The following policy applies to all members of the Marshall High School journalism program (a.k.a. GCM Student Media). It is designed to clarify the expectations of student journalists while on assignment and to help ensure responsible reporting. By providing a set of public standards, this policy also provides means by which sources and other members of the community can express any concerns they may have with the conduct of a student journalist.
Any member of the GCM community who believes that this policy has been violated in any way is encouraged to contact the respective publication’s adviser as soon as possible.
Please note that the policies of the journalism program include but are not limited to this list, which may also be subject to revision as necessary. In addition, the following policy shall in no way supercede the rules and regulations of Fairfax County Public Schools nor any local, state or federal laws that may apply.
- Reporters will be courteous and professional at all times. They will respect their sources’ time, space and privacy. Interaction with the journalism program is highly encouraged but always voluntary!
- Student reporters must identify themselves by name and the publication for which they are writing prior to conducting an interview. They should be prepared to present identification if asked.
- Reporters should make every effort to schedule interviews in advance (when possible) and show up for meetings in a prompt manner. When a meeting has not been pre-arranged, reporters will offer their sources the opportunity to schedule an interview at a more convenient time/location.
- A reporter should make every effort to conduct an interview in person or, if necessary, by telephone. Email, text messaging or other forms of written communication should be used only as a last resort and noted in the reporting.
- If a source does not wish to participate in an interview, he or she is encouraged to explain his or her reasoning so that this can be taken into consideration in the future.
- Reporters will not attempt to pull students out of class to conduct an interview unless they have received specific written permission (e.g. by email) from the teacher.
- Student journalists may occasionally request permission to enter a classroom for the purpose of obtaining candid photographs of academic activities. This should always be done in an unobtrusive and non-disruptive manner and then only if the classroom door is open. Students should never disturb a testing environment and should, if possible, request permission to take photographs in advance.
- Reporters are encouraged to conduct in-person interviews with faculty and staff before school, during “Learn” or after school. Reporters should not attempt to conduct an interview during class time or a faculty member’s lunch unless prior arrangements have been made. Reporters should never conduct an interview with a student when that student is supposed to be in class.
- Whenever students are “on assignment” during journalism class time, they will carry with them an official Press Pass, signed by the adviser, which the student must produce upon request or be subject to appropriate disciplinary action. Press Passes will be used in lieu of “hall passes” during the appropriate class period and may also grant the holder entrance to various school events (at the discretion of event organizers) for the purpose of fulfilling the student’s reporting responsibilities. Press Passes are subject to revocation in case of abuse, which should be reported immediately to the publication’s adviser.
- Journalism assignments/obligations will not be considered appropriate grounds for missing other classes (or portions thereof) or failing to complete assignments. It is the responsibility of the individual reporter to make prior arrangements with his or her teacher if he or she believes an adjustment is necessary. If a reporter wishes to cover an in-school event (e.g. Homecoming) or participate in a field trip (e.g. out-of-school convention or workshop) that conflicts with one or more of the student’s classes, it is that student’s responsibility to request permission from and coordinate with his or her teacher(s) prior to the intended absence. As with any student, permission to miss a class is subject to each teacher’s discretion.
- Student journalists may occasionally be required to deliver materials (such as newspapers, ID cards, student portraits and other documents) to classrooms for distribution to students. This should always be done quietly and courteously with every effort made to minimize disruption of the classroom environment. Materials should be given directly to the teacher. Every effort will be made to limit such visits to once a class period and only a few times during the school year.
- Student journalists will strive for complete accuracy in all reporting and editorial content. Any inaccuracies, whether in print or online, should be reported to the editorial board who may (at their discretion) update the online version of a story and/or run a correction box in the next print edition.
- Reporters will always ask for the proper pronunciation and spelling of a source’s name (even if the source is someone they already know).
- Reporters will always ask students for their grade (freshman, sophomore, etc.) and will always ask faculty members for their job title. The Rank & File does not include courtesy titles (e.g. Mr., Mrs., Dr.) in its stories. The yearbook, on the other hand, does use these titles to distinguish between students and adults. Yearbook reporters should ask sources for the appropriate honorific.
- Reporters are encouraged to use a voice recorder when conducting interviews but must request permission from the source prior to turning on the device.
- If a voice recorder is not being used, student journalists are expected to take accurate notes in a notebook reserved exclusively for reporting.
Privacy and Ethics
- Reporters are neither obligated nor allowed to share drafts of their stories with their sources in advance of publication. However, they are strongly encouraged to verify information (especially direct quotes) with their sources prior to filing a story with their editors.
- All interactions with a student reporter will be considered “on the record.” Any agreement to conduct an interview (or portion thereof) off the record is by private arrangement between source and reporter and not explicitly sanctioned by the Marshall journalism program.
- Student journalists will not publish information that is knowingly false, libelous, or obscene or which is intended to directly disrupt the educational environment. No individual will be intentionally represented in “false light” nor will any individual’s name or likeness be appropriated for commercial use without prior written permission.
- Marshall’s publications will respect all copyright laws. (Some copyrighted material or excerpts thereof may still be re-published under the principles of “fair use.”)
- Publications at Marshall High School will operate as public forums, with all responsibilities for their content resting with the respective editorial boards. The students will develop a set of editorial guidelines for their respective publications by which content-related decisions should be made.
- Reporters will strive to be fair, balanced and thorough in their coverage as they endeavor to capture and comment on the “here and now” of Marshall High School. They will support and celebrate the school and school community when deemed appropriate but retain the right to include content that is critical so long as it is not defamatory in nature. In these circumstances, all members of the school community retain the “right of reply” and are encouraged to engage in dialogue through letters to the editor, guest editorials and other contributions.