Mountain View High School Oracle Editorial Policy
The Mountain View High School Oracle newspaper and Oracle Online are student publications whose content is chosen and whose production is facilitated by students. The student editors-in-chief, section editors, photo editors and web editors oversee the work of their peers in these publications. The student editorial board makes final decisions on all content of the newspaper and website. The student business team is responsible for accounts payable and receivable, subscriptions, fundraising, and all other matters related to the finances of Oracle publications.
The following editorial policy is adapted for the Mountain View High School Oracle from a template provided by the Journalism Education Association, an independent national scholastic journalism organization that promotes and supports student press. This is a public document intended to inform our community about the purpose and policies that guide our publications. An abridged version of our editorial policy appears on the staff page of the Oracle newspaper.
Mission, Law and Journalistic Principles
Mountain View High School Oracle publications are forums for student journalists to inform and educate their readers as well as for the discussion of issues of concern to their primary audience—other students. These publications are not reviewed or restrained by school officials prior to publication or distribution. Students assume full responsibility for the content of Oracle publications and are aware of their legal obligation to avoid obscenity, libel, slander or content that “so incites pupils as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of unlawful acts on school premises or the violation of lawful school regulations, or the substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school.” (Cal. Educ. Code Sec. 48907)
The overall purpose, role and goal of Oracle publications is to:
- Inform, challenge and entertain readers and viewers with accurate reports and thoughtful perspectives, where information has been impartially gathered and thoroughly verified;
- Serve as an educational laboratory experience for those on staff;
- Be accurate, fair, and impartial in its coverage of issues that affect the school community;
- Cover relevant topics, even in cases of possible controversy;
- Cover the total school population as effectively and accurately as possible;
- Report all issues in a legal, objective, accurate and ethical manner, in accordance with the code of ethics developed by the Society for Professional Journalists which includes guidelines for accuracy, responsibility, integrity, conflict of interest, impartiality, fair play, freedom of the press, independence, sensationalism, personal privacy, obstruction of justice, credibility and advertising.
Role of the District
The Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District provides its comprehensive high schools with resources for journalism programs that includes: a credentialed adviser, elective credit to all students enrolled in the journalism class, use of technology for the design of the paper and website, and classroom supplies.
Role of the Adviser
The Oracle adviser instructs students in journalism skills including but not limited to: developing story ideas, interviewing sources, drafting and editing news, features and opinion articles, page design and photojournalism. The adviser provides a sounding board as students develop stories, engaging in discussion with students to help them develop a range of skills and to consider the effectiveness of their expression. The adviser shares his/her opinion with students about content and writing style and graphics and layout of the publications, but does not censor. The adviser promotes a professional learning atmosphere in the journalism program by supporting a student leadership structure where student leaders are responsible for all decision-making.
Rights and Responsibilities of Oracle Staff
The students who produce the Oracle have the right to choose topics for publication of interest to their readership, to express their views on any topic, including those that might criticize school policy, and to use their authentic writing voices to express information, ideas and viewpoints.
The Oracle staff has a responsibility to produce the best possible publications, to gather information for stories from credible sources, to engage in thorough self review of all content in order to become better journalists and to express their ideas within the legal framework of student press law.
Policy for letters to the editor
Letters to editor will be printed in the opinion section of the newspaper or on the website pending approval by the Oracle editorial board. Letters to the editor should not exceed 500 words, must be signed and must include the writer’s address and phone number (which will be verified by an Oracle staff member to determine the authenticity of the writer). No material will be printed where content is obscene, invasive of others’ privacy, encouraging physical disruption of school activities, and/or implies libel. The Oracle editorial board reserves the right to withhold a letter or column or other submission and/OR return it for revision if it contains constitutionally unprotected speech or grammatical errors that could hamper its meaning.
The Oracle web team hopes to launch meaningful online discussions about topics of interest and importance and therefore encourages reader comments, however web editors will review all reader comments prior to publication. Abusive comments, comments containing obscene language or comments promoting a business or product will not be published. Comments criticizing or complimenting the Oracle will be published if they do not violate restrictions mentioned above. Oracle requests that readers register with their real name when leaving a comment. Editors will not edit comments.
Should a student or faculty member die during the current coverage period, the staff will report the death in a professional and sensitive manner. A short obituary with the individual’s name, school activities, date of birth, date and manner of death (with permission from the family) and any other information shall appear in the news section. Topics related to the cause of death or community response may be covered as deemed relevant to the Oracle audience. As with all content in the Oracle, the editors-in-chief will make the final decision as to the extent and nature of the coverage of a death.
Oracle publications offer advertising space to local businesses, parent groups or public services in order to raise funds for the production of publications and to provide financial assistance for opportunities to participate in journalism workshops and seminars. The publications will not accept advertising for products that are illegal for minors to purchase and/or use. 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. All ads are reviewed by the editorial board; any ad deemed inappropriate will not run. All advertisers will receive a complimentary subscription of the Oracle in which their ad has run. If a published advertisement is incorrect in substantive content, a reduced price or corrected run will be negotiated. Web ads appear in a specified section of the website and randomly rotate through the area each time the page is refreshed. Advertising that appears in Oracle publications is not necessarily endorsed by the media or its staff members, editorial board or adviser.