Law, Ethics and News Literacy

Law and ethics are the backbone of student journalism that enable us to continue reporting free from prior review. As EiC, I am the last editor to look at all content before it is posted, and am constantly thinking about how we can maximize truth and minimize harm. 

Student press freedoms

Before school began, I met with the Interim High School Principal and Head of School to introduce The Standard – they are both new in their roles – and also explain this document that we wanted the school to sign titled Affirmation of Student Free Expression Rights. This document would ensure that despite changing leadership or UK guidelines, The Standard would be guaranteed press freedoms as a newspaper that operates on the school's budget. The Interim Principal signed the document and reaffirmed to staff members that they are able to tackle any issue or write an opinion piece on any topic as long as it was reported accurately and fairly.  

Conflicts of interest

With a growing staff that has taken over the student population made it more challenging for reporters to interview non-staff members, I knew we needed a clear policy to get rid of as many potential conflicts of interest as possible. The managing team established a new policy and all reporters were required to sign it and fill out a form disclosing their closest relationships in the school: friendships, partners, parents working as faculty and staff. As I'm editing, I consult the list of conflicts of interest to ensure that all interviews were fairly conducted and explore a diverse range of perspectives.

Editing for ethics

As the last staff member to edit all of our content, I am constantly thinking about the ethical considerations of specific quotes or a piece as a whole so that we maintain our credibility with our audience and maximize truth without causing harm to students. In one case, this required using anonymous sources for a story on eating disorders in which is would have caused too much stress to the students who were willing to go on the record to also have their full name attached. I had a conversation with the writer and explained that first, we should check their quotes with them and make sure that they are only comfortable with complete anonymity. Then, I told the writer that because of the content of the article, it would need a trigger warning and to be seen by a member of the school's Safeguarding team. It took months, but all of these steps were necessary to protect students' safety while recognizing the importance of the subject matter.


My priority is always to be accurate and fully contextualize all sources and research. After an interview, I have been asked a few times for quote checks, in which I have gone back to discuss with the source that I cannot send them the full article, but am happy to share the paragraphs where they are quotes or paraphrased. However, I explain to all interviewees that the entire interview is on-the-record unless we both agree to be temporarily off-the-record, so direct quotes cannot be altered. I also fact-check pieces that I edit by clicking on each link that is cited and ensuring that reporters are not plagiarizing or misrepresenting the source.

Guest submission policy

I worked on redrafting the guest submission policy because veto power needed to be in the hands of the editorial board. As I was writing, I realized that the policy walks a very fine line between student expression and protecting the credibility of our publication so that all content was upheld to the same journalistic integrity, even if it was not written by a staff member.

Working with writers

Staff members frequently consult me about concerns with law and ethics, and I always am happy to plan a short meeting to discuss concerns. Whether it be the use of anonymous sources or potential conflicts of interest, I love discussing how to approach controversial issues with staff members and help them feel confident when they approach the story.

Teaching other publications

For two years in a row, The Standard has been approached by a nearby school to get their news site up and running and learn about the basics of journalism. I have taught workshops on topics from how to conduct a fair interview to opinion writing to marketing to organizational health. As a British school – and without our recently signed press freedoms document – they are held to different guidelines for censorship and prior review, which I discussed with their adviser to give the best possible advice about how to continue covering controversial issues. This year, they had created an entire politics section, demonstrating that it is imperative for student journalists to know their rights and defend them even when they might receive administrative pushback.