Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Disclaimers, Affiliations, and the Campus Resident

Disclaimers - the tags one sometimes finds at the end of an article that serve connection between author and what ever organizations they may be attached to- are important devices when used effectively. Beyond their more technical application disclaimers can also be used to distance or even discredit an author.  Thus it is very important that disclaimers are used transparently and consistently.

The use of disclaimers in the Campus Resident do not appear to have been consistently applied over time. My own articles, for example, sometimes have a disclaimer and sometimes do not.  Staff articles don't appear to have disclaimers attached to them.  Yet at least one other director always has a disclaimer attached at the end of his articles. It seems to me that the use of disclaimers at the end of any article should be consistent in form and consistent in application throughout the paper and from issue to issue.  

Disclaimers should be minimal and to the point.  For example: “The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UNA.” 

The tone should be formal and not in any way subject to misinterpretation as satire. It would be a good idea to use the same disclaimer with each article.

There is a problem of a too general application of disclaimers – after awhile the paper would be stuffed with disclaimers.  The way to prevent the viral spread of disclaimers within the Campus resident might be to ensure a judicious use of how authors are identified, a clear demarcation between opinion and ‘news article,’ or even a general disclaimer in the masthead on the editorial page.  

Authors have been variously identified in the paper.  I note that at times I have been identified as a UNA Director and at times as a Hawthorn Place resident and sometimes as both. There is much discussion in the public mind these days about how much information should  be provided by an author so that a reader can situate the perspective or opinion.  I think that a UNA director should only be identified as such IF they are writing AS A DIRECTOR.  If a director is writing as a resident then that should be sufficient (and thus not require a disclaimer). 

Official UNA opinions should likely be assigned the by-line “UNA Board.”

Ultimately the careful and consistent use of disclaimers helps a reader be clear about the perspective of the author.  

In the spirit of disclaimation:  The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author  and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of the UNA, UBC, or any other conceivable organization. 

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