Ethics in Publishing

by The Editor on February 3rd, 2015

This document is designed to give some insight into how Model View Culture runs its editorial practice and our aspirations for that process, which is an ongoing dialogue with the community and our contributors.

This is not comprehensive and is ever-evolving. This is part one of a series, and doesn’t touch on many, many vital topics that we will address in the future. This is not the last post we will publish on this topic as we have a few more in progress, so this is a first in a series. We have not always succeeded in these goals and practices, and we adapt and grow as our publication matures. We hope these are useful to potential Model View Culture contributors as well as other publications.

BASIC TENETS

– Writers, contributors and interview subjects should be people who are marginalized, oppressed, underrepresented, discriminated against, abused and silenced in the community we publish for. These are the people who are the center of our publication. Centering means that they are the writers, the experts, the focus and the priority, and that they will be treated ethically and respectfully by our publication.

– Writers and contributors should speak to and about things that are related to their identities, cultures, lived experiences, backgrounds, knowledges, communities and groups that they are a part of. At the same time, writers and contributors should acknowledge, respect and show solidarity with groups that are oppressed and harmed worse and/or differently by the systems they are discussing, if they are able to do so in ways that aren’t appropriative, violent, ignorant and oppressive.

– We work for our community specifically against the power structures that harm them. We do not have a “neutral” editorial stance. We believe that harmful power structures must be illuminated, critiqued, and taken down. Protecting, coddling, respecting and valuing harmful power structures is not part of our editorial approach, and our kindness will never be extended to them.

WORKING WITH MARGINALIZED WRITERS

РMarginalized people live under systems that make it much more difficult to dedicate time to writing and completing that writing. This should be a fundamental understanding that applies to how you handle deadlines, payment, editorial and other facets of working with writers. The editorial process should be encouraging and compassionate, but not pressuring. Your editorial calendar needs to be flexible enough to allow missed deadlines, cancelled pieces, changes in publishing schedule, etc. to accommodate authors.

– Writing about personal and structural oppression can be incredibly triggering and painful. Authors should have the autonomy to make decisions about the personal cost of publishing on that axis vs. the content produced. Editorial should be compassionate and present for these processes.

– Marginalized people are disproportionately economically oppressed and we pay them, pay promptly and strive to pay them as much as possible while maintaining a viable business. We have multiple ways people can be paid. Pay people who are more financially oppressed or economically endangered more money than people who are economically privileged.

– While having a normal operating mechanism for publishing and editing is important, marginalized people may be operating under various conditions and systems that make your “planned” mechanisms difficult/impossible. You should be flexible with your operating mechanisms, including being willing and prepared to use different tools, provide computing resources, adapt to the preferred collaboration style of the writer, and make other changes and accommodations.

IDENTITY

– Authors should be free to express their identity in any way they choose and those choices are supported by the publication. Authors can use the names they want, publish anonymously, and choose how they wish to be described and referred to in their bios and other text. As identity and the way people want to represent and express themselves many change over time, the publication should change any of those elements by request of the author in a timely fashion.

– Editorial should be very explicit and deliberant about using the names, pronouns, and descriptions of authors that they provide. These things should be frequently checked and confirmed with writers based on their explicit statements and desires.

– Authors can publish as much or as little personal and identity information as desired. Sometimes editorial will request more or less inclusion of such content in an attempt to strengthen the piece, but the choice ultimately lies with the author and their wishes are respected.

ANONYMITY

– Many writers may face personal and professional repercussions for their work. Anonymity is offered by the publication to help protect writers from these consequences. In our experiences, people of color and trans people are most likely to require anonymity as they face some of the most severe repercussions for speaking to their experiences, views and sense of justice.

– When publishing anonymous work, it should be reviewed for any personally identifying information, which should be removed. Discussion of the possibilities of discovery and possible vectors for discovering identity, if present, should be discussed with the author. Editorial should make all attempts to correctly communicate how anonymity works on the service and potential risks involved.

CONSENT AND INFORMED CONSENT

– All authors and interview subjects get final sign off on all text and images, know exactly what will be published and when, and confirm that they are OK with publishing the text in its final form. Prior to publishing, authors should be able to cancel any time with no pressure or guilt from editorial.

– Post-publication, writers can update, change, adjust or even remove their work for any reason. (Note: removing work is not necessarily possible with print publications, but editorial should work with authors to make an appropriate response).

CARING ABOUT AUTHORS

– We work with people that we care about, respect and value. We never publish with the intention to slander, harm, hurt, or trick people who write for us or who we do interviews with. We do not take an adversarial position in any way to interviewees and authors around their work. We are concerned about their comfort, security and consent both during the editorial process and after publication.

– There is no comments section. We will not facilitate the abuse of our contributors nor profit off of it via comments tools which are a massive vector for abuse and harassment.

WORKING WITH VICTIMS AND POTENTIAL VICTIMS OF ONLINE ABUSE

– Some writers are existing targets or potential targets of online abuse for their work, writing and activism. These writers must be treated with particular care in order not to further endanger them.

– The publication has funds and resources available to get authors, partners and families to safe locations in the event of a massive internet attack. A response to large-scale attacks on authors – while one has not yet occurred and is unlikely – must be part of the plans and reserves of the publication. This requires an understanding of different levels of threats, the resources available and how people from different groups may be targeted differently or more severely, or not have the same levels of support available to them.

– The publication proactively monitors social media sites and networks for possible harassment in order to have early awareness of potential threats. Sometimes the threat climate for authors is particularly high due to organized campaigns by internet hate groups. In these instances, the publication should communicate clearly and proactively about the threat climate.

– The business must be willing to shut down, go offline, or slow down operations severely in the case of a massive attack on authors, editors or writers.

OWNERSHIP

– The publication has no desire to own the work of writers, only to publish it. Authors remain full copyright holders, authorize the publication to publish, and abide by a mutually-agreed upon period of exclusivity. We want the work of our writers, and its destinies and futures, to lie under their control.

Stay tuned for more on ethics in publishing, and let us know your comments / what you would like to hear more about on Twitter.