VaNews Content Policy
Last Revised: 8/28/2022
Purpose: VaNews is an aggregation of original news reporting about Virginia politics and government.
VaNews will consider "original news reporting" that is published online by print newspapers, broadcast radio and TV stations and outlets that meet our standards as "online news providers."
VPAP defines qualified "online news providers” as those publications that:
- Have been published daily for at least one month or weekly for at least two consecutive months
- Has in place an editor review process that includes assigning stories, fact checking and verification of sources
- Is not produced by a political organization or any entity that lobbies the General Assembly or Congress
- May not accept news articles placed for payment, unless clearly indicated
In determining whether specific articles represent "original news reporting" VPAP will take into account the following:
- Evidence that the reporter attended an event or conducted his/her own interviews.
- The article presents multiple sides of a debate or, at the very least, indicates the reporter has made an effort to get comment from the other side. This standard will be particularly high when considering an article that calls into question the honesty or impugns the integrity of any individual, company or institution.
- The article contains a narrative structure that consists of more than (1) a string of social media postings, (2) excerpts from other media sources, or (3) video and audio clips without additional context provided.
- When opinion is expressed, it is attributed to individuals other than the author.
Online news providers that repurpose reporting by others to create a false or misleading impression will be disqualified from inclusion in VaNews clips.
Focus on News, not Commentary
There is a constant stream of commentary about Virginia politics and government available on blogs and social media. It would be impractical for VaNews to include all commentary that appears online. VaNews will limit commentary to the following sources found in the print edition of newspapers:
- Editorials that appear in the print edition of daily or nondaily newspapers published in Virginia or with a wide circulation in Virginia
- Columns written by full-time employees that appear in the print edition of newspapers and in nonprofit online publications that fully disclose their donors, including including the amount each donor gave. In addition, VaNews will run fact-check services that appear in print newspapers or the online pages of broadcast TV or radio stations.
Op-Ed Pieces that appear in the print edition of the 10 largest daily newspapers based on circulation. Currently, those newspapers are: Daily News-Record [Harrisonburg], Daily Press [Newport News], Daily Progress [Charlottesville], Free Lance-Star [Fredericksburg], News & Advance [Lynchburg], Richmond Times-Dispatch, Roanoke Times, Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk] , Washington Post and Winchester Star.
Wall Between News and Commentary
VaNews believes publications should differentiate the roles of commentators and news reporters. VaNews will not include original news reporting from anyone who regularly writes editorials, news analysis or commentary. An exception is made for news obituaries written by columnists who have a long tenure and had the opportunity to cover the newsworthy person as a reporter.
Multiple Articles on the Same Topic
When news events result in articles from multiple outlets, VaNews will balance readers desire for a variety of viewpoints with their desire not to be overwhelmed. VaNews will give first preference to original news reporting that appears in print. Online-only reporting will be considered if the reporter has information overlooked by print sources or brings an enterprising approach to the topic.
Wire Service Rewrites
VaNews does not include wire service rewrites of news articles about stories that have appeared in VaNews.
News Briefs and News Digests
VPAP reserves the right to not run news briefs that are only several paragraphs in length. Likewise, VaNews does not include news digests that include a roundup of various news briefs.
Political Endorsements and Awards
VaNews will include news articles about endorsements that appear in the printed edition of one of the state's four largest circulation dailies. Currently, those newspapers are Richmond Times-Dispatch, Roanoke Times, Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk] and, Washington Post. VaNews will not include news articles about legislators or other public officials being named "Lawmaker of the Year" or other awards.
Editing Headlines/Condensing Body of Article
In the vast majority of instances, the information presented — headline, byline and summary — will appear exactly as it does in either the online or printed edition. VPAP reserves the right to edit content to correct typos or to provide clarity (an example might be changing a headline from "Council hikes taxes" to "Richmond City Council hikes taxes). In news articles where the author takes an unusually long time to get to the point, VPAP reserves the right to truncate the summary to fit within the space considered "fair use" of copyrighted material. VPAP shall use an ellipsis ("...") to indicate the intentional omission of words or "…[T]he" to indicate some words at the start of a sentence have been removed.
Articles in which facts are misstated
VaNews reserves the right to refuse to include news articles, editorials or op-eds that include a factual error or misstates the facts in such an obvious way as to create a wrong impression. Such decisions are rare and usually involve campaign finance information, a topic on which VPAP is a subject matter expert. Any decision not to include an article for this reason must be made by VPAP's executive director or the most senior person in charge of editing the final selections.
When VaNews personnel overlook an article that met the criteria for inclusion, VaNews shall include the article in the next edition.
Top of the News
This is designed for readers who want a quick summary of the news. The five to seven articles represent our best-faith judgment of what we think our audience will find important and/or interesting.
In selecting headlines, VPAP will follow these general guidelines:
- One article per topic
- A variety of news outlets and viewpoints
- A preference for enterprise reporting or exceptional writing
- Insights from different regions of the Commonwealth
There will be exceptions. For instance, a breaking story could be so important that its telling may merit multiple articles.
We recognize that news judgment is inherently subjective. We value greatly the fact that our audience is composed of people who look at life and politics from a variety of viewpoints. In selecting 'Top of the News,' we're committed to the same independent, nonpartisan approach that for two decades has won the trust of Republicans and Democrats alike.
Executive Branch, General Assembly, State Elections, State Government
VaNews will include news articles written on these topics, even if multiple newspapers write about the same issue on the same day.
VaNews will include news articles about elections for one of Virginia's 11 congressional seats or its two U.S. Senate seats. VaNews also will include any articles focused on Virginia's role in a presidential election. If a Virginian becomes a national candidate, VaNews also will include articles that focus on his or her background, particularly about their record in elected office in Virginia.
VaNews will include news articles that focus on members of Virginia's congressional delegation. As a general rule, VaNews will not include general congressional articles that simply mention or quote a member of Virginia's delegation. VaNews may include articles written about congressional issues that have a particular importance to Virginia (an example of this would be the cancellation of Naval shipbuilding contracts).
VaNews will include news articles that focus on state or regional economic trends or macroeconomic trends that affect the state's leading industries and employers.
VaNews will include news articles that focus on transit, tolls, highway funding and stories with statewide policy import.
VaNews will include news articles about higher education, including tuition, student debt, enrollment trends, trade schools and other issues affecting the state's public and private institutions of higher education.
This section will include news articles that do not fit neatly into another category. These topics include regional cooperation, court rulings that affect public policy, open government and Virginia's insatiable fascination with its own history. As a general rule, VaNews will not include articles about crime, though VPAP reserves the right to include crime stories of extraordinary public interest (such as the "sniper") or breaches of the public trust. VaNews also may run published news obituaries of those who served as state elected officials, high-ranking state appointees or employees, college presidents, state Supreme Court justices and those whose deaths may be of particularly high interest to the state's political community.
The VaNews "gold standard" for local coverage is those news articles that raise policy issues of statewide significance. The perfect article would be an issue before the Bedford Town Council that would be of equal interest to folks in the Blue Ridge as to those in Northern Virginia. VPAP recognizes such news articles are few and far between. Most newspapers cover local matters in an incremental way and for a parochial audience. VaNews is not intended to provide "news of record" for local governments. That said, the line between a trend and parochial is not always clear. Some trends (such as fiscal pressure on localities to raise property taxes) may be apparent only after a dozen newspapers write essentially the same article about actions to add a penny or two to the tax rate. VaNews' appetite for local coverage is proportional to a locality's population. VaNews subscribers can expect to see more news articles about the Fairfax County School Board (181,536 students) than the Craig County School Board (685 students).
VaNews will include newspaper editorials written about state politics and certain editorials written about local issues. Editorials about local issues must have a clear state policy significance, which is a higher standard for original news reporting that appears in the "Local" section).
VaNews will include columns about state politics and government written by full-time newspaper employees. Columns about local issues must have a clear state policy significance (which is a higher standard than news articles included in the "Local" section).
VaNews will include opinion pieces on topics consistent with the criteria for news articles that appear in the printed versions of the state's 10 largest daily newspapers with a dedicated editorial staff.