General background
Graduate students in the Advanced Reporting course in S2010 proposed revisions to the long-standing personal/political and business conflicts policies. Editors acknowledged the need for change, though differed on some specifics. The proposed revisions in business conflicts and the addition of a section addressing social media were the subject of an evening conversation at the Reynolds Journalism Institute co-sponsored by the MU chapter of SPJ as well as discussions at newsroom meetings, this semester’s journalism capstone class, newsroom budget meetings, beat meetings and informal exchanges in and outside of the newsroom.

Current political conflicts policy
Missourian staffers are also students and citizens. They are not and should not be cut off from the world beyond the newsroom. Involvement in campus and community life is a right and an opportunity. However, we must do everything we can to protect both the reality and the appearance of independence and impartiality of our newspaper. Therefore, the following guidelines will apply to everyone, students and faculty, involved in the news operation of the Missourian:
1. Staff members should not engage in business dealings, accept gifts or favors, or have close emotional ties with news sources.
2. Staff members should not cover nor attempt to manipulate coverage of organizations or events in which they are involved.
3. All students, upon joining the Missourian, will provide to their faculty editor a listing of activities that might create at least the appearance of conflicting interests. The most likely source of conflict is any leadership position in an organization that seeks to affect public policy, on the campus or in the community.
Some examples:
CLEARLY PERMITTED: Voting; worshipping; belonging to social, serviced, religious or athletic organizations; attending public events.
REQUIRING DISCLOSURE: Holding or seeking office in an organization that tries to influence public policy on or off the campus.
CLEARLY PROHIBITED: Holding or seeking political office, paid or non-paid, elected or appointed, on or off the campus; participating in political campaigning or lobbying; participating in demonstrations or rallies intended to influence public policy.
If in doubt, disclosure to your editor is always the best policy.

Proposed revisions to political conflicts policy
Credibility matters. The Missourian strives to be an independent and impartial source of news, which means we must avoid bias and, just as importantly, the appearance of bias. We should make our best effort to maintain rigorous professional standards for ourselves and to avoid business and political ties that could threaten our credibility.
Personal conflicts
Missourian staffers have lives outside the newsroom! It is everyone’s right to be involved in campus and community life, but we must protect both the reality and the appearance of the Missourian’s independence and impartiality.
Students and staff should not engage in business dealings, accept gifts or favors, or have close emotional ties with a news source.
Students and staff should not cover nor attempt to manipulate coverage or organizations or events in which they are involved.
All students, upon joining the Missourian, should provide to their faculty editor a listing of activities or employment that might create at last the appearance of conflicting interests. The most likely source of conflict is any leadership position in an organization that seeks to affect public policy, on campus or in the community.
Personal relationships can affect the Missourian’s credibility as well. As is the case at any professional publication, journalists at the Missourian should not write about, report on, photograph or make news judgments about subjects with whom they have close ties. Do not report on your friends. The same applies to romantic or business relationships.
Some examples:
CLEARLY PERMITTED: Voting; worshipping; belonging to social, serviced, religious or athletic organizations; attending public events.
REQUIRING DISCLOSURE: Holding or seeking office in an organization that tries to influence public policy on or off the campus.
CLEARLY PROHIBITED: Holding or seeking political office, paid or non-paid, elected or appointed, on or off the campus; participating in political campaigning or lobbying; participating in demonstrations or rallies intended to influence public policy.
When in doubt, ask an editor.
Discussion of personal/political conflicts
Both the current and proposed personal/political conflicts policies represent core ethics for the print and digital news industry. The proposed revisions use the header of “personal conflicts” rather than “political conflicts” and include a new introduction that connects the policy to credibility and bias while retaining language that describes the Missourian as “an independent and impartial” source of news. One notable difference is the absence of examples in the proposed revisions. Otherwise, the proposed revisions lack substantive change from the current policy and seem to have general acceptance.
Proposed change: Renaming this section “personal conflicts” instead of “political conflicts.”
Recommendation: Adopt.

Proposed change: A rewrite of the introduction to put an emphasis on credibility.
Recommendation: Adopt.

Proposed change: Delete examples in current policy.
Recommendation: Restore examples from current policy.
Other recommendations: Add the words “and information” after news in the first sentence. Add “or membership” to this sentence: The most likely source of conflict is any leadership position or membership in an organization that seeks to affect public policy, on the campus or in the community.

RECOMMENDATION FOR PERSONAL CONFLICTS
Credibility matters. The Missourian strives to be an independent and impartial source of news and information, which means we must avoid bias and, just as importantly, the appearance of bias. We should make our best effort to maintain rigorous professional standards for ourselves and to avoid business and political ties that could threaten our credibility.
Personal conflicts
Missourian staffers have lives outside the newsroom! It is everyone’s right to be involved in campus and community life, but we must protect both the reality and the appearance of the Missourian’s independence and impartiality.
Students and staff should not engage in business dealings, accept gifts or favors, or have close emotional ties with a news source.
Students and staff should not cover nor attempt to manipulate coverage or organizations or events in which they are involved.
All students, upon joining the Missourian, should provide to their faculty editor a list of activities or employment that might create at least the appearance of conflicting interests.
Personal relationships can affect the Missourian’s credibility as well. As is the case at any professional publication, journalists at the Missourian should not write about, report on, photograph or make news judgments about subjects with whom they have close ties..
Some examples:
CLEARLY PERMITTED: Voting; worshipping; belonging to social, serviced, religious or athletic organizations; attending public events.
REQUIRING DISCLOSURE: Holding or seeking office or membership in an organization that tries to influence public policy on or off the campus.
CLEARLY PROHIBITED: Holding or seeking political office, paid or non-paid, elected or appointed, on or off the campus; participating in political campaigning or lobbying; participating in demonstrations or rallies intended to influence public policy.
When in doubt, ask an editor.
General discussion, business conflicts
One of the basic tensions at the Missourian continues to be the imperative of embracing professional standards and the value of giving students other opportunities beyond the newsroom. Most of our students seem to recognize the professional imperative, which was reflected in several comments at the SPJ/Missourian session. “If we have professional standards, and critiqued as a professional paper, we need to be either completely professional or not,” Rachel Schallom said. Captone student Justin Myers noted the value of incoming Missourian staff being aware that they’ll be held to industry standards: “If you know that going in, don’t complain about it when you get there.”
Rachel also cut to the heart of the matter in written comments for her capstone class: “A lot of journalism comes down to loyalties – when the car accident happens, what newsroom do you call? Where are you on election night? If you can’t answer that without thinking about it, then you shouldn’t be working there while working at the Missourian, too.”
Some students were more accommodating in terms of allowing Missourian staffers to work for other “niche” publications, a blog or, in the words of one capstone student, “something that targets a different audience than Missourian. …This would even include allowing a Missourian education reporter to write for a MU football blog since this does not in any way overlap with their Missourian reporting.” Capstone student Chris Carmody, however, countered: “It’s wishful thinking to believe that someone can just write about two completely different subjects because they’ll never overlap. …There would certainly be times when a conflict-of-interest policy would be inconvenient for students and keep them from other opportunities, but I think it’s naïve to think that your loyalty will never be tested as long as you work in two different departments or write about two different subjects.”
Thanks to capstone student Justin Myers for his attention to the language in the proposed revisions and suggestions for clarity.

Current business conflicts policy
Political activities by student journalists can affect the reality and the appearance of independence and impartiality of our newspaper. So, too, can outside work for competing media. At many newspapers, working for the competitor is a firing offense.
Students taking classes outside the regular Missourian staff classes are welcome to work for any news outlet that will take them. However, journalists in all Missourian staff classes (copy editing, design, photography, photo editing, graphics, etc.) in all cases must disclose their work interests and consult with the executive editor as to an appropriate plan of action. In many cases, that may mean preferences as to type of Missourian work (beats, shifts, etc.) that must be sacrificed to minimize the conflicts.
Work for other local media by the Missourian paid staff – students or professionals – is prohibited. Local media include daily and weekly newspapers in our circulation area, campus newspapers, and competing broadcast outlets.
Proposed business conflicts policy
Work for other local media by the Missourian paid staff – students or professionals – is prohibited, and is a firing offense at many professional publications. Local media include daily and weekly newspapers in our circulation area, campus newspapers and competing broadcast outlets. Work for KBIA and KOMU may be acceptable if approved by an editor.
Students taking classes outside the regular Missourian staff classes are welcome to work for other news organizations that do not directly compete with the Missourian. For journalists in all Missourian staff classes (reporting, copy editing, design, photography, photo editing, graphics, etc.), paid or unpaid freelance work must first be approved by an editor. In all cases, Missourian assignments take precedence and information gathered through reporting for the Missourian should never be used or “repackaged” as original reporting for other outlets.
Paid freelance work offered by other sources or entities covered by the Missourian to students or staff must be disclosed to and approved by an editor. This includes freelance photography, public relations work or graphic design.
As in every situation, when in doubt ask an editor.

Discussion of proposed revisions and recommendations for business conflicts
Proposed change: The proposed revisions exclude previous language explaining the reasons for this policy.
Discussion: Including the “why” seems to make sense.
Recommendation: Restore original language at top: Political activities by student journalists can affect the reality and the appearance of independence and impartiality of our newspaper. So, too, can outside work for competing media.

Proposed change: The current policy lets the executive editor make exceptions for Missourian journalists to work for other news outlets. The proposed revisions go a step further by including specific accommodations for concurrent work with KOMU and KBIA.
Discussion: There was considerable support at the SPJ session for considering independent news outlets at the School of Journalism apart from other competitors.
The goal, as voiced by one student, for the Missourian to “beat anyone – print or not” was tempered by a realization that while KOMU and KBIA are competitors, these outlets have been a source of collaboration with the Missourian and offer students an opportunity to gain journalism experience apart from the Missourian. As Molly Harbarger opined: “In terms of the Columbia news scene, it would behoove us not to treat them so much as competitors as collaborators.”
Recommendations:
1) Replace “Work for KBIA and KOMU may be acceptable if approved by an editor” with this proviso after the prohibition against working for other local media: “One exception is collaborative projects and other work for KBIA and KOMU, which require advance approval by a faculty editor.”
2) Restore language from original policy: “That may mean preferences as to the type of Missourian work (beats, shifts, etc.) to minimize the conflicts.”

Proposed change: Specifies that “paid or unpaid freelance work must first be approved by an editor.”
Discussion: Both policies already prohibit work for other local media and, by extension, allow Missourian staffers to work for non-local media outside our circulation area. The general prohibition against work for other local media and would seem to suffice. (The policy as it applies to freelance work is addressed in more detail below.)
Recommendation: Exclude the requirement that “paid or unpaid freelance work must first be approved by an editor” because it’s covered elsewhere in the conflicts policy.

Proposed change: Specifies that “paid freelance work offered by other sources or entities covered by the Missourian to students or staff must be disclosed to and approved by an editor.”
Discussion: There’s arguably a need for the policy to address a situation that has arisen with some regularity: whether staffers can be employed in media-related jobs they held before arriving at the Missourian and/or make freelance contributions to other publications during their Missourian tenure. For example, should a Missourian photographer be forced to give up that gig with The Associated Press? What about a reporter working for campus publications or public relations? Can a Missourian reporter freelance for the magazine published by the state Department of Conservation? Accommodations for exceptions will still need to be made on a case-by-case basis.
Recommendation: Add this language after the exception for KOMU and KBIA: Any work for media-related clients beyond the Missourian – non-local news outlets, campus or government publications, public relations, etc. – must be approved by the executive or managing editor. These circumstances may mean preferences as to the type of Missourian work (beats, shifts, etc.) to minimize the conflicts.

Proposed change: Specifies “information gathered through reporting for the Missourian should never be used or ‘repackaged’ as original reporting for other outlets.”
Discussion: The intent of this language was to discourage or prevent staffers from publishing information gathered on behalf of the Missourian once they leave the Missourian. It would be difficult to legislate the professional activities of a former Missourian staffer. In addition, there are nuances in terms of exactly what kinds of information would be covered. Perhaps of more overarching importance: Adding this language raises the issue of ownership and could preclude photographers, reporters and other content creators from selling their content to media outside our circulation area after publication in the Missourian.
On another front, the general prohibition against work for other local media also leaves open the question of whether Missourian content could be republished, for example, in campus publications such as the alumni magazine that aren’t generally seen as direct competitors. Of note: The standing practice – if not policy – of allowing other publications to reprint Missourian content with proper credit remains in place.
Recommendation: Exclude this proposed language and seek clarity on the complicated issue of who owns Missourian content. Photo director Brian Kratzer already has this on his radar. Perhaps an internal committee that includes Brian would be in order to bring definition to this potentially nettlesome issue.
Proposed change: Delete the final sentence in the original policy: As with potential political conflicts, apply this rule: When in doubt, disclose.
Recommendation: Restore original language.

RECOMMENDATION FOR BUSINESS CONFLICTS
Political activities by student journalists can affect the reality and the appearance of independence and impartiality of our newspaper. So, too, can outside work for competing media.
Work for other local media by Missourian paid staff or students in staff classes (reporting, copy editing, design, photography, photo editing, graphics, etc.) is prohibited. Local media include daily and weekly newspapers and related websites in our circulation area, campus newspapers and competing broadcast outlets.
One exception is collaborative projects and other work for KBIA and KOMU, which require advance approval by a faculty editor. Any work for media-related clients beyond the Missourian – non-local news outlets, campus or government publications, public relations, etc. – must be approved by the executive editor or managing editor. These circumstances may mean preferences as to the type of Missourian work (beats, shifts, etc.) to minimize the conflicts.
Students taking classes outside regular Missourian staff classes are exempt from this policy and are welcome to work for any news outlet.
As with potential political conflicts, apply this rule: When in doubt, disclose.
Additional recommendation
Ensure that the conflicts policy for the Missourian (and, perhaps, the school’s other news operations) be introduced to pre-journalism students through FIGs, Career Explorations, 2100 and other venues.

Social media
The proposed revisions include a section devoted to social media. The ubiquity of online social media and its increasing use as a tool for journalism attest to the need for incorporating social media in the Missourian’s conflict policies. In general, journalism students seem to recognize the potential perils of social media – expressing opinions that could affect the appearance of independence or impartiality – and the need to manage their social media activities to conform to professional standards.
At the SPJ session, Professor Charles Davis reiterated the danger of mixing personal opinion with newsroom responsibilities: “It’s not our decision alone to make. Our sources, our readers, have a lot to say about perceptions of independence.” He added that Missourian reporters “face enough of an uphill sled dealing with government hacks (and) others with a jaundiced eye toward the mainstream press” without surrendering the franchise of news to personal opinion.
The element of the proposed section on social media that received the most attention was a requirement for reporters to meet with their editors to examine their profiles on Facebook and other social media.

Proposed revisions, social media
The advent of social media introduces a world of complications as we increasingly share aspects of our personal lives online.
Political viewpoints should not be apparent through students or staffers’ public profiles on social networking websites. Be careful what you post. Ask yourself: What would a source think?
At the beginning of each semester, students will meet with their editors to look at their Facebook (or other social media) profiles. Again: If you don’t think an editor should see it, why would you want a source to see it?
Students or staff may be “friended” by a source or a subject they cover. It may even be in the interest of students and staff to “friend” a source in order to follow their business or campaign. In such cases, students and staff are accountable for viewpoints expressed on their private profiles as well. Again: what would a source think?
When blogging under their own names, students and staff should be extremely cautious about expressing political viewpoints or preferences. As a rule, always assume that all posts are public. When in doubt, err on the side of neutrality.
This is a new area for everyone. There will be gray areas. Bus as with your wardrobe, your voicemail and your demeanor, the same ethic always applies: be professional.
Some general guidelines
CLEARLY PERMITTED: Voting; worshipping; belonging to social service, religious or athletic organizations; attending public events.
REQUIRING DISCLOSURE: Holding or seeking office in an organization that tries to influence public policy on or off the campus.
GENERALLY DISCOURAGED: Blog posts or social media content that suggest a political persuasion or viewpoint on topics reported on by the Missourian.
CLEARLY PROHIBITED: Holding or seeking political office, paid or non-paid, elected or appointed, on or off the campus; participating in political campaigning or lobbying; participating in demonstrations or rallies intended to influence public policy.

Discussion of proposed revisions: It’s clear that considerable thought was given in the crafting this proposed policy to address social media and its potential to create conflicts of interest while striking a balance between the inevitable use of social media by Missourian reporters and their ethical obligations as news professionals.
Matt Pearce, an architect of the proposed policy, believes the intersection of journalism and personal use of social media “raises, at the core, what it means to be a journalist.” He struck this chord in setting the table for a discussion at the SPJ/Missourian session: “Social media removes the existing social structures that hold us up and keep us behaving. We have, in essence, become our own editors.”
As in other issues related to conflicts of interest, personal responsibility on the part of Missourian reporters looms large in the social media arena. In a practical sense, it would be difficult to effectively police the entire waterfront of social media use by students. That said, some sort of oversight seems to make sense.
The proposed section on social media includes a requirement that students, at the beginning of each semester, meet with their faculty editors to look at their social media profiles. Other suggestions for policing ranged from a general warning that social media content is “subject to review” to a self-review and report to a faculty editor as well as a peer review that would serve as a sort of audit.
Of these possibilities, the idea of a peer review seemed to generate the most support during an informal survey at a well-attended daily budget meeting of Missourian reporters. It’s also worth noting that only a few of those who expressed an opinion were opposed to an editor’s review.
How or whether to police this social media policy remains an interesting challenge that suggests the need for additional conversation. My recommendation would be peer reviews of online social media use at the beginning of each semester as a way to reinforce the new policy. An additional possibility would be to have each student report to their assigning editor on the findings of those reviews.
It was unclear why the examples currently provided under political conflicts were relocated to the social media section. One of the examples deals with social media, but similar language already incorporated in the proposed policy and, therefore, don’t seem necessary in this section. Some specific examples, however, of permitted and discouraged behavior on social media sites would make a valuable addition to the draft policy at some point.

RECOMMENDATION SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY: Adopt the policy with a reworked section on policing and minor wording changes, which are reflected in bold type:

The advent of social media introduces a world of complications as we increasingly share aspects of our personal lives online.

Political viewpoints should not be apparent through students or staffers’ public profiles on social networking websites. Be careful what you post. Ask yourself: What would a source think?
At the beginning of each semester, students will conduct peer reviews of their Facebook profiles and/or other online social media. Remember: If you don’t think an editor should see it, why would you want a source to see it?
Students or staff may be “friended” by a source or a subject they cover. It may even be in the interest of students and staff to “friend” a source in order to follow their business or campaign. In such cases, students and staff are accountable for viewpoints expressed on their private profiles as well. Again: what would a source think?
Students and staff should refrain from (replaces “be extremely cautious about”) expressing political viewpoints or preferences while using online social media, especially on divisive issues (added).
As a rule, always assume that all posts are public. When in doubt, err on the side of neutrality.
This is a new area for everyone. There will be gray areas. But as with your wardrobe, your voicemail and your demeanor, the same ethic always applies: Be professional.