There will be times when the information at your disposal is greater than the space you have for publishing it. In cases of this sort, your editorial problems are those of selection. At other times, you will have less news than space and you will have to create something to fill the gap. In both cases you may be faced with questions of propriety.
Knowing what to publish and what not to publish involves an understanding of what the Sons of the American Revolution as a whole, and your chapter as a unit of that whole, represent. It is a matter of being positive at all times and consistently avoiding the negative.
The following examples, admittedly, are incomplete but are offered to show various aspects of the positive and negative as they apply to the Sons of the American Revolution.
- Don't endorse political candidates or parties even if one of your own members is running for office. The Sons of the American Revolution is a patriotic organization. It stands for the country as a whole. We are not a political group endorsing any faction, party or individual. If one of your members is running for office, the fact of his candidacy is news and should be printed in your publication. That is all. To ask for votes is wrong. It is also in direct violation of the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution, policy.
- Don't criticize individuals or organizations. There is always room for respectful disagreement among your own members as to such issues as location of meeting place or participation in various functions. Certainly, a newsletter should publish positive opinions on the parts of various chapter members and those positive opinions may be in opposition. That is one thing. To criticize, to say an individual is wrong or bad or in any way negative is, in itself, bad, because it reflects negatively on you, the editor, your chapter, and the Sons of the American Revolution as a whole.
- In dealing with controversy within your chapter or with positive disagreement among individual members of your chapter don't limit yourself to publication of only one side of the issue. You may not like the views of an individual but you have an obligation to show both sides of any issue which in any way affects your chapter and its members.
- In terms of your members' private lives, there will be many newsworthy items. You must realize which are positive and which are negative. Birth, or course, is a positive bit of news. So is marriage, new membership, a promotion on the job or an honor received. Strangely, perhaps death is also a positive news item. A recently deceased member should be remembered in print for his service to the chapter, his family and the community in which he lived.
The best rule of thumb in dealing with taboos comes from Walt-Disney's Thumper the rabbit. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". In addition to this homily, you should face the very hard fact that, as editor of a newsletter published by a non-profit organization, you have a tax exemption, but you are not exempt from the laws of libel. Black's Law Dictionary defines libel as, "Accusation in writing or printing against the character of a person which affects his reputation, in that it tends to hold him up to ridicule, contempt, shame, disgrace, or obloquy, to degrade him in the estimation of the community, to induce an evil opinion of him in the minds of right-thinking persons, etc."