Letter of Intent to the CMU Community

Since April of 2004, The Tartan has undergone a period of restructuring and rebuilding. Our focus has been recentered on our mission to excel as Carnegie Mellon?s foremost printed source of campus news, and on our relationship with the campus community in achieving that goal.
In this special issue, we want both to make our intentions clear and to tell you, as our readers, what our goals are as a newspaper. What follows is a set of professional affirmations that has been guided by the Citizens? Bill of Journalism Rights from the Project for Excellence in Journalism. It is tailored to The Tartan?s specific role within this University and its community, and is meant to be a mission statement of our goals and guidelines. Included are the core of our ethical standards; a way of holding us ? a news organization ? accountable; and the seeds of community dialogue. In ?community,? we include administrators, faculty and staff members, our Pittsburgh readers, and, most importantly, the students.
1.?The Tartan seeks to offer reporting that is as truthful as possible. It is the responsibility of every writer, editor, photographer, and artist on its staff to find the truth behind what they are covering.
??Journalism is a process of verification: A story should clearly state its sources of information, the bases of its knowledge, and assurance that the information is relevant. Anonymous sources should be used only when there is no other means of obtaining information that is critical to the story?s fairness and integrity. Each source should be unambiguously identified whenever possible, so that readers can judge the reliability and potential biases of a source. The Tartan is committed to upholding these values.
2.?Readers should expect that The Tartan?s first loyalty is to the community. This means that stories should fulfill the reader?s needs without influence from special interests ? whether that be from University administration, student government, or student organizations.
??If an article that The Tartan prints is especially significant to the community or raises controversy, the campus should expect followup in some form. The community, in turn, has an obligation to approach the news with an open mind and not just a desire that the news reinforce existing opinion.
??The Tartan should make a visible and honest effort to understand and reflect all elements of the entire community. It should also be clear that The Tartan will never compromise its integrity or the integrity of a story in order to protect its own interests.
??When members of the community approach us with stories of a sensitive nature, they should be secure in their trust that information given both on and off the record is used appropriately and verified properly. Journalists should always strive to balance the public right to know with the personal right to privacy.
??Also, The Tartan will maintain independence from those organizations and people we cover. Its writing should prove that The Tartan promotes community discussion rather than the narrow, specific interests of a campus group or a particular outcome. While journalists are not expected to be absolute in their neutrality, The Tartan should expect that they not allow external loyalties to compromise the truth or quality of their reporting. If journalists get too close to those people or events they cover, it only makes it more difficult for them to understand and portray all sides to a story.
??To that end, readers should expect The Tartan to point out any conflicts of interest that may come up in a story, whether it be a staff member?s involvement in a covered event, or a story on the newspaper?s own actions.
??Journalistic privilege should be used wisely, and a journalist should be expected never to reveal privileged or private information to any outside party, whether it be a principal of the story or a University investigative body.
3.?The Tartan?s goal is to cover what is important to its readership ? students, faculty, administration, and other community members included.
??As a newspaper, it is The Tartan?s responsibility to uncover things that are important, new, and have a potential to change community thinking. The Tartan should not squander its constitutional freedom on events with little impact
or significance to few individuals.
??The Tartan will do its best to monitor all the key power structures within the community ? including but not limited to the administration and student government.
??The Tartan?s work should display evidence of independent, objective thinking ? not always criticism of one side and praise of the other. It is the newspaper?s responsibility to prove that its opinion columnists have really examined all sides of relevant issues, including ideas with which they disagree.
4.?The Tartan is here to serve as a public forum as well as a public news source. To that end, it is constantly open to interaction, criticism, and discussion with the community. The Tartan?s channels of communication will always be open to those who wish to have a voice ? whether that be through letters, e-mail, phone contact, or public forums.
??To this end, The Tartan will always maintain a Forum section to allow community members a chance to be heard. Letters to the Editor provide direct feedback to an article that The Tartan has published; and ?Say What? articles allow members of the community to voice particular concerns to the campus at large.
??The Tartan?s goal is to represent a broad range of opinions and values in every issue that it publishes. It makes a priority to employ a staff with a diversity of ideas. A homogeneous ideology hinders the ability to include coverage relevant to the entire community. The views expressed in The Tartan should never consist solely of extremes that do not allow for solutions or compromise.

You can find the Citizen?s Bill of Journalism Rights online at the following URL: http://www.journalism.org/resourc