Her Campus American's Code of Ethics

Her Campus American is an American University student run online and print magazine that publishes daily content online with one print edition per semester. We are editorially independent of the University but editorially dependent on Her Campus Nationals.

“Staff members'' refers to all members of HCAU’s executive board. “Contributors'' refers to anyone that writes or otherwise contributes content to HCAU but is not a member of HCAU’s executive board.

Journalism Fundamentals

We follow the Society of Professional Journalist’s Code of Ethics.

Telling the Truth

  • Be honest, accurate, truthful and fair. Do not distort or fabricate facts, imagery, sound or data.

  • Provide accurate context for all reporting.

  • Seek out diverse voices that can contribute important perspectives on the subject you’re writing.

  • Ensure that sources are reliable. To the maximum extent possible, make clear to your audience who and what your sources are, what motivations your sources may have and any conditions people have set for giving you information. When unsure of information, leave it out or make clear it has not been corroborated.

  • Correct errors quickly, completely and visibly. Make it easy for your audience to bring errors to your attention.

  • If a report includes criticism of people or organizations, give them the opportunity to respond.

  • Clearly distinguish fact from opinion in all content.

Conflicts of Interest

  • Avoid any conflict of interest that undermines your ability to report fairly. Disclose to your audience any unavoidable conflicts or other situational factors that may validly affect their judgment of your credibility.

  • Do not allow people to make you dishonestly skew your reporting. Do not offer to skew your reporting under any circumstances.

  • Do not allow the interests of advertisers to affect the integrity of your journalism.

Community

  • Respect your audience and those you write about. Consider how your work and its permanence may affect the subjects of your reporting, your community and, since the Internet knows no boundaries, the larger world.

Professional Conduct

  • Don’t plagiarize or violate copyrights.

  • Keep promises to sources, readers and the community.

  • Give all staff expectations, support and tools to maintain ethical standards.

Confidential Sources

  • We recognize that many sources cannot talk to us freely. We grant confidentiality if we believe the source has a need for it and when confidentiality is granted, the writer’s editor must know who the source is. 

  • We will only use information and quotes from unnamed sources we consider reliable and attempt to corroborate this information with on the record sources at every opportunity. 

Interviewing

  • Our organization permits interviewees to have access to transcripts to clarify complicated or technical matters and we do not seek approval on the final article prior to publishing.

  • Our organization will provide interview subjects with a general idea of our line of questioning in advance. 

Sources: Reliability and Attribution

  • We may use sources with a conflict of interest in stories, but details that esignal the conflict of interest should be included (e.g. a scientist who conducted a study about a drug's effectiveness when the study was funded by the manufacturer).

  • We use links, if available, for source attribution in online stories.

  • We include source attribution in online stories themselves as well as links, if available, that provide additional information.

Accuracy

  • Our staff members must take responsibility for the accuracy of all information that we publish, using an accuracy checklist before publication.

  • Our staff members should take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of information that we publish and note our sources.

  • We should not publish rumors or any information we have not verified.

  • If we are unsure of the accuracy of information, we should cite our sources, maintain full transparency to avoid spreading false rumors, acknowledge what we don’t know and ask the community’s help in confirming or correcting our information.

Balance and Fairness

  • To ensure fairness, we believe in covering not only the most powerful voices on an issue, but also those who are not normally heard (e.g. in election coverage, mainstream and non-mainstream candidates).

  • We will refrain from presenting multiple points of view if one perspective on an issue has been credibly established as fact. In other words, we will avoid “false balance.”

  • In breaking news situations, we will attempt to gather comments from key sides of an issue; if comments are not immediately available, we will publish or air the story without them, make clear that we were unable to get a comment and update our story as needed.

Online Commenting

  • Her Campus American does not include a comment section, with the exception of blog posts.

Quotations

  • We will clean up random utterances such as pauses, “um” or “you know” unless they materially alter the meaning.

  • We will correct grammatical errors by all sources.

  • We will allow separate phrases of a quote to be separated by attribution. (“I will go to war,” the president said. “But only if necessary.”)

Social Media

  • Retweets or status shares from Her Campus American's accounts are not endorsements.

  • The social media team should edit or delete inaccurate social media posts, so people who haven’t seen the corrections will not spread them on social media. They should note that we have edited or deleted inaccurate posts, posting a correction. 

  • The Editor-in-Chief, President, and/or Social Director will make the call to remove a comment that is made on Her Campus American's social pages.

Plagiarism and Attribution

  • We must always attribute all sources by name and, if the source is digital, by linking to the original source.

  • We believe a link to a digital source is sometimes sufficient attribution; we need not always name the source in the text if the information is routine.

  • When we are using someone else’s exact words, we should use quotation marks and attribution.

Social Networks

  • Our journalists are free to express opinions on social media and these opinions are not representative of Her Campus American’s opinions as an organization.

  • We encourage staff members to retweet, reblog, share and otherwise pass along things they find interesting on social media. We trust them to provide context where appropriate.

  • Staff members should always identify themselves in social media profiles, and, if they are using the profile for professional purposes, they should identify themselves as working for our organization.

Corrections

  • If a mistake is made in a social media post, we will delete the original post and publish a corrected version with an indication that the new post is a correction.

Removing Archived Work

  • We will remove an outdated story from our archives if it is causing problems for someone.

  • We will correct any errors we learn of in our archived content and note the corrections.

Diversity

  • We will set goals in hiring and promotions to increase diversity in our staff and management.

  • We encourage staffers to seek diverse sources, both in specific stories and in routine beat coverage.

Hate Speech

  • We report on hate speech and actions but include original offensive expressions only when specifically necessary for audience understanding of the case.

  • We consider the perspectives of those offended by hateful expression when making publication decisions.

  • We consider the climate for free expression when making publication decisions.

  • We support local, national or international laws to combat hate speech.

Race and Gender

  • We will seek out people in the groups we cover to gain perspective on our coverage and terminology.

  • We will use racial, ethnic, gender and sexuality identifiers when specifically germane to a story but not otherwise.

  • We will use plural references to avoid gender-specific pronouns when possible.

  • Writers must ask for interviewee’s pronouns in interviews and refer to the interviewee in the story in accordance with these pronouns.

  • Writers will capitalize the first letter of the word (ex: capitalize the B in Black) when referring to race; We will not capitalize the w in white due to associations with white supremacy.

  • Writers will not use the term ‘womxn’ when referring to groups of women unless they are specifically talking about the use of the word womxn. 

Sensational Material

  • We will not run any sensitive material that might be offensive to specific members of the audience.

  • We will run sensitive material when it reflects reality.

  • We will run sensitive material with stories with notes of warning.

Photo and Video

  • Her Campus American follows Her Campus Nationals photo use and copyright standards and practices.

Accepting Money

  • Her Campus American is a part of American University's Student Media Board and receives semesterly funding from the university.

  • Her Campus American receives financial and sponsored content materials from Her Campus Nationals. 

  • We do not accept money or gifts from those involved in any story that we are covering. 

News and Advertising

  • Her Campus American only takes part in Her Campus National's approved and solicited sponsorship, advertisement, and partnership programs.

 Note: This ethics code was drafted in part using the Online News Association’s “Build Your Own Ethics Code” tool. Some of the writing in this code directly copies their words.