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The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

Editorial Policy


“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….”

-The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

“The vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools.”

-Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District


Common Sense been established as a designated public forum for student editors to inform and educate their readers as well as for the discussion of  issues of  concern to their audience. It will not be reviewed or restrained by school officials prior to publication or distribution.  Advisers may – and should coach and discuss content – during the writing process.

Because school officials do not engage in prior review, and the content of Common Sense is determined by and reflects only the  views of  the student staff  and not school officials or the school itself,  its student editorial board and responsible student staff  members assume complete legal  and financial liability for the content of  the publication.


As it is essential to preserve the freedom of the press in order to preserve a free society,

  1. The media will serve the best interest of the students and faculty of Wootton High School, keeping itself free from any commercial obligations distracting from this purpose; this is defined by the media itself;
  2. Any decisions affecting the publications on all levels will be made by the editorial board, the adviser is allowed to give legal advice and his/her opinion, but the final decision rests in the hands of the editorial board;
  3. Only the editorial board may prevent material it judges to be in violation of the media editorial policy, from being printed;
  4. All media will vigorously resist all attempts at censorship, particularly pre-publication censorship;
  5. All media retain the right to publish any and all material attained through an interview by a staff member of the publications staff, holding that the interviewee was made aware that the information could be published in any form at any time;
  6. All student media referenced in this editorial policy are designated public forums;
  7. Student journalists may use print and electronic media to report news and information, to communicate with other students and individuals, to ask questions of  and consult with experts and to gather material to meet their newsgathering and research needs;
  8. Common Sense and its staff  are protected by and bound to the principles of  the First Amendment and the Maryland New Voices Act (October 2016) and other protections and limitations afforded by the Constitution and the various laws and  court decisions  implementing those principles;
  9. Common Sense will not publish any material determined by student editors or the student editorial board to be unprotected, that is, material that is libelous, obscene, materially disruptive of  the school  process, an unwarranted invasion of  privacy, a violation of  copyright  or a  promotion of  products or services unlawful (illegal) as to minors  as defined  by state or  federal law;
  10. Definitions and examples for the above instances of  unprotected speech can be found in Law of  the Student Press published by the Student Press Law Center.
  12. The editorial board will consist of all student staff editors.
  13. The editorial board decides on all decisions that pertain directly to Common Sense and their interests.
  14. No member of the editorial board shall have more than one vote on the board.
  15. All members of the editorial board and the adviser will elect a replacement for board members who have been dismissed.
  16. All members of the editorial board are expected to know their duties and jobs in the room and must understand the consequences of not fulfilling said jobs.
  17. The student editor and staff  who want appropriate outside legal advice regarding proposed content – should seek attorneys knowledgeable in media law such as those of  the Student Press  Law Center. Final content decisions and responsibility shall remain with the student editorial board.
  18. The duly appointed editor or co-editors shall interpret and enforce this editorial policy.


  1. The adviser is a professional teaching staff member and is in charge of the class just as in a conventional classroom situation.
  2. Is a certified journalism teacher who serves as a professional role model, motivator, catalyst for ideas and professionalism, and an educational resource.
  3. Provides a journalistic, professional learning atmosphere for students by allowing them to make the decision of content for the media and ensuring the media will remain an open forum.
  4. Guides the newspaper staff in accordance with approved editorial policy and aids the educational process related to producing the newspaper.
  5. May caution, act as legal consultant and educator terms of unprotected speech, but has no power over censorship or veto except for constitutionally valid reasons.
  6. Will keep abreast of the latest trends on journalism and share these with students.
  7. Will submit the school newspaper and online content produced by the students to rating services and contests in order for the school publications staff to receive feedback.
  8. Will forward any received correspondence and/or information to the appropriate editors.
  9. Will provide information to the staff about journalism scholarships and other financial aid, and make available information and contacts concerning journalism as a career.
  10. Will work with the faculty and administration to help them understand the freedoms accorded to the students and the professional goals of the school publications.
  11. The adviser will not act as a censor or determine the content of  the paper. The adviser will offer  advice  and instruction,  following  the  Code of  Ethics for Advisers established by the Journalism Education  Association as well as the Canons of  Professional  Journalism. School officials shall  not  fire or otherwise  discipline advisers for content in student media  that is determined and published by the student  staff



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 Common Sense 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. Common Sense 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  Common Sense 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.
  8. The media will not print unnecessary profanity.
  9. The editorial board will make the decision on whether content is considered profane or whether it is a cultural or non-vulgar slang term.
  10. 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.
  11. Any edited quote will be read back to the source prior to publishing and sources will have a chance to make changes.
  12. Staff interviewers have the right to ask a source when necessary to repeat a quote without the use of profane language.
  14. All writing in the media, other than letters to the editor in the newsmagazine, will be written by students of the journalism program and will not be accepted otherwise.
  15. Common Sense students outside of the media staffs will have the opportunity to submit writing to the media.
  16. 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.
  17. Any material submitted from an outside source can be edited by the editorial board and must comply to this policy.
  18. Writing must be the original work of the writer and not previously published an any publication, unless otherwise specified by the adviser and EICs.
  20. Editorial ideas may be submitted to the editorial board by all members of the appropriate staff.
  21. All printed editorial subject matter will be determined by the editorial board.
  22. The media will not publish any material for which there is evidence that the author is using the paper for inappropriate personal gain.
  23. The media will endeavor to provide a chance for comment on all sides of a critical issue in the same edition.
  24. 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.
  26. All coverage of controversial issues will occur upon a timely subject.
  27. All sides of the issue will be presented and reviewed so as to refrain from any bias, with exception of opinions.
  28. 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.
  29. The media will not publish material that is unnecessarily obscene, libelous, unwarranted invasive of privacy.
  30. The media will not attack
  31. 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:
  32. Why is it a concern?
  33. What is its journalistic purpose?
  34. Is the information accurate and complete?
  35. Are any important POV omitted?
  36. How would we feel if the story was about ourselves or someone we know?
  37. What are the consequences’ of the publication?
  38. Is there a logical explanation to anyone who challenges issue?
  39. Is it worth risking our credibility?
  40. What are the alternatives?
  42. All articles, graphics, photos, art, columns, pages, reviews, and other material creatively conceived, with exception to staff editorials, mug shots and cut-outs will be bylined with the producer’s name.
  43. All bylined writers will be held accountable for their work.
  44. 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.
  46. The media will specialize in and emphasize on informing their readers of school news and unique students of the Washington High School community.
  47. The media will cover community, state, national, and international news if it is directly relevant to the school community, and includes local angle.
  48. The media will strive to provide coverage to all school organizations and functions.
  49. 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.
  50. Major district issues and news will be priority over school news (these major issues will be decided by the editorial board).
  52. Any current student, staff member, faculty member or building administrator that dies during the year will be recognized in the school media.
  53. The school media will work to obtain permission from the deceased’s family before publishing any information 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.
  54. The school media will treat all deaths in a tasteful, respectful way.
  55. An issue, or portion of an issue, should not be dedicated to or in memory of the deceased.
  56. Any current student, staff member, faculty member, or building administrator that dies during the year will be recognized in the school yearbook.
  58. All cutlines will record the who and other necessary information in the photo.
  59. All photographs must be captioned and bylined, with the exception of mugs and cutouts.
  60. Bylines are required on all online photos and galleries.
  61. Any photographs that contain any inappropriate attire or actions must be reshot.
  62. Artwork represents the interpretations of the artist, not necessarily of the staff.
  63. The publications will not publish any photos, illustrations etc. that ridicule, demean, or misleadingly represent any individual or group.
  64. Electronic manipulations changing the essential truth of  the photo or illustration will be clearly labeled if  used.
  66. Concerns about errors in the school media may be submitted though the adviser, in room 242.
  67. The editorial board retains the right to determine whether, in fact, an error has been made.
  68. 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.
  69. 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.
  70. Major corrections are determined by the editors and adviser.
  71. 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.


  1. The publications will not accept advertising for products that are illegal for minors to purchase and/or use.
  2. 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.
  3. All ads need to be approved by editorial board, any ad not deemed appropriate by board will not run.
  4. The publications will cease to publish advertising of any advertiser that does not meet payment obligations specified in school contact.
  5. All advertisers will receive a complementary subscription of Common Sense in which their ad has run.
  6. If a published advertisement is incorrect in substantive content, a reduced price or  corrected run will be negotiated.
  7. If $200 is spent on print advertising, a complimentary online ad is given to the advertiser.
  8. Web ads appear in a specified section of the website and randomly rotate through the area each time the page is refreshed.
  9. Advertisers who specifically purchase web ads, as opposed to being given the complimentary one, will have their ad appear more frequently in the designated area.
  10. Advertising that appears in the media is not necessarily endorsed by the media or its staff members, editorial board or adviser.


  1. The paper will begin at no less than 20 pages in tabloid format unless it is a special edition. The number of pages can however be altered if need be under the decision of the adviser and/or editorial board.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 two weeks, unless specified otherwise by the adviser and editorial board.
  4. Current copies of the school newspaper will also be displayed in the library, main office, guidance office and in room 242.
  5. Advertising revenues and fundraising are to be used to pay for the school media printing costs, supplies and other media expenses.
  6. All budget surpluses are to be used for future production of the school media.
  7. The school newspaper will accept subscriptions for the price of  $30 for the entire year.
  8. Total press run each issue is approximately 1,700 unless specified otherwise by adviser or editorial board.
  9. Exchange publications are received and displayed in journalism laboratory.
  10. Exchange publications are mailed to other media rooms across the US.



  1. Letters to editor will be printed in the opinion section of the newspaper or on the website.
  2. Guidelines to write letters to the editor will be printed every issue in the opinion section of the paper and available online.
  3. Letters to the editor may be submitted to Mrs. Starr’s mailbox, room 242 or emailed at this address: [email protected].
  4. Letters to editor should not exceed 400 words, must be signed and must include writers address and phone number for verification.
  5. Letters to the editor will be verified by a member of the editorial board to determine the authenticity of the writer.
  6. No material will be printed where content is obscene, invasive of others’ privacy, encouraging physical disruption of school activities, and/or implies libel.
  7. The Common Sense editorial board reserves the right to withhold a letter or column or other submission  and/OR  return  it for revision  if  it  contains unprotected speech or grammatical errors that  could hamper its meaning. Deadlines for letters and columns will  be determined by each  year’s student  staff, allowing sufficient time for verification of  authorship  prior to publication.
  8. All letters to the editor become the property of the school newspaper upon receipt and will not be returned to the author.
  9. Online comments that are found in violation of the editorial policy will be removed as quickly as possible.
  10. Personal attacks are not allowed.


  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 Common Sense.
  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.


  1. Social media will be used to promote Common Sense media, to promote published content and to engage the Wootton HS community.
  2. The editorial board reserves the right to remove comments that violate any provisions hitherto outlined by this policy.
  3. Information posted on social media platforms should be held to the same standard as all other reporting in terms of information gathering and fact checking.
  4. The official social media accounts should avoid promotion of events and remain objective, reporting what is fact. Reporters using personal social media to cover events should do the same.
  5. Information gained through social media channels should be verified through multiple channels before passing it along to others.
  6. Audience engagement through social media should be done in a professional manner.
  7. Staff members using applications to post updates to social media accounts should have separate applications for their personal account and for the school media accounts. This will limit the chance of a post being sent from the wrong account.
  8. Transparency is important. Mistakes made on social media posts should be corrected as soon as possible and any deleted posts should be acknowledged in subsequent postings.


  1. The goal of the media marketing is to promote and expand the media viewing audience.
  2. The publicity team will work with all aspects of the media.
  3. The publicity team will work to attend all major events held by the district or school with the intent of promotion.


  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 reporters completed story and then perform editing tasks on that story.
  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.


  1. All students and staff of Wootton High School are eligible for publication in Common Sense.


  2. Editor in chief(s) and other editor level positions are chosen by faculty adviser, with input previous year’s editorial board.
  3. New and returning staff are judged by application, previous work, potential and perquisite class work.
  4. Applicants are not turned down because of age, race, sex, religion, mental or physical handicap that do not impair editorial responsibilities.
  5. Staff applications are due in February of each year prior to registration.
  6. The staff and editors are selected prior to registration each February. The adviser reserves the right to make changes to the list as he/she deems necessary after the registration deadline.
  7. Editor titles and positions are not named until after all media have finalized publication for the previous year.
  9. All individuals involved with Common Sense are considered a team, each member is expected to complete all assigned stories, pages, photos, etc. on or before the assigned deadline. Staff members, including editors, may be dismissed from their positions and/or the publications staff itself if any of following violations occur:
  10. continuously missed deadlines (dismissal procedures will take place by choice of adviser and EICs)
  11. Plagiarism
  12. Quote falsification
  13. Vandalism or theft of publication equipment
  14. Continuous negative or pessimistic attitude toward staff member or adviser
  15. Submitting an advanced page design, story, photo or other publishable item to anyone outside the media staff without approval by the editorial board
  16. Two suspensions in one academic year
  17. Failing to fulfill job as outlined in job description
  18. Major infractions will result in immediate dismissal from staff duties and dismissal from class and staff at the end of semester (major infractions include but are not limited to following: plagiarism, vandalism, theft).
  19. Minor infractions will be given a written warning for the first one. The second one is immediate dismissal from staff duties and dismissal from class and staff at end of semester.
  20. Warnings will be written and signed by the adviser and editor-in-chiefs, as well as staff member in question.
  21. An editor will be stripped of his her title if suspended.
  22. First misdemeanor or arrest will result in the loss of editor’s title, and second will result in dismissal from staff.
  23. Each member of the editorial board and adviser will attend a meeting with potentially dismissed student to discuss the issue, adviser will make final decision.
  24. The academic nature of the school newspaper class allows removal of editors or staff members when school and or established media policy is violated.
  25. The above list infractions could all result in dismissal however, staff dismissals are not limited to the listed infractions.
  26. A dismissed staff member receiving academic credit may be given a grade of E and will not be allowed to register for any other journalism courses (will not preempt school policy).
  27. Dismissal procedures are reviewed and approved by the editorial board
  28. The dismissed staff member may appeal their dismissal in writing to the editorial board within three school days following dismissal
  29. All dismissal appeals will be directed to the building principal and the editorial board


  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]or dropped off in room 242.
  3. Resolutions will be made within limits of deadlines.


  1. Common Sense is a member of state, national, and/or international organizations.
  2. Common Sense will work to be in contact with professional media such as the Washington Post as well as other individuals and companies in the communications field ranging from public relations and advertising to promotions and copy writing.
  • Many thanks for JEADigitalMedia.org (Journalism Education Association) for the language used in this Editorial Policy
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