware that such coverage provides a platform to those views, but we are also aware that such coverage may be of value to our readership, and we decide whether or not to proceed with such coverage should we decide it serves the interests of our readership. Such decisions should be referred to senior editorial management.

Crime and Police Reporting

In proceeding with coverage of tragic events, we strive to maintain a sensitivity for witnesses and victims and their loved ones. Discretion is advised in balancing the public interest with such compassion and restraint. In sensitive circumstances we take care to cause as little additional stress to interviewees as possible.

We avoid overly explicit detail and take care to avoid glorifying harmful behaviour.

If police have not released the identity of a person who has died due to an accident or crime, we ensure we have concrete confirmation of this information before we publish it ourselves. Compassion for the victim’s friends and relatives is considered before we publish such information.

Demonstrations, violent and non-violent

Protests and demonstrations are a fundamental part of our democracy and are designed to attract media attention. Often these demonstrations will be legal and safe, and conducted without danger of violence or harm. However, in extreme cases, individuals or groups may act in ways potentially harmful to themselves or others — anything from vandalism to hunger strikes to hostage-taking. In any situation where such behaviour is a factor, we carefully weigh the importance of the information with potential harm and plan coverage around that balance.

Content related to matters of a troubling nature is part of our coverage as we attempt to accurately reflect the world around us. Should an article contain content that may be distressing to some consumers, it will be preceded by a warning.

Embargos

Embargos agreed to in return for access to material relating to research or investigations are respected. If another news organization violates an embargo, we may consider publication of our own related content, but will first inform the organization that asked for the embargo.

If we have gathered information covered by a proposed embargo, we will not agree to the embargo and reserve the right to publish that information.

Interviews

Interviewees are responsible for their statements. When presenting a person’s statements, we take every precaution to ensure that we follow the person’s words to the letter when directly quoting them and the spirit when paraphrasing.

Before presenting a person’s statements, we consider whether knowledge of those statements is to the interest of our readership.

We provide context around interviewees and their statements so as to avoid confusion about their relevance and credibility.

Before an interview begins, we inform interviewees what the questions will pertain to. Even if an interview is scheduled in advance, we do not provide interviewees the questions in advance. If an interview is conducted through email, text, social media or another similar platform, this should be reflected in the article if it may have a bearing on readers’ judgement.

We record our interviewees as a rule. We ensure interviewees are aware they will be recorded. Not everything an interviewee says will make its way into our content, we adhere to strict standards when deciding what is relevant and what is not.

We do not pay for interviews or for information, though certain expenses incurred by an interviewee in making themselves available for an interview may be reimbursed at the discretion of the Editor-in-Chief. 

Should an interviewee make statements outside of a formal interview that are recorded and we deem relevant to our coverage, we inform the interviewee that we plan to publish the statements. Should they object and provide reasoning for the objection, we weigh the interests of our readership in continuing with reporting the statements with the objections and reasoning and with the effect the publication may have on the Manitoban in the future. Senior editorial management should be consulted in such circumstances.

Should a person refuse to be interviewed, we weigh the interests of our readership in deciding whether to proceed with attempts to persuade the person or to record their reactions to our questions without their consent. Such a confrontation should be first discussed with senior editorial management.

Should a party that is substantially relevant to a story refuse to be interviewed or provide comment, we may explain this in our content.

We may publish any material gathered provided it was gathered according to this JSP.

Should an interviewee request a withholding of their statements from publication, we weigh the interest of our readership with the threat publication would present to the person’s wellbeing.

Conversations with sources not intended for direct publication are typically recorded openly but may be done without the source’s knowledge. Should the publishing of the contents of such a recording become relevant to the interest of our readership, we will explore other avenues before making the decision to do so. Senior editorial management is consulted in such circumstances.

Minors

Being a student newspaper, it is not uncommon for us to conduct an interview with a person under the age of 18. Sometimes this is in pursuit of the unique perspective of a youth below the age of 18, but more often it is a result of interviewing the general student population of a university.

While youth may not be able to weigh the consequences of their statements as fully as adults, their perspective is especially important to a student newspaper, and we respect the individual’s wishes to exercise their freedom of speech.

The federal Youth Criminal Justice Act restricts publication of information about persons below the age of majority who are involved with the justice system.

Opinion

Our Comment section presents opinions from staff, volunteers and, on occasion, readers themselves. This content provides perspectives on issues that readers might not otherwise have considered.

Comment pieces are clearly marked as such.

We endeavour to provide a diverse array of opinions and perspectives on a given issue.

Our journalists do not express their personal opinions on situations they cover.

Politics

In coverage of political campaigns at any level we endeavour to provide a wide range of information to our readers to help inform their decision. As ever, we maintain balance and impartiality in our coverage and seek to give all competing parties equal treatment.

Privacy

We constantly balance the interests of our readership and an individual’s right to privacy.  We also endeavour to be sensitive to the suffering of victims of accidents and crime. That said, we publish information of a private nature when it is in the public interest for us to do so. Of course, we always respect the law.

Production

We are clear whether content is news or opinion.

Hyperlinks included in our online content do not represent an endorsement on our part.

If we include material from external sources in any form, we make sure it is clearly labeled as such and is attributed to the original source.

Requests for removal of content

Our published content is a matter of public record and changing or removing content alters that record. Following the Canadian Association of Journalists guidelines, we do not "unpublish" or remove digital content, except in rare circumstances. Such an exception would generally involve a public safety consideration or potentially illegal content. To change the content of previously published material or to remove it wholesale risks undermining our credibility.

Decisions to remove content are made by the Editor-in-Chief. Other less extreme and more commonly implemented remedies include corrections or updates to a story.

Social Media

Social media is an essential part of the modern world. In journalism, it has use in both gathering and disseminating information. When using it for either purpose we hold it to the same standards as any other platform.

In personal use of social media by members of staff, as in all public forums, we must uphold our impartiality in matters relating to our reporting as well as maintaining a sense of professionalism. Staff should remember that they are representatives of the Manitoban and should refrain from activity which may call into question the credibility of the Manitoban.

Sources

Our sources are fundamental to our ability to perform our journalism, and the quality of those sources are fundamental to our relationship with our audience.

When sources are providing important information at a risk to their own well-being, we may offer protections such as anonymity. Or, before an interview takes place, we may agree that the conversation is “off the record,” meaning it will not be quoted and the source will not be named.

In presenting information obtained from sources to readers, we are clear about where and from whom we got the information from. Where possible, we verify information with multiple sources.

Ideally, our sources are first-hand accounts of events, or authenticated documents, and can be backed up by second sources.

The decision to protect a source’s identity is made by the Editor-in-Chief and should be agreed upon before an interview takes place.

Information received from a confidential or anonymous source should be corroborated by a second source and must be otherwise verified. 

Leaked documents should also be otherwise verified when possible.

When we are ourselves uncertain about certain facts surrounding a story, we make this clear to the reader.

Use of Language

We strive to use both accurate and accessible language in our writing. We seek to make complex information clear. Technical jargon or otherwise confusing information should be paraphrased or explained when possible. We take great lengths to present information in a way that accurately reflects reality.

We try to avoid particularly charged language so as not to unnecessarily offend.

We use inclusive, equal language when it does not result in awkward writing.

We avoid prejudiced language.

We avoid generalizations.

Violent or otherwise controversial content

Violence, nudity and sexuality are never presented without good reason. They may be justified when they are important to an understanding of the world we live in. Where they are necessary, we present them without undue exploitation, voyeurism or sensationalism and without trivializing, encouraging or glorifying.

We treat painful scenes with discretion and restraint and without prolonging them unduly.

When it is necessary to present explicit content that some could find shocking, we provide an audience advisory.

The same principles apply to disturbing video/audio on our digital platforms as on our conventional broadcast platforms.

We strive to notify audiences in advance of them seeing such material, including – if possible – when it is seen on third-party platforms.