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Encouraging Citizen Journalism

Citizen journalism can be traced back to colonial Massachusetts, where, in 1690, America’s first newspaper, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, made a short-lived appearance. A four-page denunciation of British and French misdeeds, it was published by a Boston bookseller, printer and proprietor of a popular coffeehouse named Benjamin Harris. The British governor prohibited Harris from publishing a second edition. From gazetteer Benjamin Franklin to Holy Land travel chronicler Mark Twain to “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, nonprofessional journalists have continued to make estimable contributions to the writing of the “first draft” of American history.

With the rise of the internet and the universal availability of such tools as desktop publishing software, digital cameras and camcorders, many Americans quickly made the transition from being media consumers to becoming providers of news, information and commentary. Mainstream journalism now routinely makes use of photographs and videos submitted by members of the public, and the re-publication of average citizens’ responses first aired on Twitter to breaking news has become a journalistic staple.

The Sierra County Sun will also look to citizen journalism as a means of expanding our coverage. We invite Sierra Countians to help us report by submitting news tips, story ideas, guest columns and entries to our “Photograph of the Week” feature. 

We are also committed to training committed volunteers with the requisite research and writing skills to be beat reporters. Social media impose few restraints on what is published on their platforms. The Sun’s citizen journalists will be trained to adhere the highest professional standards, which requires reporting to be fact-based, credibly sourced, balanced and fair.

Editorial Standards

If ever the Sierra County Sun’s coverage falls short of the highest journalistic standards, we will issue a correction or apology. We have made it easy for our readers to point out departures from our guiding principles of accuracy, credibility, balance and fairness by providing a comment form at the bottom of news articles and features.

Comments that provide greater context or relevant additional facts to supplement our reporting are also especially welcome. 

We place no restrictions on subject matter except that comments must have local significance, not contain misinformation or be judged inappropriate. The Sun subscribes to the definition of inappropriateness set forth by the Washington Post to regulate comment, as follows:

Inappropriate content includes any content that:

  • is predatory, hateful, or intended to intimidate or harass, or contains derogatory name-calling
  • is a duplicate or repost of something [the author] has already posted on the site
  • contains advertising
  • contains a solicitation of any kind
  • misrepresents [the author’s] identity or affiliation
  • impersonates others
  • is in poor taste or is otherwise objectionable.”

The Sun will remove comments or portions of comments that we deem inappropriate for any reason without consent and notice. We also reserve the right to edit comments for brevity, clarity, spelling, punctuation, etc.

We further reserve the right to remove a reader’s privilege to post comments on our website. Readers are requested not to submit more than one comment per week. The Sun will not allow itself to become a personal soapbox, and readers who abuse their privileges by posting more frequently may also find themselves blocked from further comment.

Editorial Independence and Financial Transparency

The Sierra County Sun subscribes to standards of editorial independence and financial transparency adopted by the Institute for Nonprofit News, an association of not-for-profit civic news organizations, as follows:

The Sun retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue. Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their products, services or opinions.

“We accept gifts, grants and sponsorships from individuals and organizations for the general support of our activities, but our news judgments are made independently and not on the basis of donor support.

“The Sun may consider donations to support the coverage of particular topics, but our organization maintains editorial control of the coverage. We will cede no right of review or influence of editorial content, nor of unauthorized distribution of editorial content.

“The Sun will make public the names of all our donors. We will accept anonymous donations for general support only if it is clear that sufficient safeguards have been put into place to assure that the expenditure of that donation is made independently by our organization.”

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