The official newspaper of

Occidental College since 1893


Frequently Asked Questions

The Journalistic Process and Our Policies

What are your ethical standards? What principles and values do you hold as an organization?

How do you verify your information?

I want to talk to a reporter, but I don’t want my name published in the paper. Is that okay?

Under what conditions do you publish stories with anonymous sources?

I want to talk to a reporter, but I want to review the story before it’s published. Is that okay?

Reporting and Interviewing

How do I know whether or not I’m speaking with a reporter from The Occidental?

Why do your reporters always ask to record their sources?

How do you generate your quotes for stories?

How do I know I’m not secretly being recorded?

What does it mean when something is “on” or “off” the record?

I said something on the record that I no longer consent to sharing. Can you please redact that quote?

Are there any alternatives to on or off the record?

Post-publication

I was interviewed for a story, but I wasn’t included in the version that was published. How come?

I noticed an error in a story you published. Do you make revisions to your stories?

I think I’ve been misquoted. I don’t remember saying the things you quoted me saying.


The Journalistic Process and Our Policies

What are your ethical standards? What principles and values do you hold as an organization?

You can read our mission statement on the About Us section of our website. Additionally, we strive to uphold the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics as the standards for our policies and procedures. Since government agencies do not regulate journalists based on the longstanding precedent of protecting the free press from influence, there is no single set of legally-enforceable rules for journalists. However, the Society of Professional Journalists is one of the oldest organizations that represents journalists in the United States, and it provides, in our opinion, the most detailed and thorough ethical framework for journalists like us to refer to.

How do you verify your information?

We only publish information acquired through our original reporting, meaning that we interact directly with the people involved in a story instead of relying on information from other news outlets. All facts reported in an article are directly attributed to a source. If that source is an individual person, we verify facts through an in-person interview, phone call or written communication. If that source is not a specific individual (e.g., an organization's report or a government-issued document), we hyperlink directly to the source or its author(s). We always pursue documented evidence and overlapping details from sources. We do not publish hearsay or rumors. 

I want to talk to a reporter, but I don’t want my name published in the paper. Is that okay?

We always prefer to have our sources speak on the record, so our readers can see where we acquired our information as proof of our reporting. That way, it’s clear we did not invent anything ourselves in our stories. For situations where an individual is genuinely at risk by sharing their name, our senior editorial team will consider offering anonymity.

Under what conditions do you publish stories with anonymous sources?

We only offer anonymity in situations where an individual would face threats to their personal safety or their job security by having their name published. We also do not publish stories with a source that is fully anonymous to us — at least one or two staff member(s) are aware of the identity of any anonymous source. However, we protect the confidentiality of anonymous sources rigorously, and we can guarantee that this sensitive information will be secure. Additionally, our reporters do not make the decision to grant anonymity on their own; they must consult our senior editorial team for discussion.

I want to talk to a reporter, but I want to review the story before it’s published. Is that okay?

We do not allow sources to look at the draft of a story before it is published because this would compromise our editorial independence. It is a journalist's responsibility to report an article without any kind of censorship imposed on their reporting. If a source was allowed to review a draft prior to publication and attempted to edit past statements that were made on-record, this would compromise the accuracy of the facts our reporter collected at the time of an interview.

We make exceptions to this rule if a source who spoke on complex, quantitative information (e.g., data they collected for a science report, explanations of a computer programming software) wanted to ensure the accuracy of that information. If you believe you were misquoted, refer to the corresponding question in the “Post-publication” section of the FAQ.


Reporting and Interviewing

How do I know whether or not I’m speaking with a reporter from The Occidental?

Our staff will always disclose when we are speaking with a source in a journalistic capacity — meaning, we will always start the conversation by saying, in some form, “I’m here on behalf of The Occidental.” We do not practice ambush journalism.

Why do your reporters always ask to record their sources?

Recording the audio of any conversation allows our reporters to be as accurate and precise as possible in their writing. Most importantly, it means that any quotes we attribute to a source will be written exactly as that source said them, eliminating any influence or bias in how we represent their voice.

How do you generate your quotes for stories?

We use the exact words used by a source for quotes based on the audio recording from an interview. If a source emailed our reporter, then we use the words from that email for quotes, using those words exactly how they are typed out.

How do I know I’m not secretly being recorded?

California is a two-party consent state regarding audio recordings, meaning any reporter needs to have the consent of a source to record them. Without doing this, our reporting would be unethical and illegal. This is why our reporters always ask “Can I record you?” during the actual recording, to document that a source has provided consent. If people do not provide documented consent to being recorded, we will not record them.

What does it mean when something is “on” or “off” the record?

“On the record” means that any information shared can be used fully and attributed to that individual. Consenting to participating in a recorded conversation implies consent to speaking on the record. By default, any conversation is on the record — an interviewee must indicate when something is “off the record” before saying something. Consent to being on the record cannot be undone retroactively.

I said something on the record that I no longer consent to sharing. Can you please redact that quote?

An interviewee cannot go off the record retroactively. Once something has been said, it cannot be unsaid. However, in the process of informing the community, we always aim to minimize harm and consider the implications of anything we will publish. We will seriously consider requests of this nature.

Are there any alternatives to on or off the record?

Yes — there is background, and deep background. “Background” means information shared by a source can be published and attributed, but the exact conditions need to be discussed between the reporter and the source. “Deep background” means “the information can be used but without attribution. The source does not want to be identified in any way, even on condition of anonymity.” [1] Both of this circumstances are uncommon, and we typically only use them for high-impact stories.


Post-publication

I was interviewed for a story, but I wasn’t included in the version that was published. How come?

We always try to include as many sources in our stories as possible, but sometimes, not every interviewee is included in a story. This doesn’t mean your words were disregarded — every interviewee shapes the development of a story and connects our reporters with other potential sources. Stories evolve through the reporting process, and sometimes the final draft has diverged from the original story pitch. Additionally, since we maintain a word count of 850 words for most stories, if multiple sources communicate similar facts, we may only quote one source out of necessity.

I noticed an error in a story you published. Do you make revisions to your stories?

We always encourage our audience to inform us of any mistakes we may have made in our reporting. Of course, we do our best to provide accurate information at all times, but we are not incapable of making mistakes. If there is a concrete, factual error, such as an incorrect date or a misspelling of a name, please inform us immediately and we will correct it. We reserve the right to decline any revision suggestion for any reason. You can contact us by emailing the writer of that individual story or at our club email, theoccidental@oxy.edu. Additionally, whenever we make revisions to a story post-publication, there will be a italicized line at the bottom of the story explaining the nature of the revision and the date it took place.

I think I’ve been misquoted. I don’t remember saying the things you quoted me saying.

If you believe you’ve been misquoted, please contact the writer of that story, and they will provide you with the audio recording from your interview and demonstrate the source of that quote. If you interacted with our reporter via email, our reporter will show you the email that was used for your quote.


[1] Source: The Associated Press (AP) Standards and Practices