The Pony Express

Full Policies

Policy Statement:

The Pony Express is a publication of Stillwater Area High School. This paper is an open forum for community and students’ views.

Letters to the Editor are encouraged. The Editorial Board reserves the right to publish and edit letters; corrections will be made in order to correct content, spelling, grammar, and length. Letters and comments may be submitted to room C214, by fax 651-351-8049 or mail: 5701 Stillwater Blvd. Stillwater, MN 55082.

The staff editorial is written by the Pony Express staff and headed by Editors-in- Chief.

Pony Express Mission Statement:

1. To publish news, information and opinion articles for and about student, faculty and administration activities, interests and policies.

2. To maintain high ethical standards with regard to fairness, personal and legal rights, responsibilities and accuracy.

3. To provide a forum for free and responsible expression of student opinion and present well-balanced, locally researched coverage of issues of broader student interest.

4. To strive for a high level of competency in the technical aspect of writing, including grammar, spelling, clarity, and precision.

5. To welcome diversity and increase the scope and depth of our coverage in order to heighten mutual understanding and awareness throughout our entire school community.

Editorial board:

• The Editorial Board is the decision-making and policy-setting body of the newspaper, and governs its day-to-day operations.

•The voting membership of the board consists of the Editor(s)-in-Chief, Managing Editor, and the Advisor. Editorial  board meetings are required for members only.

•A board member is subject to review by remaining members and may be dismissed for meeting more than one required meeting without approved excuse prior to meeting (except for illness).

• A board member may also be excused for disciplinary reasons (any violation of EIC contract).  Upon removal of a board member, a replacement will be appointed.

• The adviser will always attend board meetings.  The adviser is not a voting member of the board, however, should the adviser disagree with an opinion or decision reached by the board, she may request a re-evaluation of the decision.  The adviser does maintain veto power in the event of a libelous, illegal activity, or content deemed in bad taste.

All content decisions will be made in occurrence to the following provisions, while keeping in mind that the overall purpose, role and goal of all Pony Express media is to:

1. Inform, interpret, and entertain their viewers through accurate and factual reports, where information has been thoroughly gathered and information has been completely verified;

2. Serve as an educational laboratory experience for those on staff;

3. Be accurate, fair, and impartial in its coverage of issues that affect the school community;

4. Pony Express will not avoid publishing a story solely on the basis of possible dissent or controversy;

5. Cover the total school population as effectively and accurately as possible;

6. The staff of the Pony Express will strive to report all issues in a legal, objective, accurate and ethical manner, according to the Canons of Professional Journalism developed by the Society for Professional Journalists. The Canons of Professional Journalism include a code of  ethics concerning accuracy, responsibility, integrity, conflict of interest, impartiality, fair play, freedom of  the press, independence, sensationalism, personal privacy, obstruction of justice, creditability and advertising.

Content Policies:

Regarding Profanity

1. The media will not print unnecessary profanity.

2. The editorial board will make the decision on whether content is considered profane or whether it is a cultural or non-vulgar slang term.

3. The editorial board reserves the right to edit quotes for unnecessary profanity or unnecessarily offensive words, quotes that have been edited will be noted accordingly when published.

4. Any edited quote will be read back to the source prior to publishing and sources will have a chance to make changes.

5. Staff interviewers have the right to ask a source when necessary to repeat a quote without the use of profane language.

Regarding Staff Writing

1. All writing in the media, other than letters to the editor, will be written by students of the journalism program and will not be accepted otherwise.

2. SAHS students outside of the media staffs will have the opportunity to submit writing to the media.

3. Any writing submitted from an outside source for use will be accepted upon request of the editorial board or when open opportunities arise, and will be viewed by EICs and adviser for verification.

4. Any material submitted from an outside source can be edited by the editorial board and must comply to this policy.

5. Writing must be the original work of the writer and not previously published on any publication, unless otherwise specified by the adviser and EICs.

Regarding Editorials

1. All printed editorial subject matter will be determined by the editorial board.

2. The media will not publish any material for which there is evidence that the author is using the paper for inappropriate personal gain.

3. The media will endeavor to provide a chance for comment on all sides of a critical issue in the same edition.

4. The editorial board, which consists of the staff ’s student editors, will determine the content, including all unsigned editorials. The views stated in editorials represent that of a majority of the editorial board. Signed columns or reviews represent only the opinion of the author.

Ground Rules for Reporting Controversial and Sensitive Issues

1. Articles should have a definite local news peg, need and purpose that may be stated or implied, but are known and can be clearly and concisely expressed and supported by the reporter and/or editorial board. The subject of the article should apply to or directly concern a significant number of the students.

2. Coverage of the story should rely on primary research involving school or local sources who are knowledgeable about the subject. Articles on controversial subjects should be well balanced and evenhanded, giving informed views from each side.

3. Reporters will refrain from unethical or illegal lapses that can be construed as libelous, obscene or invading privacy. The paper should observe restrictions concerning preservation of anonymity and the need for parental permission by minors under conditions having legal ramifications.

4. All sides of the issue will be presented and reviewed so as to refrain from any bias, with exception of opinions.

5. In news, all sides of a school, community, city, state, national, or international political issue will be presented factually so as to inform rather than promote or endorse.

6. The media will not attack.

7. If question on the veracity of publication persists, the issue will be brought to the Editorial Board who must consider the following questions before publication of the piece:

a. Why is it a concern?

b. What is its journalistic purpose?

c. Is the information accurate and complete?

d. Are any important POV omitted?

e. How would we feel if the story was about ourselves or someone we know?

f. What are the consequences of the publication?

g. Is there a logical explanation to anyone who challenges issue?

h. Is it worth risking our credibility?

i. What are the alternatives?

Regarding Bylines

1. All articles, graphics, photos, art, columns, pages, reviews, and other material creatively conceived, with exception to staff editorials, mug shots and cutouts will be bylined with the creator’s name.

2. All bylined writers will be held accountable for their work.

3. When more than one person has contributed creatively to a piece of work, any person who has contributed to the work must be bylined as a producer.

Regarding News and Features

1. The media will specialize in and emphasize on informing their readers of school news and unique students of the Stillwater Area High School community.

2. The media will cover community, state, national, and international news if it is directly relevant to the school community, and includes local angle.

3. The media will strive to provide coverage to all school organizations and functions.

4. When faced with the undesirable news such as student or staff or faculty crimes, the publications will endeavor to publish the facts correctly, explain the issue, and put a stop to any speculative stories that inevitably develop.

5. Major district issues and news will be priority over school news (these major issues will be decided by the Editorial Board).

Regarding Deaths

1. The Editor(s)-in-Chief work with the news editor to handle obituaries.

2. Obituaries should be about current SAHS or Stillwater Area School District students or staff (or other prominent individuals as the advisor and/or Editorial Board determine).

3. Consistent, up-front placement of obituaries in news space. Standard body type as all other articles in the newspaper. If Editorial Board deems appropriate, obituary will appear on the school website.

4.    The media will publish factual information (date of birth, date of death, survivors, organizations, hobbies, interests) in a 300-word obituary including one mug shot if possible in the Pony Express.

5. The school media will obtain permission from the deceased’s family before publishing any information, especially regarding the cause of death, if permission is not granted, the editorial board reserves the final say in publication of cause of death. Suicide will not be listed as a cause of death.

6. The school media will treat all deaths in a tasteful, respectful way.

7. An issue, or portion of an issue, should not be dedicated to or in memory of the deceased.

8. Pictures: Offer the opportunity to include a photograph of the deceased, with the family’s permission.  No “accident” or “incident” photos will be printed (i.e. no car accident photos) “Story” obituaries. “Story” obituaries will occur with the passing of prominent people. These often appear in the news section.

9. For all other obituary questions, the Editorial Board and adviser will make decisions as necessary.

Regarding illustrations, photographs, and graphics

1. All captions will record the who and other necessary information in the photo.

2. All photographs must be captioned and bylined, with the exception of mugs and cutouts.

3. Bylines are required on all online photos and galleries.

4. Any photographs that contain any inappropriate attire or actions must be reshot.

5. Artwork represents the interpretations of the artist, not necessarily of the staff or Stillwater Area High School.

6. The publications will not publish any photos, illustrations etc. that ridicule, demean, or misleadingly represent any individual or group. Photos should be taken of relevant sources, and/or items that have a direct link to the content presented in the article. Subject of photos should be intentional and balanced, giving informed views from each side.  For more information see Radical Write or staff manual for guidelines on in-depth writing and photography selection.

7. Electronic manipulations changing the essential truth of the photo or illustration will be clearly labeled if used.

Regarding errors

1. Concerns about errors in the school media may be submitted though the adviser, the phone number to the publication room is 651-351-8131, email is [email protected]

2. The Editorial Board retains the right to determine whether, in fact, an error has been made.

3. Known and or found errors that are brought to the attention of the school media will be addressed regardless if realized by author, audience, or staff member.

4. Staff members will strive to correct errors prior to publication; however, if the editorial board determines a significant error is printed, the editorial board will determine the manner and timeliness of a correction.

5. Major corrections are determined by the editors and adviser. A correction box will appear in the print issue immediately following the error.

6. If changes are made to a web story once a story has been posted, the change will be noted along with the date and time the change was made.

Prior Review Policy

1. Sources will be able to have quotes read back at the time of interview or at reporter’s initiative.

2. Sources will not be able to arbitrarily demand to read the reporter’s completed story and then perform editing tasks on that story. Decline and/or direct all prior view requests to the adviser.

3. The media reporters will endeavor to include the name and identity of all sources if reporter believes that doing so will not result in endangerment, harassment or any other form of undue physical, mental, emotional anguish for the source.

4. The media reporters will not, within all boundaries of law, reveal a source who asks to remain nameless.

5. All media interviewers will respect the interviewees rights to have information remain “off the record” if the fact is known before giving the information to the interviewer.

6. The media will not be reviewed by anyone outside of the Editorial Board aside from the adviser prior to its release to the public, the adviser is allowed to review the publication, but not required to, for the sole purpose of acting as legal consultant and educator in terms of unprotected speech; the adviser reading content is not considered prior review unless he/she makes changes or directs changes.

Regarding Advertising

The purpose of advertising is to raise money for the newspaper by bringing buyer and seller together, thus making it a vital part of the newspaper.

The Pony Express reserves the right to reject, edit, or cancel any advertisement at any time.  If a business pays for advertising in advance of publication and the staff decides to cancel the ad, the money will be refunded for remaining ads.

Advertising shall be free of editorializing, statements, illustrations, or implications that are offensive to good taste or public decency based on the opinion of the Editorial Board.  Advertising shall offer merchandise or service on its merits and refrain from attaching competitors unfairly or disparaging their products, services, methods, or doing business.  That staff may run political advertisements.  The staff will not accept advertising for products or groups that are racist, sexist, illegal for high school students, or violates other standard journalistic principles (libel, obscenity, invasion of privacy, disruption).  Ads which the staff accepts are not an endorsement from the staff, adviser, administrators, or board of education.

All ads are thus subject to review by the editorial board.  If the board decided a questionable advertisement is suitable for use by the Pony Express, and that the questionable materials are vital part of the advertisement, than the ad will appear in the newspaper.

Advertising rates, publication dates, and terms are set forth in the media kit.

The publications will not run advertising without a proper signature on the advertising contract which explains terms of payment, content, size, publishing dates, includes attached layout which explains the terms of payment, content, size.

The publications will not accept personal or classified advertising.

The publications will cease to publish advertising of any advertiser that does not meet payment obligations specified in school contact.

All advertisers will receive a complementary issue of the Pony Express in which their ad has run.

If a published advertisement is incorrect in substantive content, a reduced price or corrected run will be negotiated.

Advertising that appears in the media is not necessarily endorsed by the media or its staff members, editorial board or adviser.

Violent Content: Criteria for Selecting Articles with Photos or Violent Content

• Articles/photos that have violent materials as a central focus should maintain high ethical standards with regard to fairness, personal and legal rights, responsibilities, and accuracy.

• Articles/photos that appear in the Pony Express should have a definite local news peg, need, and purpose that may be stated or implied, but are known to students and readers, and can be clearly and concisely expressed and supported by the reporter and/or editorial board.

• The subject of the article/photo (in these cases, violent actions, events, victims, or suspects), should apply, directly relate, or be of interest to a majority of the student body at Stillwater Area High School.

• Articles/photos that may be considered gratuitous in content will be discarded from the publication.  Articles/photos that are not offensive or gratuitous in nature must fulfill a minimum of one of the following criteria: proximity, human interest, prominence, timeliness, and/or newsworthiness.

• All articles/photos appear in the Pony Express that are violent in content must receive unanimous approval from the editorial board.  The adviser will not vote, but will have veto power if the previously stated guidelines are not met.

Legal Procedures to Follow in Reference to Violent Content

• Articles about and pictures depicting violence that contain names or references to or about specific individuals should adhere to the stipulations in the Date Practices Act set forth by the state of Minnesota.

• In addition, the paper should observe restrictions concerning preservation of anonymity and the need for parental permission by minors under any conditions having legal ramifications.

• Reporters and photographers will refrain from unethical or illegal lapses that can be construed as libelous, obscene, or invading privacy.

Letters to the Editor

Forum: The Pony Express pages will be a forum for the exchange of ideas, comment, and criticism, and is open to students and others interested in Stillwater Area High School.  A forum, by definition, is a “marketplace of ideas” more literally, “a public meeting place for open discussion.” Recognizing this, the Pony Express will print as many letters to the editor as space allows each issue.  The Pony Express, however, does reserve the right not to print a letter. No material will be printed where content is obscene, invasive of others’ privacy, encouraging physical disruption of school activities, and/or implies libel. Letters to editor will be printed in the opinion section of the newspaper or on the website.

Format: All letters to the editor must include the writer’s name, signature, and or class/position.  Typed, double-spaced letters are preferred, but legible, hand-written letters are acceptable. Letters to the editor will be verified by a member of the editorial board to determine the authenticity of the writer.

Limitations: Letters should be limited to approximately 300 words, or about one and a half double-spaced, type written pages.  Poetry is not accepted for publication. All letters to the editor become the property of the school newspaper upon receipt and will not be returned to the author. Online comments that are found in violation of the editorial policy will be removed as quickly as possible. Personal attacks are not allowed.

Editing: Letters to the editor will not be edited, except in rare cases to prevent legal liability (libel, obscenity, Address: Letters should be addressed to the editor, and place in any of the Pony Express distribution stands, handed to an editorial board member, or brought to the D220.

Regarding Reviews

1. The reviewer must have experience in the area in which they are reviewing.

2. All reviews will be bylined and all reviews will be expressed opinions of authors, the Editorial Board and newspaper staff does not express opinions on the subject matter.

3. All reviews will be to evaluate and inform, not to promote.

4. Evaluative criteria used will be determined by editorial board depending on whether the event or item being reviewed is professional or amateur in nature.

5. Review ideas may be submitted to the editorial board by all members of the SAHS media.

6. All reviews must first be reviewed by the opinions editor prior to publishing.

7. All reviews need to be reviewed and printed in a current and timely manner.

Regarding Distribution and Circulation

1. Daily updates will be made to the website throughout the week during the school year. While less frequent, updates will be made to the site during breaks.

2. The school newspaper will be distributed free of charge to all students according to a distribution schedule approved by the adviser and editors. Newspapers will be distributed every 4-6 weeks, unless specified otherwise by the adviser and editorial board.

3. Current copies of the school newspaper will also be displayed in the media center, offices, newspaper stands, and classrooms.

4. Advertising revenues and fundraising are to be used to pay for the school media printing costs, supplies and other media expenses.

5. Total press run each issue is approximately 1000 unless specified otherwise by adviser or Editorial Board.

9. Exchange publications are received and displayed in publications lab.

10. Exchange publications are mailed to other media rooms across the U.S.

Conflict of Interest

1. Student reporters and editors will not be quoted or photographed in stories published in the print or online edition of Pony Express, unless they are legitimate newsmakers.

2. In a case were a student reporter or editor is a legitimate newsmaker in a story, that student will have no no influence on the coverage in any way, nor will they be allowed to edit or preview the story before it is published.

3. Student reporters and editors will not report on any events, school clubs or organizations or school sports in which they are a direct participant, as it represents a significant conflict of interest.

Anonymous Sources

1. The Pony Express discourages the use of anonymous sources except when the story cannot otherwise be done.

2. Certain circumstances may call for the use of anonymous sources, like when naming the the source will cause him/her to suffer retribution from an employer, or family, friends or acquaintances or when the source may face physical harm if named.

3. All efforts will be made to have every source be “on the record.”

4. Student reporters will consider a source’s motives and consult with editors before promising anonymity.

5. Student reporters will protect a source’s anonymity and will not reveal their identity to other students, faculty, administration or community members.

Naming Minors

The Pony Express will publish the names and photos in stories both in print and online. The Pony Express staff is not subject to FERPA laws that apply to the school district.

The Pony Express follows the Associated Press policy on naming minors accused of crimes

• Do not identify juveniles (under 18) who are accused of crimes, even if other news media do so or police release names.

• Also, do not transmit images that would reveal their identity.

• Do not identify, in text or through images, juveniles (under 18) who are witnesses to crimes.

• Exceptions may be made in extraordinary cases only with the approval of editors.

• Issues that may weigh in a decision include the severity of the alleged crime; whether police have formally released the juvenile’s name; and whether the juvenile has been formally charged as an adult.

• Other considerations might include public safety, such as when the youth is the subject of a manhunt; or widespread publication of the juvenile suspect’s name, making the identity de facto public knowledge.

• In some situations, state or national laws may determine whether the person can be named.

For guidance on naming minors, including legal and ethical considerations, view the following link:


1. Questions or complaints concerning material published in the media should be made in writing to the editor in chief(s) who will present the concern at the next scheduled editorial board meeting.

2. Complaints and suggestions may be emailed to [email protected]

3. Resolutions will be made within limits of deadlines.

Policy on Comments:

Online and social media editors and administrators have the power to remove any and all unsuitable comments. This does not include comments that simply disagree with a point made in an article, or an opinion given in an opinion piece.  When a comment is removed it is required that the comment be printed and maintained on file for reference.  This is especially important in the case of threats that may have been made.

Take Down Requests:

Model A: Leave everything as is, if:

The request is designed to retain image or avoid embarrassment

• No discernible evidence of factual or legal issue

• Value of not changing information for historical, reality reasons

• Publishing the truth, as best we can determine it

• Credibility of the student media is paramount

• Your mission is to be an accurate record of events and issues

Model B: Publish corrections, retractions or updates, if:

• The information is proven factually false or otherwise legally deficient as of the time it was published

• There is a need for transparency concerning source inaccuracy

• There is a need to provide context and perspective of published information

• The staff needs to clarify or update information

• The staff feels the situation is considered a gray area best solved by compromise

• The staff can write a follow-up story

Model C: Take down information, if:

• One-time reasons, like fabrications, protection of sources exist

• Staffs need to correct something they determine, as best they can, harm to the persons identified outweighs all other factors

Professional Memberships and Organizations:

    • Journalism Education Association
    • National Scholastic Press Association
    • Columbia Scholastic Press Association
    • Quill and Scroll
    • Minnesota High School Press Association



The student news site of Stillwater Area High School
Full Policies