The Collegian
Saturday, April 20, 2024

Ethics and Policies

Who We Are

The Collegian receives funding from the University of Richmond through the Student Organization Budget and Appropriations Committee (SOBAC). This relationship does not determine The Collegian’s coverage in any capacity.

The Collegian acts, and reserves the right to act, as an independent, functioning news organization, regardless of its funding or its status as a student organization.


The Collegian is an independent resource at UR. Its staff members are tasked to be impartial in both observation and documentation.

Staff members should separate themselves from any real or perceived conflicts of interest when possible and disclose unavoidable conflicts of interest before the beginning of their tenure on The Collegian. Staff members are required to sign a contract agreeing to adhere to these standards.

All other potential biases will be considered by the editor-in-chief when students join staff and receive coverage assignments. The editor-in-chief reserves the right to reassign stories and/or editorial matters in the event of a conflict of interest.

Conflicts of interest

Section editors may remove staff members from their section if an article written by the staff member is found to have a conflict of interest. The editor-in-chief will be the final judge of what constitutes a conflict of interest.

Staff members may not cover any story that in any way involves a friend, family member or past or current professor, because doing so would misrepresent and falsify The Collegian’s objectivity. This also includes UR staff members and the city of Richmond community members whom writers have a similarly close relationship with.

Similarly, staff members may not interview a student who shares membership with them in any student organization or on-campus employment. As a general rule, staff members also may not be subjects of any Collegian article, excluding opinions. As a general rule, if a staff member would comfortably get lunch with a potential source, then that person may not be a source for the staff member's article.

Staff members are allowed to write for other UR publications as long as their roles do not overlap between publications. Staff members must also recognize that any form of published work for a different publication that establishes a political stance puts The Collegian’s objectivity and endeavor to report unbiased truth at risk.

The Collegian’s unbiased stance is non-negotiable and staff members or contributors must inform editors and the editor-in-chief if they take on any other significant leadership position at UR. The Collegian encourages its staff members’ involvement in other campus organizations, but as an independent news source, it must also uphold the principle of truth and objectivity to set a standard in journalism.

If any controversy arises involving a conflict of interest, the editor-in-chief will decide appropriate measures.


The Collegian receives a variety of story tips from staff and community members. To decide which tips will become stories it adheres to the following guidelines:

  • Timeliness: The Collegian covers stories that are current to keep its readers informed. Staff members will usually not cover an event or issue that is not recent, because it may no longer be urgent for readers to know about it.
  • Impact: The Collegian's first obligation is to its community. Staff members report on events that have affected the community and bring light to events that will affect it.
  • Proximity: The Collegian primarily covers stories that occur on campus. If an important event happens within proximity of campus, staff members will cover that event. Proximity may be measured in terms of both physical and emotional closeness.
  • Prominence: It is The Collegian's duty as an independent newspaper to hold those with authority accountable, so staff members report on administrative affairs and significant figures in the community.
  • Oddities: The Collegian covers stories that do not happen daily and are considered out of the ordinary.
  • Conflict: To accurately represent its community, The Collegian covers issues that caused turmoil or division within said community.

Standards of Reporting

Staff members may neither plagiarize nor fabricate their work in any capacity. Plagiarism includes copying information from another person’s work, paraphrasing from another person’s work or being dependent on another person’s work without proper citation. Fabrication includes writing false information or quotes. Quotes must be verbatim and properly attributed.

The Collegian will not change word choice, edit for clarity or remove any quotes by request. In the rare case that a source is approved by a section editor to read their own quote(s) before publication, sources may be authorized to change only factual or grammatical errors.

Sources are not authorized to read articles before publication. Allowing a source to read an article before publication compromises the integrity and independence of Collegian reporting.

If there is any doubt about the accuracy of a quote, staff members are required to check with the source of the quote to clarify.

Every article must have no fewer than three sources. Email and phone interviews must be approved by section editors before the interview is conducted.  Students, faculty and staff sources will not be granted email interviews unless improved by the editor-in-chief.  Interviews should be recorded, and staff members should also take notes to ensure accuracy. Unrecorded interviews should be approved by section editors.

Anonymity may not be granted without the editor-in-chief’s approval. If an anonymous source is granted, only the staff writer, section editor and editor-in-chief will know the source’s identity.

Staff members must use sources’ preferred pronouns. For gender-neutral pronouns, staff members will work to honor those pronouns and grammatical agreements to the best of their abilities to avoid confusion.

Profane language is permitted in an article if it is part of a quote.

The Collegian’s reporting should cover different groups on campus to represent all members of the UR community. Staff members must seek sources from all potential parties involved in a story to ensure it is fair and balanced.

Staff members must double-check facts, names and quotes in their stories. During the editing process, stories are fact-checked by at least three editors.

Multimedia guidelines

Photographs may not be altered nor manipulated in any way that misleads and/or obscures the accuracy or content of an event. Minor adjustments such as cropping may be permitted. Photographers may not stage or influence the events they are photographing. Video may not be edited in a way that misleads viewers or inaccurately represents events. Events captured on video should not be staged or manipulated. Filters must be approved by the editor-in-chief.

Photographs and videos of children may not be used for publication without a parent or guardian’s permission. Staff members do not need to gain permission from participants in protests and demonstrations to photograph or film them because of the public nature of such events.

When photographing or filming crime or tragedy, staff members should not seek to invade privacy but should still capture the truth of the event. The potential negative effects of a photograph must always be weighed against the public’s right to know.


On the record

All interviews are on the record unless approved to be otherwise by a Collegian section editor before an interview begins. If an interview is conducted on the record, everything a source says may be used for publication and the information may be attributed to the source by name.

Virginia is a one-party consent state, which means only one participant in a conversation needs to consent for a conversation to be recorded. Therefore, if a staff writer is participating in a conversation in person or via phone, the writer has the right to record the conversation without the consent of other participants. If the writer is not participating in a conversation, the reporter may not record the conversation without the consent of an involved party. 

Community members — such as students, faculty and staff — with leadership positions in student organizations or other institutions on campus may not be covered on background nor deep background when being interviewed for news articles about an organization unless approved otherwise at the discretion of the editor-in-chief. 

Community members with leadership positions who refuse to comment reserve that right. But, these sources will always be on the record, unless approved otherwise at the discretion of the editor-in-chief. The Collegian will always publish a leader's name, along with the leader's position title — not one or the other — regardless of what the source has requested. 

On background

Information shared in an interview on background may be used for publication but may not be attributed to the source by name. However, the job title or position of a source may be used to attribute the information. This sourcing is solely reserved for investigative pieces and must be approved by the editor-in-chief. 

Deep background

Information shared in an interview on deep background may be used for publication but may not be attributed to the source. An example of attribution used for information provided on deep background would be "sources said."

Off the record

Information shared in an interview off the record may not be used for publication or attributed to the source but may be used to find additional sources or information.

Article review before publication

Sources are not authorized to read articles before publication. Allowing a source to read any stories before publication compromises the integrity and independence of Collegian reporting.

Corrections and clarifications

Accuracy of reporting is a priority for The Collegian. The Collegian will not publish information that its staff members are unsure of is correct, to the best of their knowledge at a given time. In the event that a staff member finds or is made aware of a potential error, they must immediately bring the potential error to the attention of an editor for review. If deemed incorrect, the error must be corrected as soon as possible.

Staff members should be actively looking for errors. It should not take a reader or source pointing out an error for incorrect information to be corrected. If a staff member is made aware of an error before or after publication and does not notify an editor, the editor-in-chief has the right to remove them from staff.

Contributors, Opinions, Columns and Practicum


People who are not on Collegian staff may contribute to it. Writers who are not on staff are identified as contributors in the position descriptions found at the bottom of each article, where contact information for the contributor is also provided.

Opinions and Letters to the Editor

The Collegian regularly publishes opinion pieces from members of the University of Richmond community. Submissions reflect only the opinions of their authors and do not represent those of The Collegian or its staff. All submissions to the opinion section should be kept to 750 words or fewer and be sent to opinions editor Conner Evans at Please include a one or two-sentence submission statement in your email about who you are and what prompted you to submit your piece.

Please keep the following guidelines in mind when composing an opinion piece:

  1. Submissions may cover topics at the campus, local, national or international levels. The Collegian looks for well-researched, well-written and thoughtful commentary on current issues.
  2. The Collegian reserves the right to edit for length, clarity and propriety of content. Submissions are subject to review for factual accuracy.
  3. Submissions should come from members of the UR community. This includes (but is not limited to) students, faculty, staff and alumni.
  4. Anonymous submissions and submissions under a pseudonym will be considered on a case-to-case basis.
  5. Submissions must be exclusive to The Collegian.
  6. Writers must cite evidence using hyperlinks or in-text attributions when making factual claims or quoting from another source.
  7. An edited copy of an opinion piece will be sent to the author for review before publication.


The Collegian often publishes pieces from UR students enrolled in Practicum, a course offered by UR’s journalism department. Practicum is a writing-based course with a publication requirement that many students choose to fulfill by pitching stories to The Collegian.

Practicum students send pitches to The Collegian email. Pitches are then accepted or rejected based on newsworthiness. If a pitch is accepted, the student is assigned a word count and deadline. If a Practicum student is not a Collegian staff member, they should not present themselves as such to sources. Instead, the student should explain that they are writing the article for class with the intent to publish in The Collegian.

The Collegian reserves the right to halt or terminate an article's publication at any point in the reporting, writing and editing process. The Collegian will not publish a piece if it is in clear violation of The Collegian's ethical guidelines or if a Practicum student does not respond within 24 hours of being contacted by a Collegian editor.

Once submitted, pieces written by Practicum students go through the same editing process as pieces written by Collegian staff. Practicum students should turn in their stories to their professors before submitting to The Collegian for editing. Practicum students must abide by the style and ethical guidelines of The Collegian.

Additional Policies

Social media policy

Staff members represent The Collegian at all times. Staff members are encouraged to set privacy settings on all personal social media accounts to separate private life from their public roles as Collegian staff members.

Staff members may not identify themselves as members of a political party or as part of student government on public social media accounts. The 2020 presidential election is no exception.

Staff members should avoid expressing strong beliefs about issues related to Collegian coverage on public social media accounts. Every staff member represents The Collegian and has a responsibility to maintain The Collegian’s reputation as a neutral news organization.

Gifts and donations

Accepting gifts and/or donations compromises The Collegian’s impartiality. Staff members should never accept gifts — such as food, beverages, event passes and tickets or any other material objects — or any sort of compensation or accommodation from any party while reporting.

Any gifts received will be immediately returned to the sender. Should the sender refuse to accept the item, it will be donated to charity.

Monetary donations from previous sources will not impact Collegian coverage. If a person donates to The Collegian while acting as an active source, The Collegian will not accept and will refund that donation.

Use of alcohol and drugs while on assignment

Staff members may not consume alcohol and/or non-prescription drugs when actively on assignment, regardless of whether they are of legal drinking age, so as to prevent compromised judgment, credibility and objectivity.

Election season policy

The Collegian does not wish to infringe upon its staff members’ right to be involved in politics. The Collegian’s guidelines are based on preserving its objectivity and integrity in order to be a nonpartisan organization during an election season.

Staff members, excluding editors, may be involved in on-campus political organizations. Although, all staff members, excluding opinions writers, should not publicly announce their political beliefs or affiliations. Staff members should refrain from publicly endorsing or lobbying for a particular candidate or speaking publicly about particular issues in even the most mundane of visible ways, regardless of whether they are involved in on-campus political student organizations.

Staff members should refrain from signing petitions that have the purpose of expressing a particular political viewpoint, such as a petition to get rid of the electoral college.

These guidelines also apply to student elections for Westhampton College Government Association, Richmond College Student Government Association, Jepson Student Government Association, the Robins School of Business Student Government Association or any other student organization on campus.

Crime reporting

Crime reporting requires extra care. All staff members should be aware of state and federal laws pertaining to crimes, such as libel laws. The Collegian does not name victims of crimes without their permission.

The Collegian may publish a mugshot of a person charged with a crime on a case-by-case basis. If the person charged with a crime is found not guilty by a court of law, a mugshot can be removed from the article upon request. 

Coverage of death

For coverage of death by suicide, The Collegian will only use the phrase “death by suicide.” A death by suicide will never be described as the result of one event, or as being “caused” by something. It will not be reported as “unexpected” or “sudden.” The Collegian will not report methods of suicide or any private details of the situation, such as nonconsensual details that involve grieving of community members. Staff members will not report on details or depictions highlighting specific locations.

For all death coverage, The Collegian will always include information about support resources that are available for readers. Staff members will not report details that can potentially glamorize death.