About the Northern Star

Overview/Mission Statement

The Northern Star was first published in 1899 under the name “Northern Illinois.” It was renamed the Northern Star in 1954 and eventually became a daily newspaper in 1965. We print on Mondays and Thursdays. We update our website daily. Our circulation is 8,000 papers a day and reaches not only NIU students, faculty and staff, but also the DeKalb community. Plus, our website reaches an audience around the world.

In this manual, the term “Northern Star” refers to both the printed newspaper and all electronic forms/expressions of the Northern Star.

Our Mission

The Northern Star’s mission is twofold:

1. To provide the NIU community primarily with coverage of news and events at the university, and secondarily with news pertaining to the city of DeKalb, Illinois, the nation and the world.
2. To provide a modern, laboratory-like setting, fashioned after professional newspapers, for all NIU students interested in working in the various aspects of a newspaper for the purpose of gaining experience.

Our operation

The Northern Star employs about 80 students (part-time) and pays them by the hour. People interested in joining the staff of the Northern Star will begin as unpaid trainees for one semester. They might or might not be offered a staff position after this period.

The Northern Star is a limited public forum whose content is determined exclusively by its student editors at Northern Illinois University. Information presented in the newspaper and online is in no way controlled by the NIU administration, faculty or staff.

The Northern Star cannot be censored, directly or indirectly, because ALL content is determined only by students — and has been for decades. The student editor is selected by the all-student management board, which represents the entire staff. This decision follows a process under which candidates are reviewed by the publication board. Positions of editors and managers are earned by individual abilities and by experience gained at the newspaper.

The Northern Star employs two full-time, professional advisers: an adviser and a business adviser. The adviser reports to the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students. The business adviser reports to the adviser.

The Star receives about $85,000 annually in student fees.

Who’s the Northern Star publisher?

First, realize that the term “publisher” has no legal significance. The key legal question is who has the ultimate authority to dictate content? At public universities, the law holds that students have that ultimate authority. Thus, the people legally responsible for what’s printed are the students — not the university and not the adviser.

That doesn’t mean universities aren’t named in libel suits against student newspapers. People know where the money is. But in a situation like the Star’s, where there is no required prior review of content by anyone but students, NIU cannot be held liable for the newspaper’s content.

A side note: Required prior review of content by a public university is unconstitutional, as borne out by several federal court cases.

That’s not to say the adviser can’t ever see a story before it’s printed. But it cannot be required, and it generally should come at the students’ request, not the adviser’s.

Here’s what all of this means for you, the student journalist: If you publish something libelous, or invasive of someone’s privacy, or obscene, and the Star gets sued, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE. The Star does carry libel insurance, but that does not protect you as an individual from being sued. If you are sued for libel and lose, the court can go after your personal funds and sometimes even your family’s assets. And that’s not to mention the fact that not many newspapers will want to hire a new graduate who’s just been sued for libel and lost.

Bottom line: With freedom comes responsibility. Know libel law and take it seriously. Know what constitutes invasion of privacy. Know
what constitutes obscenity. Know copyright law. The grief you save will be your own.

Publication Board

The Publication Board provides guidance and oversight in the financial management of the Northern Star while maintaining and respecting the rights and privileges of a free press. The Publication Board is the body to which the staff of the Northern Star is directly accountable in accordance with these guidelines:

1. The Publication Board is neither responsible for nor supportive of the news or editorial content of the Northern Star.

2. The Publication Board, on behalf of the chair of the NIU Board of Trustees, assumes the authority over all properties and funds used by and on behalf of the Star.

3. The Publication Board is concerned with general management policies of the Star but not with day-to-day operations as conducted by the staff.

4. The Publication Board has designated a committee to review applications for the Star’s editor in chief position for the following semester. That committee forwards applications of qualified candidates to the full board. The board then reviews written materials, interviews the candidates and forwards all candidates, with its recommendations, to the Management Board. The Manaagement Board alone makes the final decision.

5. The Publication Board meets four times each year: twice during the fall semester and twice during the spring semester. Meetings are open to the public. Agendas will be posted in the Northern Star office at least 24 hours before each meeting.

Board makeup

  • Three members are appointed by the NIU president: one from the Department of Communication, one from the College of Business and one administrator.
  • Two members represent the Student Association. The SA selects these members, with the option of choosing one of those members from the student population at large.
  • Two members from the Northern Star, selected by the Star staff, one of whom shall work in the business operation of the newspaper.
  • Three members, appointed by the president, from the community at large who are not students and are not in any way affiliated with NIU.
  • One student at large, chosen by student members of the Publication Board.
  • The following people serve as non-voting members: the Northern Star adviser, the Assistant Vice President for Planning & Resource Management, and an NIU general counsel representative.

Management Board

The Northern Star’s Management Board sets policies for the entire newspaper on financial, editorial and other matters, and monitors those policies’ implementation. The board decides on disciplinary issues.

The seven-member board selects the editor in chief for the following term (one semester). Selection takes place in early November and early April. The summer editor in chief also is chosen in April.

Board members are responsible for keeping their departments informed on board actions. Board members represent the expertise, perspectives and opinions of the departments they represent.


 Editor in Chief (chair)  (Entire staff)
 Managing Editor (vice chair)  Sports, Photo, Entertainment
News Editor (secretary)  News
 Editorial Editor  Columnists, cartoonists
Digital Editor   Design, Copy Desk, Online
 Business Manager  Accounting, circulation, classified, purchasing
 Advertising Manager Advertising, Production
 2 advisers (non-voting)

The board meets at least once a month during the academic year. The editor in chief is responsible for scheduling meetings and posting agendas.

A simple-majority voice vote is required to pass a motion. Bylaw changes require a 2/3 vote. Proxy is necessary in case of member absence or conflict of interest.


Proxy is necessary in case of member absence. If a Management Board member is not able to attend a meeting or vote on proposals (ie: The member is running for Editor in Chief) the following criteria will be used to determine an alternate.

Stage 1: An editor represented by the Management Board member will serve in his or her place. Example: The News Editor represents both the Campus and City sections. If the Campus Editor is unable to attend, the City Editor will serve as an alternate.

Below is a chart to determine who serves as alternates in this stage.

 Position  Represents  Alternate
 Editor in Chief  Entire staff Remaining editor with longest tenure as an editor
 Managing Editor  Sports, Photo, Entertainment  Sports, Photo, Entertainment editor
 Editorial Editor  Columnists, cartoonists  Remaining editor with longest tenure as an editor
 Campus Editor  Campus, City  City Editor
Online Editor Copydesk, Design, Web  Night Editor
 Advertising Manager  Advertising, Production  Production Manager
 Business Manager Accounting, Circulation, Purchasing Remaining non-news manager with longest tenure as a manager


Stage 2: In the case Management Board members vacate multiple positions, or several editors can serve as alternates, tenure as an editor
will be the determining factor.

Stage 3: In the case more than one potential alternate meets the first two requirements, the Northern Star pay scale will be used to determine the alternate. The editor in the higher pay bracket will serve as the alternate.

Stage 4: If more than one potential alternate meets the initial three stages, or if no one does, the Editor in Chief makes the executive decision and name an alternate.

Editor in Chief selection

1. Candidates submit applications by the advertised deadline. Candidates must have worked at the Northern Star at least two semesters and have been a Northern Star editor for one semester. Or, must have worked at least two semesters for a campus or community general-audience newspaper that is published at least three times a week, and must have been an editor at that paper at least one semester.

2. Candidates are interviewed by Publication Board, which votes to recommend one candidate to the Management Board.

3. Candidates are interviewed in an all-staff forum. Immediately following that, all staffers present are allowed to vote for the candidate of their choice.

4. Management Board convenes, deliberates and votes. The result of the all-staff vote counts as one vote.

5. Results are announced to each candidate, then to the staff.

Management Board meeting policy

Meetings are open to any Northern Star staff member. Deliberations on editor-in-chief selection may be closed to all but voting members. Advisers generally attend all meetings, but the Management Board may meet without advisers if voting members deem this necessary.

One week before the meeting is scheduled, the editor in chief will post, and will send to all board members and advisers, the meeting agenda and a copy of the minutes from the previous meeting.

Minutes must be taken.

The general agenda is:

1. Staff members’ presentation (suggestions, complaints, information, etc.)

2. Reading and approval of previous minutes

3. Department presentations
a. Advertising / Production
b. Business
c. News
4. Old business

5. New business

6. Adjournment



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