This is a living document maintained by The Stanford Daily to provide an overview of our guiding principles. This document is not meant to establish hard-set rules, as it would be impossible for us to predict every possible situation that might arise in our work.
Conflicts of Interest
Across its many sections, The Daily produces a wide variety of coverage, including news articles, editorials, reviews and personal narratives. Some of The Daily’s coverage — especially that which appears in the Opinions section or which includes first-person perspective — includes a clear personal viewpoint and opinion. However, across The Daily’s reported coverage — including all coverage produced for the News section, and much coverage produced for the Arts & Life and Sports sections — The Daily strives, as much as possible, for fair and independent coverage untainted by a reporter’s personal motives. The Daily recognizes that completely objective reporting is impossible; that being said, The Daily seeks as much as possible to avoid bias in its reported coverage, and Daily reporters and editors, regardless of the opinions they hold in their personal lives, are committed to seeking and reporting the truth without preconceived bias or agenda. By publishing reporting by a given contributor, The Daily is making a commitment as an institution that it stands by that contributor’s reporting.
Many Stanford students and other community members are involved in a variety of campus organizations, outside groups, work and activism. The Daily understands this and does not want to turn contributors away for such involvements. However, Daily contributors, those who collaborate with them and their editors at The Daily should make each other aware of any conflicts of interest on a case-by-case basis, as described below, before an assignment is approved.
What is and isn’t a conflict of interest?
A conflict of interest may arise when any contributor(s) and/or editor(s) have a significant, individualized incentive to misrepresent or omit any information in Daily coverage. If an Undergraduate Senate candidate were to report on the student government election, for instance, they might be incentivized not to include their own malpractice or to misrepresent their opponents in an effort to win the election. Similarly, a close friend, family member or romantic partner of that candidate might engage in similarly incomplete or misleading reporting to benefit the candidate.
Conflicts of interest DO NOT include elements of a Daily contributor’s personal identity, including but not limited to race/ethnicity, gender identity and sexuality. Furthermore, it is not a conflict of interest in itself for a Daily contributor to advocate for human rights including but not limited to anti-racism, LGBTQ+ rights and womens’ rights. The Daily as an institution stands for human rights, both within and outside of our staff.
The Daily WOULD NOT, for example, consider it a conflict of interest for a queer contributor to produce content about marriage equality. There WOULD, however, be a conflict of interest if a Daily contributor who organized or attended a specific protest in a non-reporting capacity were to then report directly on that same event for The Daily, as they may stand to benefit personally from making that event seem as successful as possible.
Students involved in certain campus organizations may face a conflict of interest when covering an activity in which that organization is significantly involved. They may be promoted within their organization, for instance, by disproportionately and/or inaccurately representing it in The Daily. This extends to jobs, research positions, etc. held by the contributor or anyone close to them. However, it DOES NOT in general include affinity groups such as the Black Student Union, Asian American Students Association, etc. For example, a student affiliated with Queer Student Resources or the First Generation, Low Income Partnership could reach out for comment to these organizations when covering a related issue, but an active member of Stanford in Government could not cover the club’s efforts to obtain policy or internal politics.
The Daily recognizes that, in addition to human rights, there are other areas where many or all students may stand to directly benefit, such as in coverage of student fees or housing. We WOULD NOT consider it a conflict of interest for students, who in general have an interest in lower course fees, to write about course fees, or for students who want to live in a certain location on campus to write about housing assignments. But it WOULD, however, be a conflict of interest for the student who wrote, signed or distributed a student fees petition to cover that petition, or for a student who applied to live in Roble to cover the Roble housing assignment process.
The News-Opinion divide
No Daily contributor may produce content relating to the same topic in both the Opinions and News sections without approval from The Daily’s editor-in-chief. Similarly, News coverage should not be assigned to someone who has ever expressed a substantially relevant opinion about that same area of coverage in The Daily’s Opinions section without approval from The Daily’s editor-in-chief. The News and Opinions sections are strictly independent of one another; however, editors may communicate to ensure that contributors have the opportunity to explore both sections in a way that does not undermine trust in The Daily’s work.
Social media and other public forums
Keeping in mind the exceptions described above, Daily reporters should refrain from expressing public opinions on specific topics they have covered or plan to cover in cases that could undermine trust in The Daily’s reporting. For instance, a News contributor should not publicly tweet that they are vehemently opposed to a Faculty Senate motion that they just described to readers in a Daily News article.
Involvement in and outspokenness about politics is not in itself a conflict of interest at The Daily. It can become an issue when members of the Stanford Democrats or Stanford College Republicans cover relevant activities or when students produce content about a campaign on which they’ve worked. Contributors should check with their editors regarding all potential conflicts of interest about which they or a Daily news consumer might be concerned.
Please reach out to eic ‘at’ stanforddaily.com with any questions or concerns.
There are many steps we take to cover things fairly, including but not limited to the following:
1. All facts of major significance and relevance to an article should be included in it.
2. When an assertion is made by a source about a specific person or organization, they should be contacted and given a reasonable amount of time to respond before publication.
3. No member of The Daily’s News section should give their opinion on an issue in a Daily News article, whether they are an author of the piece or a source of information in it, unless their comment is essential to providing a complete picture of the subject being covered (e.g. a Daily reporter was the lone victim of a crime).
Treatment of Sources
We believe in treating sources with empathy and fairness. When speaking with sources, we identify ourselves as Daily staffers and clarify why we would like to hold an interview. We also work with the source to set the terms of the interview, explaining any of those terms as needed before the interview begins (see interview policies below).
In published content, we put our sources’ quotes into context, and — as appropriate — we clarify to our audience what question was being answered when a statement by a source was made.
We work to verify all factual information given to us by sources, not because we do not trust them, but because certainty is vital to reporting the facts. We never promise sources that we will cease additional reporting on a situation based on information that they give us.
When we choose not to identify someone by their full name in an article, we must explain to readers why.
We want our audience to receive information that is credible and useful to them. Named sources are more trustworthy than unnamed sources, and they can often provide more complete pictures of issues. We will always ask that a source speak with us on the record for the sake of our audience.
That being said, we realize that many sources are unwilling to reveal their identities publicly when it could cost them their jobs or expose them to ostracization or harm. Even in those cases, it is essential that The Daily’s top editors know the identity of the source in question. Otherwise, there can be no certainty about whether the source and their quotes were fabricated by a reporter. These same rules apply for letters to the editor and op-ed submissions to The Daily.
Sources for The Daily should not be surprised when they see their name published.
Reporters are also responsible for explaining any rules they aim to establish for an interview. When an interview is recorded, the discussion of those rules and both parties’ agreements to abide by them should also be recorded.
Below are The Daily’s definitions of different interview rules. These rules sometimes differ by publication, so it is especially important that The Daily’s definitions are understood.
On the record: All information and quotations are attributable to the source by their full name.
On background, or not for attribution: The Daily can use and quote any statements provided by the source but cannot attribute it using their full name. Instead, some other description that preserves the source’s confidentiality will be agreed upon by the source and the reporter. Examples include “a member of the Undergraduate Senate” and “a PWR instructor.”
Deep background: The information can be used in The Daily’s reporting and published, but without any quotes nor attribution to anyone. Since this does nothing to help readers understand where the information came from, we avoid the use of deep background.
Off the record: The information cannot be used for publication or in further reporting. (Under no circumstances can it be shared with anyone outside of The Daily unless independently verified).
Quotes and Attribution of Information
Facts and quotes that were not collected directly through Daily reporting must be attributed. Articles should clearly differentiate between what a reporter saw and heard first-hand and what a reporter obtained from other sources. Plagiarism is not permitted. It is The Daily’s policy to credit other publications that produce exclusive content we later cover.
We quote sources to accurately capture their words and intended meaning. We do not allow sources to change the rules governing specific quotations after they are shared with us.
We do not allow sources to change what was said in an interview either. A more acceptable alternative is to permit a source to add to a quotation and then explain the sequence to readers.
Sometimes it makes sense to share an article draft or a select portion of it with a source before publication to ensure accuracy. This requires the permission of The Daily’s Editor-in-Chief.
We strive for promptness in correcting all errors in material published on our digital platforms and in print. When we run a correction, our goal is to tell readers, as clearly and quickly as possible, what was wrong and what is correct.
Corrections to online material are added to the original post. If an alert is sent out with incorrect information, another alert will be sent with a correction and explanation of the error. If an error is pointed out in the comments, The Daily will reply to the comment after a correction is made. Print corrections are published in our newspaper each Monday.
When we issue corrections, we do not attribute blame to any individual Daily staffers.
Clarifications and Updates
In addition to corrections, we sometimes issue clarifications. This should happen when The Daily’s reporting is factually correct but conveyed with language that is not sufficiently clear. Whenever this is determined to be the case, we should promptly reword the offending content and add a clarification to explain what has been changed and what was wrong with the previous wording.
Separate from corrections and clarifications are updates. These should be added whenever The Daily receives new information that provides more detail to a report or adds a new perspective that was previously lacking. Updates can be used to note that we initially failed to seek a comment or response that has since been added to an article or to note that the information in an article is outdated, but a correction must be made if our initial reporting was incorrect in any way.