Small Town Papers News Service - Criteria
Small Town Papers News Service

Criteria For SmallTownPapers News Service (STPNS)
January 3, 2006


  1. Criteria for Contributed Articles
    Standards used by Contributor to publish Article

  2. Criteria for Selecting Peer Reviewers
    Standards used by Publisher to appoint staff member to Peer Reviewer

  3. Criteria for Article Peer Review
    Standards used by Peer Reviewer to accept or reject articles

  4. Adoption of Criteria by STPNS Editorial Board
    Meet the Editorial Board

1. Criteria for Contributed Articles

1.1 Published Work
Articles contributed to the News Service must have been published or are about to be published in their respective newspapers. The News Service will accept articles which have been expanded from their previously published versions.

1.2 Author Byline
For “Review Class Articles” the author of news, editorials and feature articles should be identified. For articles that do not contain news, editorial, or feature content (“Open Class Articles”), identification is not necessary. Photographers of submitted photographs must also be identified - they may be referred to as “staff photos.”

1.3 Category Fit
Articles and photographs contributed must fit into the established categories.

1.4 Journalistic Criteria
Articles contributed must meet established journalistic criteria as set forth in section 3.

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2. Criteria for Selecting Peer Reviewers

2.1 Employment

    2.1.1 A peer reviewer should ideally be a full-time employee of the publication though part-time, qualified employees are acceptable.

2.2 Experience

    2.2.1 A peer reviewer should have 3+ years of journalism or editorial experience.

    2.2.2 A peer reviewer should be able to apply criteria thoughtfully and consistently.

2.3 Editorial Knowledge

    2.3.1 A peer reviewer should have experience with the newsroom editorial process.

2.4 Time Commitment

    2.4.1 A peer reviewer should commit a designated amount of time each month to the peer review process. This time designation will be established once the news service begins operating - Editorial Board recommends 4-5 hours/month per publication.

    2.4.2 A peer reviewer should be comfortable adhering to review schedules.

2.5 Peer Review Training

    2.5.1 A peer reviewer should receive training from STPNS or from a trained representative from their publication.

    2.5.2 A peer reviewer should have knowledge of SmallTownPapers’ programs.

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3. Criteria for Article Peer Review

3.1 Accuracy
Every effort must be made to assure that the news content is accurate, free from bias and in context, and that all sides are presented fairly.

    3.1.1 Significant errors of fact or errors of omission discovered in the peer review process should be corrected promptly.

    3.1.2 Technical information should be attributed to sources.

    3.1.3 Articles should not include inconsistencies.

    3.1.4 Check calculations for accuracy.

    3.1.5 Editorials, analytical articles and commentary should be held to the same standards of accuracy with respect to facts as news reports.

3.2 Fairness/Balance
Journalists should respect the rights of people involved in the news, observe the common standards of decency and stand accountable to the public for the fairness and accuracy of their news reports

    3.2.1 Competing points of view should be balanced and fairly characterized unless parties refuse to comment. Acknowledging opportunity given and a subsequent refusal to comment can protect a reporter from various accusations and enhances credibility of story.

    3.2.2 Attempts to contact and seek comment from opposing interests should be noted in the article.

    3.2.3 Articles should be free of any obvious bias.

    3.2.4 “Alleged” must be used for defendants who have not yet been convicted of a crime but ensure it is not overused in an article.

    3.2.5 Juvenile suspects should not be named until they become part of the public record as when tried as an adult.

    3.2.6 Victims of sex crimes should not be named.

    3.2.7 Pledges of confidentiality to news sources must be honored at all costs, and therefore should not be given lightly.

    3.2.8 Unless there is clear and pressing need to maintain confidences, sources of information should be identified.*

3.3 Objectivity
To be impartial does not require the press to be unquestioning or to refrain from editorial expression. Sound practice, however, demands a clear distinction for the reader between news reports and opinion. Articles that contain opinion or personal interpretation should be clearly identified.* These articles will be categorized as editorials.

    3.3.1 There should be unequivocal separation between news and opinion.

    3.3.2 There should be unequivocal separation between news and advertising.

    3.3.3 There should be no active promotion of a company, service or product.

    3.3.4 There should be no evidence the writer was manipulated by advocates.

3.4 Relevance
Journalism is storytelling with a purpose. It should do more than gather an audience or catalog the important. For its own survival, it must balance what readers know they want with what they cannot anticipate but need. In short, it must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant. **

    3.4.1 The article should be relevant and timely.

    3.4.2 The article will not be immediately outdated - look for words like “next week, next month, last week.” Day/date should be used instead to avoid confusion. If an opportunity exists to rewrite an article to make it more timely, the Peer Reviewer may contact the journalist/newspaper to suggest a change.

3.5 News Writing Style
News writing style encompasses not only vocabulary and sentence structure, but the order in which stories present information, their tone and the readers or interests to which they cater. This structure is called the inverted pyramid. News writing strives to be intelligible to the vast majority of potential readers, as well as to be engaging and succinct. Within the limits created by these goals, news stories also aim for a kind of comprehensiveness. They attempt to answer all the 5 Ws: Who? What? When? Where? and Why?***

    3.5.1 The article should be easy to read.

    3.5.2 The article should be free of spelling and grammatical errors.

    3.5.3 Punctuation should be used correctly.

    3.5.4 Sources should be properly referenced.

    3.5.5 The headline should be appropriate for the article.

    3.5.6 Proper crediting of writers should be included when appropriate (i.e. contributors or freelance writers)

    3.5.7 Bid and other notices where the newspaper is the paper of record for a public agency must include the publication date.

* American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) Statement of Principles
** The Project for Excellence in Journalism
** *Wikipedia - News Style

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Kim Harrison
Southeast Alaska’s Island News
Thorne Bay, Alaska

Jim Hensley
New Century Press
Rock Rapids, Iowa

LuJane Nisse
Latah Eagle
Moscow, Idaho

Dave Phillips
The Chatfield News
Chatfield, Minnesota
George Robertson
The Sun
Sheridan, Oregon

Cyndy Slovak-Barton
The Free Press
Buda, Texas

George Wallace
The Brooke County Review
Wellsburg, West Virginia
Editorial Board Liaison
Karen Tarica
Director of Corporate Communications
SmallTownPapers, Inc.

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