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Staff strives for professionalism

| Thursday, September 30, 2004

With the presidential election rapidly approaching, college campuses can be a hotbed for political discussion in the classrooms, dining halls, dorm rooms or even on the quads. For many Notre Dame students, this is the first time they will be able to vote in a presidential election, and it is not surprising that many feel called to express their civic duties. Members of The Observer staff are not immune to these discussions or calls to duty.

While The Observer does strive to maintain professional standards, the reality is that staff members are students first and shouldn’t be inhibited from expressing their views both in and out of the classroom. At a professional mainstream newspaper, we acknowledge these practices would be unacceptable. There is a gray area we frequently encounter on a variety of issues concerning where the ethical line falls for student journalists who express political views, are involved in particular groups or are aligned with certain ideals.

We recognize we have a commitment to our readers to publish a balanced newspaper every day and believe that transparency can only strengthen The Observer’s credibility. The Observer’s news and editorial pages lose both validity and value if writers and editors do not have credibility. To ensure this credibility, we take several precautions and have implemented multiple safeguards.

With concern for The Observer’s news pages, it is standard practice to avoid assigning articles to writers whose credibility could be questioned by either editors or readers due to a conflict of interest. Articles, columns and letters to the editor are edited on a nightly basis by several editors to prevent biases from appearing in The Observer’s pages. We have removed writers from stories, and we have also pulled stories and columns from pages that were questionable.

With regard to The Observer’s Viewpoint pages, there are several members of the Viewpoint staff who work in consultation with members of the top editorial staff to ensure the pages present a balance of views and expressions. These individuals come from different backgrounds, have competing ideals and are not afraid to challenge the merits of whether a column or letter to the editor should be printed.

The Observer strives to meet its own standards and those that are demanded from the community. We as editors have set these standards high for a student newspaper and acknowledge The Observer has made mistakes in the past and could do so in the future. The Observer’s standards are evolving, and we acknowledge this system will neither be perfect nor immune to problems. We believe it would be unreasonable to ask our staff to observe strict professional ethical guidelines that are found in typical mainstream newspapers because doing so would force our staff to place The Observer before their student lives. However, The Observer does have professional and ethical guidelines that it expects its staff to meet.

Matt LozarEditor in ChiefMeghanne DownesManaging EditorJoe HettlerAssistant Managing Editor