Watchdog Staff Manual


(revised May 30, 2018)


0.0      Statement of Intent

1.0      Relationship of The Watchdog to Bellevue College

2.0      Student Staff Roles and Hiring/Management Procedures

3.0      News Reporting

4.0      Reporting Procedures

5.0      Copy Editing Procedures

6.0      Production Procedures

7.0      Editorials, Opinions, Letters to the Editor Procedures

8.0      Advertising Procedures

APPENDIX A          Criteria for a Quality Newspaper

APPENDIX B          Washington Laws applicable to publications



0.1       This manual is a living document which should be updated by the student staff, program manager, and faculty  advisor of The Watchdog

0.1.1    All changes must be ratified by the faculty advisor and program manager.

0.1.2    All Watchdog staff must be made aware of this manual and any revisions.


0.2       The purpose of this manual is:

0.2.1    To provide institutional memory for The Watchdog.

0.2.2    To assist in the training and orientation of newly recruited staff.

0.2.3    To focus the efforts of editors and staff.

0.2.4    To improve student media public relations.

0.2.5    To increase the credibility and profitability of the student newspaper.

0.2.6    To encourage student awareness of journalism issues and standards.



1.1       Relationship to Bellevue College

The Watchdog is the official student publication of Bellevue College, and as such, it exists for the purpose of providing the students, faculty, staff, and administration with unbiased coverage of news with high relevance to the college. The staff reserves the right to make decisions without seeking the approval of the administration in order to ensure that The Watchdog is preserved as an independent voice on campus and in the community. It offers an educational resource to students interested in working in journalism and the staff strives to create diverse, unique content that will not only inform the community, but also promote learning and understanding.

1.1.1    College policy assures that the newspaper will not be manipulated as a public relations organ of the College.

1.1.2    College policy recognizes the responsibility of the newspaper to publish fair and responsible news and editorial coverage.

1.1.3    The Watchdog does not interest itself in the off-campus occurrences of students, faculty, or administrators unless such occurrences have immediate interest and/or relevance to on-campus function.

1.1.4    The Watchdog may, however, include off-campus news copy and press release material consistent with the interests of its on-campus readership.

1.2       Financial Structure

1.2.1    The Watchdog operates on a business model.

1.2.2    The budget is funded through a combination of Bellevue College S&A funds and advertising revenue.

1.3  Roles of Faculty Advisor and Program Manager

13.1.    The Watchdog faculty advisor serves The Watchdog by performing the following functions:  Encouraging professional journalistic standards.  Providing the staff with legal/ethical advice and/or resources.  Hiring the editor-in-chief.  Assisting the editor-in-chief in hiring other staff.  Facilitating training of all newspaper staff–whether enrolled in journalism courses or not.  Liasing between the student editors and other on- and off-campus entities.  Maintaining quality of the staff members’ efforts.  Assuring freedom of the press from the administration, the ASBC, and any other entity.  Presenting annual budget proposal to S&A committee with program manager and editor-in-chief

1.3.2    The advisor does NOT serve as censor of the contents of the newspaper, neither in the eye’s of the administration nor the students.

1.3.3    The Program Manager serves The Watchdog by performing the following functions:  Manage program budget.  Manage student payroll.  Provide revenue through advertising sales and event sponsorships.  Draft annual budget proposal, and present to the annual S&A committee with Faculty Advisor and Editor-in-Chief.



2.1       The Editorial Staff of The Watchdog may consist of as many of the following posts as publishing needs and personnel availability dictate. The editor-in-chief may add or redefine staff positions, with the consent of the faculty advisor.

2.2       Job Descriptions

Title                        Defers to

Editor-in-Chief       Faculty Advisor

The editor-in-chief shapes the objectives of the news coverage, editorial coverage, style and format of the newspaper.The editor-in-chief conducts weekly staff meetings, hiring interviews, and training workshops with the assistance of the faculty advisor as requested. (S)he has final authority over all publication and is responsible for supervising assembly of the final copy and delivering it along with any inserts to the printer. The editor-in-chief may be required to keep regular office hours.

Title                        Defers to

Section Editor        Editor-in-Chief

Section editors include news editor, arts & features editor, and sports/Edge Editor. Each section editor plans the issue-to-issue campus news coverage and chooses the stories, news releases, and letters for publication.  Section editors will assist and direct individual reporters/photographers. The section editors are required to attend weekly staff meetings and meet deadlines as set by the editor-in-chief. Section editors are be required to attend editorial meetings in addition to staff meetings. During weekly production, Section editors design pages using Adobe InDesign and Adobe Photoshop.

Title                        Defers to

Staff Reporter        Section Editor

Reporters are responsible to the Section Editors for covering and writing assigned news from beats and from special assignments. On a weekly basis, reporters submit their complete, current stories to the editorial staff via email. Staff reporters are required to attend weekly staff meetings.

Title                        Defers to

Copy Editor            Editor-in-Chief

Copy editors read all copy input by staff writers for errors in fact, usage, or style; monitor copy for libelous content; rewrite paragraphs or entire stories as editorial judgment dictates; and return copyedited files to the appropriate section editor. Copyeditors must be familiar with The AP Stylebook and MS Word. Copyeditors are required to attend all staff meetings and meet deadlines as set by the editor-in-chief.

Title                        Defers to

Graphic Designer   Section Editor

The graphic designer collaborates with the editor and section editors to identify significant questions and topics that deserve in-depth investigation through infographics, works with reporters to provide multi-dimensional coverage, and works with the section editors to develop supporting graphics. When needed, the graphic designer plans and supervises a center spread and/or half-page or full-page presentation of investigative and graphic results and may also produce side-bars or supplementary materials. Graphic designers are required to attend all staff meetings and meet deadlines as set by the section editors.

Title                        Defers to

Photographer        Section Editor

Photographers carry out assignments in photography for news, arts & features, Edge, sports, op/ed, and mugshots. (S)he is responsible for the photography equipment lent to him/ her during the course of the job. Photographers are required to attend all staff meetings and meet deadlines as set by the section editors.

Title                        Defers to

Distribution Mgr.   Program Mgr.   

On a twice-weekly basis, the Distribution Manager picks up the final printed edition from the office and distributes it to all on- and off-campus newsstands and specified offices.

Title                        Defers to

Web Manager        Program Mgr.

The web manager will maintain the newspaper’s website in Editor-in-Chief collaboration with the editor-in-chief and advertising manager, who will provide general instructions in style and design. The newspaper’s website is to be updated weekly in conjunction with publications of the newspaper, though breaking news or significant items may be posted immediately at the request of the editor-in-chief. The editor-in-chief, with the assistance of the advertising manager, determines the content, style, and purpose of the website. The web manager may be required to keep regular office hours as determined by the advertising manager and editor-in-chief.

2.3       Hiring Procedures

The following guidelines are intended to ensure that hiring of new staff is conducted fairly and democratically.

2.3.1    All available positions must be clearly and publicly posted.

2.3.2    All applicants must fill out an application form and submit a trial/ audition article or photo or take a copyediting test, depending on the position.

2.3.3    All applicants must receive equal consideration from the hiring committee.

2.3.4    Hiring decisions must be made by the editor-in-chief and at least one section editor.

2.4       Onboarding Procedures

The following must be performed by new hires within one week of acceptance.

2.4.1    Forms I-9, W-4, and Employment Verification Form must be filled out and submitted to the Program manager.

2.4.2    A Key Code Request must be filled out and submitted to the program manager.  Key codes must not be shared under any circumstances.  Key codes must not be used to allow others into the building.  Key code use is tracked electronically.  Key codes will be deleted if misused or abused.

2.4.3    An e-mail address and phone number must be submitted to the program manager so he/she can add contact information to the staff roster.

2.5       Management Procedures

2.5.1    A mandatory weekly staff meeting shall bring together the entire staff to plan future issues.  Weekly meetings are also a venue for all staff to discuss and contribute to the goals of The Watchdog.   The precise agenda of each meeting is to be determined by the editor-in-chief, but all other staff are free to add relevant topics.     Staff who miss meetings will be subject to disciplinary action.     Arriving more than fifteen minutes after the meeting has been called to order will be counted as an absence.     If a staff member has a valid excuse for missing a meeting, he/she must discuss the matter with the faculty advisor and/or editor-in-chief prior to the meeting.

2.5.2    Removal of a staff member can occur as a result of failure to strive to meet the objectives set forth in this manual.  Grounds for removal include (but are not limited to) failure to fulfill the job descriptions above, violation of the policies set forth in Bellevue College’s Student Handbook, or a poor evaluation at the end of new hire probation.

2.5.3    In event of unavailability of a suitably qualified editor-in-chief, the faculty advisor may form section editors into an editorial board to conduct the editorial business of the publication.

2.6       Editor-in-Chief Responsibility to The Watchdog:

Editor-in-Chief of The Watchdog is appointed by the Faculty Advisor and has final authority and responsibility for the news and editorial content of The Watchdog under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and applicable Supreme Court decisions. The editor-in-chief appointed agrees, however, to the following responsibilities upon appointment:

2.6.1    To recognize and strive to fulfill the “Community Newspaper” concept of The Watchdog, including opening the news columns to information of campus activities and concerns.

2.6.2    To recognize and strive to fulfill the criteria for a quality newspaper as recognized by professional journalists

2.6.3    To attend to Washington law applicable to student publications, including:    To seek the advice of the faculty advisor on any material which might, if published,

constitute libel, obscenity, or anarchy.    To seek the advice of the assistant attorney general assigned to Bellevue College on any

material which might pose legal danger to the newspaper if published.

2.7       Absences.  In order to ensure smooth operation at The Watchdog, the faculty advisor and editor-in-chief expect staff to follow certain procedures as they would in any workplace.

2.7.1    Staff members unable to assist during a layout week, for whatever reason, need to inform the faculty advisor and editor-in-chief at least one week in advance.

2.7.2    Section editors unable to complete a layout will forfeit the pay earned for the hours worked on their section by another editor to that editor.

2.7.3   More than one absence during meetings and productions can result in disciplinary action.

2.8       Resignation Procedure. Courtesy and professionalism dictate that departing staff:

2.8.1    Give proper notice of intent to depart, at least two weeks before the last day of employment.

2.8.2    Return any press passes, supplies, hardware, or other property.

2.8.3    Supply editor-in-chief with all currently assigned articles, photos, and layouts

2.9       Disciplinary Procedure. All staff members are hired with the understanding that they will uphold the standards of The Watchdog Staff Manual and BC’s Student Handbook.  Staff members who neglect their responsibilities will be subject to disciplinary procedures up to and including termination.  A thorough record of all disciplinary actions must be kept by the editor-in-chief.

The general disciplinary procedure is as follows:

2.9.1    At his or her first offense, the employee receives a verbal warning.

2.9.2    At his or her second offense, the employee receives a written warning.

2.9.3    At his or her third offense, the employee the employee is terminated.

2.10     Termination

2.10.1    In order for termination to occur, the third occurrence (2.10.3) must have taken place within three months of the third occurrence (2.10.2), but not necessarily within the same quarter.

2.10.2    In cases of extreme misbehavior, the editor-in-chief and faculty advisor may agree to proceed directly to terminating a staff member, if said behavior clearly violates the Student Handbook or the Staff Manual.

2.10.3    In all cases, the faculty advisor must consent before termination can occur.

2.11     Probation

2.11.1  Staff placed on probation will undergo a performance review at the end of the next full quarter, or after a minimum of four weeks.

2.11.1  If an employee is already on probation, Section 2.11.1 may not apply. In such cases, the editor-in-chief decides whether or not to retain the employee at the end of that employee’s probationary period.



3.1       Breaking News Coverage. The editorial staff must maintain surveillance of the campus constituencies which The Watchdog serves and must strive to address their information needs.

3.2       Soft News Coverage.  The Section Editors must maintain a list of major beats in order to gather campus news.

3.3       Acceptable Repetition of Stories.  Because of the large turnover in students each year, much basic information about the campus and its traditions must be repeated each quarter, each year.

3.4       Questions and Issues raised in one edition of the paper should NOT be ignored in future editions.  Survey of archive will remind the section editors of unfinished business, unanswered questions.

3.5       Conceptual Stories. In addition to “hard news” about student and collegiate administration and activities, the College campus offers fertile opportunities for speculative and in-depth stories.

3.6       Quality Sources.  The section editors should encourage reporters to make contacts with news sources both by personal interviews and by telephone interviews.



4.1       The Job of reporter offers a license to talk to people one might not otherwise approach–strangers on campus, dignitaries, students, administrators, faculty.

4.2       As representatives of The Watchdog, all reporters have certain responsibilities. Among them:

4.2.1    Identify yourself to your sources before interviews, no matter how informal.

4.2.2    Be respectful to your sources and the people on your beat.

4.2.3    Be accurate and verify all information before submitting anything.

4.2.4    Get both sides of every story.

4.3       Reporters and staff should familiarize themselves with:

4.3.1    The Functions and Duties of Reporters

4.3.2    The Watchdog organization

4.3.3    The AP Stylebook

4.3.4    Campus organizations

4.3.5    College officials and officers

4.3.6    Prominent campus community members.

4.4       News sources–the people kind–are invaluable to the reporter, but the relationship between reporter and source is delicate:

4.4.1    The reporter has the right to ASK; the source has the right to refuse.

4.4.2    The reporter has NO right to threaten or abuse.

4.4.3    The source has the right to specify a piece of information “off the record.”

4.4.4    The reporter has the right to REFUSE to hear “off the record” information on the chance he/she can get it “on the record” elsewhere.  But once (s)he has agreed to hear information “off the record,” the reporter is ethically bound to honor that agreement.

4.5       Conflicts of Interest. Reporters should inform the editorial staff that a conflict of interest exists: whenever an assigned story involves close friends; whenever the reporter has prior involvement in the campus entity or agency to be covered.

4.6       Deadlines will vary from quarter to quarter depending on publication schedule and are to be determined by the editor-in-chief and section editors.  It is the reporter’s responsibility to be aware of deadlines and meet them.  Reporters should be aware that if their stories are late, they may face disciplinary procedures.

4.7       The News Room of The Watchdog is a place where staff members are free to come to work on writing articles, conduct interviews, and meet about the issues concerning the newspaper.

4.8       Record Keeping.  REPORTERS SHOULD KEEP THEIR NOTES AND FILES.  They serve as a legal record of the investigative process should legal action occur.



5.1       Copyeditors read all submissions to perform the following processes:

5.1.2    To correct spelling and punctuation (e.g. subject-verb agreement, pronoun agreement, sentence

fragments, incorrect modifiers, etc.).

5.1.3    To locate and correct errors in style (see The AP Styleook).

5.1.4    To make sure that straight news stories begin with effective LEADS. (Effective leads permit

effective headlines.)

5.1.5    To identify factual errors in copy. (In such an instance, copy may be returned to section editor or

reporter for correction.)

5.1.6    To identify potentially libelous material. (In such an instance, copy should be brought to the

attention of the editor-in-chief.)

5.1.7    Copyeditors should survey each piece of copy for readability by: shortening paragraphs where




6.1       The Section Editors are responsible for laying out their pages in Adobe InDesign.

6.2       Deadlines. Stories assigned the previous week meet a Wednesday deadline and should be copy-edited by Thursday.  Photos, letters to editor and ads also have a Thursday deadline.

6.3       Copy Flows in the following pattern at the The Watchdog, beginning at weekly deadline:

6.3.1    Section editors send all copy to copyeditors.

6.3.2    Copy Editors read stories for style, mechanics, and legal implications.

6.3.3    Copy Editors.then forward all copy to section editors

6.3.4    Section editors read all copy to assure appropriate information and angle, pick stories.

6.3.5    Stories are sent back to reporters for necessary changes

6.3.6.   Stories are now ready for layout

6.4       Page assignments, story assignments, and ad placement must be STRICTLY followed unless permission to vary is given by the editor-in-chief. Ads should not be placed until permission to place has been given by the advertising manager.

6.5       Finished Pages go to the copyeditors. Final editing and revision is completed, then the page is approved by the editor-in-chief.

6.6       If delivery deadline to the printer cannot be met, the editor-in-chief should communicate to the printer to arrange for an alternative press time.



7.1       Editorials and Opinions:  Staff members are free to publish their positions on national and local issues.

7.1.1    All editorials should appear on the editorial page, which should be clearly identified as the

editorials page.

7.1.2    Editorial positions should be couched in logical, concrete terms. (See “Fair Comment and

Criticism,” in The AP Stylebook).

7.1.3    Whenever editorial positions are presented, editors should seek alternative viewpoints to provide

informative, fair, and unbiased balance in viewpoints.

7.1.4    Editorials written by the editorial staff may be signed “Editorial Staff of The Watchdog.”

7.1.5    Any guest opinions must carry either signature of authorship or the initials of an individual whose name appears in the masthead.

7.1.6    Under no circumstances are anonymous editorials or opinions to be published.

7.1.7    Columns should carry a logo or some graphic to make them easily identifiable to readers.

7.2       Letters to the Editor:  Important to the newspaper is response by its readers in the form of letters.

7.2.1    Letter-writers must feel secure that their letters will be published carefully, without typographical errors, and without the risk of embarrassment and counter-attack.

7.2.2    Any letter that is fewer than 500 words and is written by a member of Bellevue College community should be printed in the next possible issue

7.2.3    Only signed letters will and should be printed



8.1       Advertising comes from the direct sales efforts of the advertising manager and staff.

8.1.1    During production weeks, the editorial department must receive the ad list for that week by the Thursday deadline, and the reproduction proof or digital file must posted on the server for the editor-in-chief to place by Friday at noon.

8.1.2    The editor-in-chief must ensure that, during layout, the advertisement will be printed in the exact form given to him/her by the advertising manager.

8.2       Production Costs must relate to advertising revenue, so weekly issues should not normally expand to more than 12 pages unless advertising lineage dictates:

8.3       Discounts.  

It is the policy of The Watchdog to be open and fair when accepting paid advertisements. Advertising rates are set at the beginning of each school year and are to be strictly adhered to.  The allowable discounts are:

8.3.1     Bona fide frequency discounts with a signed contract

8.3.2     Discounts for on-campus advertisers

8.3.3    Discounts for an incorrectly printed ad (a makegood)

8.3.4    The advertising manager may offer a discount at his or her discretion for special circumstances.

8.4       Advertising Policy. The Watchdog reserves the right to refuse to print any ad it deems inappropriate.The following is a list of inappropriate advertising that would not be acceptable for printing. This list is not all-inclusive and may be revised to reflect new issues that may arise:

8.4.1    Advertising of cigarettes, tobacco, or alcohol

8.4.2    Ad copy which contains lewd language or gestures, obscenities, or otherwise offensive speech

8.4.3    Advertising which promotes hate or uses hate speech, or otherwise attacks a class of people with,                         regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability.



College policy recognizes the “Canons of Journalism” (Sect. 10.1, by the American Society of Newspaper Editors) and “Criteria of a Good Newspaper” (Sect. 10.2, by the Associated Press Managing Editors Association) as the standard for the performance of The Watchdog staff.


The primary function of newspapers is to communicate to the human race what its members do, feel, and think. Journalism, therefore, demands of its practitioners the widest range of intelligence or knowledge and of experience, as well as natural and trained powers of observation and reasoning. To its opportunities as a chronicle are indissolubly linked its obligations as teacher and interpreter.

To the end of finding some means of codifying sound practice and just aspirations of American journalism, these canons are set forth:


Responsibility.  The right of a newspaper to attract and hold readers is restricted by nothing but considerations of public welfare.  The use a newspaper makes of the share of public attention it gains serves to determine its sense of responsibility, which it shares with every member of its staff.  A journalist who uses his power for any selfish or otherwise unworthy purpose is faithless to a high trust.


Freedom of the Press.  Freedom of the press is to be guarded as a vital right of

mankind.  It is the unquestionable right to discuss whatever is not explicitly forbidden by law, including the wisdom of any restrictive statute.


Independence.  Freedom from all obligations except that of fidelity to the public interest is vital.

  1. Promotion of any private interest contrary to the general welfare, for whatever reason, is not compatible with honest journalism. So-called news communications from private sources should not be published without public notice of their source or else substantiation of their claims to value as news, both in form and substance.
  2. Partisanship, in editorial comment which knowingly departs from the truth, does violence to the best spirit of American journalism; in the news columns it is subversive of a fundamental principle of the profession.


Sincerity, Truthfulness, Accuracy.  Good faith with the reader is the foundation of all journalism worthy of the name.

  1. By every consideration of good faith a newspaper is constrained to be truthful. It is not to be excused for lack of thoroughness or accuracy within its control, or failure to obtain command of these essential qualities.
  2. Headlines should be fully warranted by the contents of the article which they surmount.


Impartiality.  Sound practice makes clear distinction between news reports and expressions of opinion.  News reports should be free from opinion or bias of any kind. This rule does not apply to so-called “special articles” unmistakably devoted to advocacy or characterized by a signature authorizing the writer’s own conclusions and interpretation.


Fair Play.  A newspaper should not publish official charges affecting reputation or moral character without opportunity given to the accused to be heard; right practice demands the giving of such opportunity in all cases of serious accusation outside judicial proceedings.

  1. A newspaper should not invade private rights or feelings without sure warrant of public right as distinguished from public curiosity.
  2. It is the privilege, as it is the duty, of a newspaper to make prompt and complete correction of its own serious mistakes of fact or opinion, whatever their origin.


Decency.  A newspaper cannot escape conviction of insincerity if while professing high moral purpose it supplies incentives to base conduct, such as are to be found in details of crime and vice, publication of which is not demonstrably for the general good.  Lacking authority to enforce its canons, the journalism here represented can but express the hope that deliberate panderings to vicious instincts will encounter effective public disapproval or yield to the influence of a preponderant professional condemnation.


Conflicts of Interest.  One of the most basic tenets of journalism is that reporters are not to write about organizations which they are personally associated with, the reason being that they lack an objective critical perspective.  On a broader plane, publishing stories which exhibit conflict of interest will quickly undermine a paper’s credibility, something which is much more difficult to establish than it is to tear down.



A good newspaper prints the important news and provides the information, comment, and guidance that is most useful to its readers.  It reports fully and explains the meaning of local, national, and international events which are of major significance to, or have a major impact on, its own community.  Its editorial comment provides an informed opinion on matters of vital concern to its readers.  In a nutshell, a good newspaper exhibits a careful balance between what the readership wants to know and what they need to know.

By reflecting the total image of its own community in its news coverage and by providing wise counsel in its editorials, a good newspaper becomes a public conscience.  It also must be lively, imaginative, and original; it must have a sense of humor, and the power to arouse keen interest.

The implementation of these principles of good editing requires skilled staff, an attractive format, adequate format, adequate space for news and comment, and a sound business foundation.

The staff must possess the professional pride and competence necessary to breathe life and meaning into the daily record of history.  Good writing must be combined with an effective typographical display of copy and pictures to capture the full drama and excitement of the day’s news.  Good printing is essential.

News and comment of most immediate interest and importance to the local city shall have priority for the available space, which will depend on the size and resources of the newspaper.

To assure a financially strong and independent publication, and one that is competitive with other media, a good newspaper must maintain effective circulation, advertising, and promotion departments.

Finally, a good newspaper should be guided in the publication of all material by a concern for truth, the hallmark of freedom, by a concern for human decency and human betterment and by a respect for the accepted standards of its own community.


Washington Administrative Code –The “WAC” book contains the administratively procedures duly passed by trustees according to the rules for administrative policy-making for the state.  Title 132, for instance, contains the administrative policies for each of the state’s community colleges: thus:

WAC 132H-120-100(3) Freedom of responsible expression in student publications and radio broadcasting.

(a)        STUDENT PUBLICATIONS.  Bellevue College recognizes that student publications are a valuable aid in establishing and maintaining an atmosphere of free and responsible discussion and of intellectual exploration on the campus.  The college does, therefore, subscribe to The Canons of Journalism as written by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, “The Canons of Journalism,” in George L. Baird, et al., The Press and Society (New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1951), pp. 108-1 1 0.

Bellevue College as the publisher of student publications must bear the legal responsibility for the contents of the publications.  The student publication policy must protect the student’s freedom to deal with any ideas and to express any opinions without fear of their censorship. Editors and managers of student publications are protected from arbitrary suspension and removal.  Only for proper and stated causes should editors and managers be subject to removal and then by orderly and prescribed procedures.  Student editors and managers have corollary responsibilities to be governed by the Canons of Journalism.

Revised Code of Washington — RCW 1974 contains the legal definitions for the state legal system.  A number of titles bear upon student journalism: Washington Constitution, Art. 1, Sect. 5 — “freedom of Speech.  Every person may freely speak, write, and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right.”

Libel Procedure

Title 4.16.100 — actions on libel must be filed within two years.

Title 4.36.120 — “the plaintiff (in a libel action) shall be bound to establish

on trial that (extrinsic facts of libel were) so published.”

Title 4.36.130 — “the defendant may, in his answer, allege both the truth of the charges, as defamatory, and any mitigating circumstances to reduce the amount of damages; and whether he proves the justification or not, he may give in evidence the mitigating circumstances.”

Title 4.84-040 — “in an action for… libel … if the plaintiff recover less than ten dollars he shall be entitled to no more costs or disbursements than the damage recovered.”

Title 9.58.010 — defines libel as “every malicious publication by writing, printing, effigy, sign, radio broadcasting or which shall in any other manner transmit the human voice or reproduce the same from records or other appliances or means which shall tend: —

(1)    to expose any living person to hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy, or to deprive him of the benefit of public confidence or social intercourse; or

(2)    to expose the memory of one deceased to hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy; or

(3)    to injure any person, corporation or association of persons in his or their business or occupation, shall be libel.  Every person who publishes a libel shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

Title 9.58-01 0 — A libel is justified when it “charges the commission of a crime, is a true and fair statement, and was published with good motives and for justifiable ends.  It is excused when honestly made in belief of its truth and fairness and upon reasonable grounds for such belief, and consists of fair comments upon the conduct of any person in respect of public affairs, made after a fair and impartial investigation.”

Title 9.58-030 — “Any method by which matter charged as libelous may be communicated to another shall be deemed a publication thereof.”

Title 9.58.040 — “Every editor or proprietor of a book, newspaper or serial, and every manager of a co-partnership or corporation by which any book, newspaper or serial is issued, is chargeable with the publication of any matter contained in any such book, newspaper or serial.” (The title goes on to note it an absolute defense “if the defendant shows that the matter complained of was published without his knowledge or fault and against his wishes by another who had no authority from him to make such publication and was promptly retracted by the defendant with an equal degree of publicity upon written request of the complainant.

Title 9.58.050 — specifies that “a fair and true report of any judicial, legislative or other public and official proceeding, or of any statement, speech, argument or debate in the course of the same, without proving actual malice in making the report” is privileged.

Title 9.58-080 — “Every person who shall willfully state, deliver or transmit by any means whatever, to any manager, editor, publisher, reporter or other employee of a publisher of any newspaper, magazine, publication, periodical or serial, any statement concerning any person or corporation, which if published therein, would be a libel, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”


Title 7.42-01 0 — “The superior courts shall have jurisdiction to enjoin the sale or distribution of obscene prints and articles as hereinafter specified.”

Title 7.42.020 — specifies the county prosecutor as the one who will maintain an action against various entities – including newspapers and magazines – that he deems are included under the definition of “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent.”

Title 9.68.020 — prescribes the kinds of publications prohibited as obscene:

(1)    Any detailed account of the commission or attempted commission of the crime

of rape, carnal knowledge, seduction, adultery, sodomy, or any other sexual crime, or of the trial of any person charged therewith; or

(2)    Any detailed account of the execution of any person convicted of crime; or

(3)    Any detailed statement of any evidence of indecent, obscene or immoral acts

offered in any trial or proceeding; or,

(4)    Any interview with, advertisement for, communication from or account of the

actions of any public prostitute, except upon a matter concerning public welfare.

Title 9.68.030 — declares it a misdemeanor to advertise “for sale, loan or distribution”

articles, drugs or medicines for causing unlawful abortion.

Anarchy and Breach of the Peace

Title 9.05.020 — specifies that “advocating criminal anarchy” by speech or writing (“overthrowing or overturning organized government by force or violence”) or by printing, publishing, editing, is punishable by imprisonment for not more than ten years or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.

Title 9.05.150 — specifies that printing, publishing, editing, circulating, “printed matter in any form” that advocates, encourages, or incites “the commission of any crime, breach of the peace or act of violence, or which shall tend to encourage or advocate disrespect for law or for any court or courts of justice, shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.”

Open Public Meetings Act

Title 42.30 — declares all public commissions, boards, councils, and all other public agencies of the state to conduct their deliberations openly.

“The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them.  The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.  The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”

The title goes on to prevent public governing bodies from adopting ordinances, rules, and resolutions except in open meeting and with sufficient notice of that meeting (42.30.060), but it provides for executive sessions (42.30.010) regarding acquisition of real estate or regarding personnel matters.

Public Documents to be made Public

Title 42.17.260 — declares that all public agencies “shall make available for public records” unless their release constitutes “an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy.”

Title 42.17.310 — certain information is exempt:

  • student information (personal), patient or client information of public health agencies or institutions, welfare recipients, prisoners, probationers, parolees.
  • employee information of public agencies which would violate their privacy.
  • taxpayer information which would violate taxpayer privacy.
  • law enforcement investigative records.
  • test questions and answers.

Privacy consideration is void where personal identifications can be deleted from specific records.  A superior court hearing could conclude that exemption of records is unnecessary to protect an individual’s right to privacy or any vital government function.

“Agency responses refusing, in whole or in part, inspection of any public record shall include a statement of the specific exemption authorizing the withholding of the record (or part) and a brief explanation of how the exemption applies to the record withheld.”

Title 42.17.340 — “The superior court in the county in which a record is maintained may require the responsible agency to show cause why it has refused to allow inspection or copying of a specific public record

… The burden of proof shall be on the agency to establish that refusal … is required.”


Title 9.73.030 — Privacy: Intercepting or recording private communication.  It is unlawful to intercept private communication, whether it be transmitted by telephone, telegraph, radio, or other device between two or more individuals by means of “any device … designed to record … said communication … without first obtaining the consent of all the participants in the communication.”

It is unlawful to record private conversation without obtaining the consent of all the persons engaged in the conversation.

Consent is considered obtained whenever one party has announced to all other parties engaged in the conversation that the communication is about to be recorded or transmitted. (it is important to RECORD that announcement, as well.)

“An employee of any regularly published newspaper, magazine, wire service, radio station, or television station acting in the course of bona fide news gathering duties … shall be deemed to have consent to record and divulge communications or conversations otherwise prohibited by this chapter if the consent is expressly given or if the recording or transmitting device is readily apparent or obvious to the speakers.”

‘Withdrawal of the consent after the communication has been made shall not prohibit any such employee of a newspaper [etc.] from divulging the communication or conversation.”