Response to Oct. 9 Letter Re. Mirror Funding Agreement 2009-10
It is the belief of myself, along with the other managers of the Fairfield Mirror, that the publication of the “FML Text” column in Volume 35, Issue 4 and the “He Said” column in the Volume 35, Issue 5 did comply with the standards set in the Code of Ethics and Code of Procedure, which are incorporated into the Mirror Funding Agreement for the Academic year 2009-2010.
Therefore we believe we did not violate the contract and therefore the agreement should not be declared null and void. We are still willing to comply with the three actions requested in the Oct. 9 letter, as a sign that we have truly learned from this experience and want to move forward and use this opportunity to make our newspaper stronger.
The following are reasons why we believe we did not violate the contract:
No section of the Ethics Code or Code of Procedure ties The Mirror to the student handbook. Therefore any alleged violation of the student code relating to sexual harassment would not result in the contract being broken. As an independent organization, The Mirror should not be held to any student conduct codes or be subject to disciplinary proceedings. The internal Ethics Code/Code of Procedure applies to The Mirror, therefore there is no reason for the student codes to apply.
The Fairfield Mirror Code of Ethics section on Sexual Harassment applies directly to inner-office relationships and the conduct of staff with their peers. It has no influence on the print product and therefore does not apply.
According to the Code of Procedure, The Mirror follows the guidelines laid forth in the AP Stylebook in regards to profanity. This style applies directly to news stories when profanity and obscenity is used in an article. The AP Stylebook provides guidelines only for how to use quotations that include profanity or objectionable content. In addition, the Code of Procedure allows leeway for Mirror editors to deviate from the AP Style. “The Mirror reserves the right to change its own style in regards to profanity and libelous material, but should strive to follow the guidelines of AP style even in a deviation.” This is the normal procedure for newspapers. I.E. The New York Times uses AP Style guidelines, but has a completely separate style guide that at times goes against AP Style.
The Mirror does not apply AP Style obscenity guidelines to columns, as that does not apply. Instead, The Mirror follows its own procedure in terms of columns. In that case, the code of procedure states: “The Mirror, as a strong proponent of the First Amendment of the Constitution, does not believe nor condone censorship. As stated, however, editors reserve the right to edit an individual’s work– whether objective or subjective pieces – but content shall generally not be removed simply because of a difference of opinion.”
The Mirror did follow its procedure for editing, which states: At all times at least three editors must read an article (the editor in chief, managing editor, and section editor). There were three prior readers to the article making it to print. Tom Cleary, Chris Simmons, Lily Norton.
Changes to The Mirror code of procedure
Per our release of Oct. 7 and statements made in the Oct. 7 issue, we are going to make changes to our code of procedure. Those changes can be seen in attached document.
Clearly we view this as a learning experience and feel that it is our responsibility to change our code of procedure to better represent us and to avoid further offensive language in our newspaper. Included in that code of procedure is a stronger emphasis on the editorial process regarding the He Said/She Said portion of the newspaper.
Advising The Mirror
In regards to the evaluation of the advisement structure of The Mirror we believe that the current structure has been extremely successful. The Mirror has thrived under the advisement of Dr. James Simon and Prof. Fran Silverman. We have won multiple awards with the current structure.
Also the current structure follows all the guidelines laid out by the College Media Advisors (CMA) organization (see attached document). However, we have found that the addition of an advisory board could be beneficial if organized with the proper intent and created by the newspaper staff itself. An advisement board must meet the following criteria:
Members of the advisory board must be approved by the editor in chief, with advice from his/her staff.
The advisory board should be a diverse group and could include, professional journalists, business professionals (i.e. lawyers, accountants), alumni, ex officio administrators faculty, and students and it should include an attorney specializing in freedom of expression issues
There cannot be any “functioning administrators” on the board, because they have dual and conflicting roles. For example, a member of the administration would have to abide by the University’s contract with the paper, but as a member of an advisory board, their role would be to arbitrate whether a contract has been violated and thus can’t be objective.
Because The Mirror strives for unbiased coverage, there should be no students on the board with direct ties to any club or organization (i.e. FUSA or an athletic team).
The advisory board will not be able to overrule the editor in chief. Any statements from the board will be suggestions to the editor in chief. They will have no editorial power, but The Mirror will publish any reports by the advisory board in its newspaper in a timely manner.
The current process of selecting editors and paid positions will be followed. The advisory board may not add or remove any editors, including the editor in chief or the advisor.
In conclusion, The Mirror takes pride in its role as an independent news organization that is a major part of the University community. Any further oversight by the University, without the consent of the newspaper staff, i.e. the creation of an advisory board that does not follow these aforementioned guidelines, would hinder our ability to produce an unbiased product created by students.
We have taken away a lot from this process and have had the opportunity to truly reflect on our role in the campus community and believe that we will be able to move forward from this point and become an even stronger organization.
Editor in Chief