Starting Monday, June 17, we will introduce an update to the Civil Registry regarding Newsroom charters and challenges. This change is a direct result of community feedback from our diligent and engaged Civil members.
Since the Civil Registry went live about three months ago, we have seen almost fifty newsrooms apply successfully, and another six newsrooms go under challenge.
Prior to a formal challenge, the would-be challenger will often look to the Newsroom charter and profile for evidence of violations to the Constitution, and may list these in the challenge statement. That, in turn, can affect how members vote to decide whether or not a newsroom should stay on Civil.
Recently, the Civil Community began to debate whether Newsrooms should be allowed to edit their charter once a challenge is issued— or whether that charter should be frozen during those two weeks.
The debate began in relations to one of the initial challenges on the Registry. In that instance, the Newsroom edited his charter in the middle of the challenge phase to address community concerns about his business model and editorial policies. Proponents of freezing a challenged charter argued that allowing a Newsroom to update the charter in response to a challenge gives them an unfair advantage in swaying the vote. They also argued that this creates a confusing process during which some voters might see one version of the Newsroom charter in determining their decision, while others might see a different version. Further, a challenger could lose their stake as a result of a Newsroom making a change that could swing a vote, which could discourage future challenges.
Civil staff took this feedback seriously. We met as a team over the course of the last month and evaluated options. In the end, we agreed that the best course of action was to freeze the charter during the challenge period to reduce voter confusion. Freezing the charter while a Newsroom is under challenge means that all voting members are reviewing the same version of the charter when deciding how to vote.
“Freezing the charter” means that any edits made to the newsroom profile while the Newsroom is under challenge will not be visible to the public until after the challenge period has ended.
We also discussed ways to support Newsrooms under challenge while their charter is locked. We are now alerting Newsrooms by email when challenges are initiated, and encouraging them to respond or reply to Community comments on the Registry as appropriate. In the long term, we plan to introduce other charter features like track changes and version history for increased clarity and transparency.
What does this mean for newsrooms?
We understand that responding to community feedback and concerns can be stressful for a Newsroom, particularly under challenge. Newsrooms will still be able to edit their charters at any point outside of a challenge period. Edits made during the challenge period will not be made visible until the challenge period is over.
If your Newsroom is under challenge, it’s fine to let the community know what you might change in your charter once the challenge period is over. As always, the best place for that discussion is in the discussion/ comments section of your Newsroom profile and challenge page.
Newsrooms should take time before applying to the Civil Registry and be thoughtful about the answers in the charter and profile section of their applications. We recommend reviewing past challenges and Council decisions to get an understanding of how the Civil community operates. We created this guide on how to write a strong Charter and Newsrooms are always welcome to email the Foundation team if they have any questions.
What does this mean for members?
We appreciate the hard work that goes into reviewing newsrooms. It can be particularly challenging to keep track of responses, updates, and comments across various channels. Freezing the charter while a newsroom is under challenge means that all voting members are reviewing the same version of the charter when deciding how to vote.
Keep the great comments coming.