The Sierra County Public-Interest Journalism Project—a tax-exempt organization dedicated to civic education—has launched a new online platform called Sierra County Citizen, a transformation of the Project’s previous project, the Sierra County Sun. The Citizen continues the Sun’s intent to provide knowledgeable investigation of issues essential to civic life in the county. Like the Sun, the Citizen advocates for research and thought in public discourse, and it promotes the publication of such endeavors, hoping to stir an interest in civic responsibility. But the Citizen will be less journalistic and more informal.
Instead of articles rigorously edited to journalistic standards, the platform will consist of postings, informative as well as speculative, opinions as well as essays, in words as well as in images, presented by a group of professionals and non-professionals—citizen journalists—whom the Project trusts to post reasoned, self-edited, knowledgeable communications about issues the contributors themselves deem of significance and importance for Sierra County. People from all over the county, once they are vetted to be responsible contributors, can use the Citizen’s platform to publish their concerns. Hopefully, these trustees of public discourse will grow in numbers, reach and interests, so that the Citizen will wax with the evolution of the citizen platform (and wane if other potential citizen journalists and the reading public do not find it useful). The Citizen will allow the readers open access to their efforts, without fees, for as long as the Project can support the platform.
The SCP-IJP board encourages readers who find posts of particular value to share them with others who may benefit from this content. By so doing, readers contribute to the building of a common knowledge base in Sierra County. Links to Facebook, Twitter and email are provided at the end of each post to facilitate sharing of content.
The Sierra County Citizen is a free-access online platform featuring observations, analysis, commentary, reflections and graphics on issues of local significance. The Citizen is sponsored by the Sierra County Public-Interest Journalism Project to fill some of the information gaps left by the closure of the Sierra County Sun in December 2021.
Readers should bear in mind that the posts that appear here are unscreened and unedited in advance of their publication. Because contributors to the Citizen are given unfettered freedom of expression, each must be proposed for that privilege by a member of the board of the Sierra County Public-Interest Journalism Project. The board carefully vets each nominee and mentors those whose nominations are approved. Each contributor has been entrusted with a confidential and unique password enabling publication on the Citizen platform, and all have agreed not to share their access codes with others.
In addition to having the privilege of posting whatever and whenever they see fit, each contributor is solely responsible for deciding whether to respond to and/or publish or discard comments on their posts submitted by readers. Comments that are abusive, contain misinformation or make dubious claims are likely to go unpublished. Comments submitted by persons who do not provide their full names or are clearly using pseudonyms will also be rejected.
As part of the vetting process, contributors must agree to observe the editorial guidelines stated below. Readers have the right to expect that contributors will live up to these principles. Readers’ concerns about their violation may be addressed to the SCP-IJP board at firstname.lastname@example.org. At its next regular meeting, the board will determine the most appropriate response, which may start with additional mentoring of contributors.
The SCP-IJP board reserves the right to take down any post it deems at odds with the following guidelines, derived from a review of editorial standards espoused by such professional associations as the Ethical Journalism Network, International Federation of Journalists and Society of Professional Journalists and such journalism outlets as the Washington Post, Substack and Wikinews. Repeated violators of the Citizen’s editorial guidelines may be banned from accessing the Citizen website.
• Ask enough questions and do enough research to be sure you have a good understanding of your topic.
• Take responsibility for the correctness and truthfulness of your posts.
• Fact check, fact check, fact check!
• Seek reliable sources.
• Do not quote or link to sources of questionable reliability or legal or ethical value.
• Acknowledge holes in your information gathering.
• Stick to relevant facts, but include all pertinent information in order to allow readers to reach their own conclusions.
• Do not level allegations without persuasive supporting evidence.
• Give individuals or organizations the opportunity to address assertions or claims about them and include their responses in full.
• Identify yourself as a Citizen contributor when asking questions of government officials or community members to ensure that they understand that their answers may be published.
• Respect on-the-record and off-the-record boundaries.
• Respect people’s privacy and other legal rights. For example, do not publish the phone number or address or other private information about a person without express permission.
• Avoid overtly sexual, obscene or profane language, unless it is legitimate news.
• Give readers fair warning of possibly offensive content to follow.
• Avoid statements that are predatory, hateful or intended to intimidate or harass.
• Derogatory name calling of specific individuals is unacceptable.
• Do not incite or endorse violence or harm to people because of their race, ethnicity, sexuality, age, disability or medical condition.
• Do not incite or endorse illegal activity.
• Avoid quoting unnamed sources unless absolutely vital to the public’s right to know.
• If you must use an unnamed source, do your best to verify what is claimed with a second, named source or a public document.
• If a source is only willing to speak on “background,” verify everything claimed.
• Provide meaningful identification of all sources, named or unnamed, so that readers may judge their credibility or expertise.
• If you were not present at the event about which you are writing, explain how you obtained your information.
• Do not hide or misrepresent your affiliations if they are relevant to the topic at hand.
• Always identify the essential character of your posts by checking one of the categories on the posting form (i.e., news, analyses, perspectives, reviews)
• Only posts strictly confined to imparting facts and information should be labeled as “news.”
• If a post contains both news and the contributor’s observations, evaluations and conclusions of facts and evidence, it should be labeled an “analysis.”
• Posts based on the contributor’s opinion, even those referring to and drawing on facts, should be labeled as “perspectives.”
• Posts that give an assessment of a product, service or artistic or literary work should be labeled as “reviews.”
Conflict of interest
• Do not write about issues in which you have a financial or reputational stake without disclosing any possible conflict of interest.
• Do not post advertising or solicitations, even if they are of no direct benefit to you.
• However, contributors may post public service announcements and event previews, which will be labelled as “news.”
Plagiarism and copyright violations
• Do not present others’ writing or reporting as your own work; provide attribution.
• Follow the principle of fair usage when quoting extensively from another person’s work.
• Do not post graphics that are under copyright protection without the creator’s permission.
• Provide proper crediting when posting free or public-domain graphics
Thank you for your generous support!
Richard Anderson and Diane Levitt
F. W. Hogg and Laurie Adams
John and Durrae Johanek
Robin Wynn McBroom
Sierra Community Council
Diana Tittle and Tom Hinson
David Tucker and Cecile McGowan
Laura Van Dyne
Charles and Sharon Van Gelder