Conejo Guardian shouldn’t call itself news

The Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics has four standards that journalists are supposed to abide by for their work to be professionally credible; however, The Conejo Guardian, a local publication, continues to break these rules and calling it “independent community news” is an insult to real journalists worldwide.

SPJ’s four Code of Ethics for journalists are their published information is “accurate, fair and thorough” by 1) seeking truth and reporting it accurately, 2) minimizing harm by treating subjects and members of the public as humans deserving of respect, 3) acting independently in efforts to best serve the public without bias, and 4) being accountable and transparent by taking responsibility for one’s work. (

The Conejo Guardian does not seek truth nor do they report information accurately. Rather, they cast unsubstantiated claims under a veil of anonymous sources, hence the reason they are an unreliable source of information. In their April issue, the writer claimed a transgender student was bunking with the opposite sex without the knowledge of parents. The article cited an anonymous source claiming the district threatened termination if the employee discussed the situation. However, we reached out to the school’s administration, and they stated that this story was untrue, nor was any employee’s job in jeopardy. SPJ specifically writes, “Never deliberately distort facts or context,” yet the use of unverified claims created unnecessary harm to the outdoor school program.
Any information published in a public forum has the power of framing rhetoric that influences people’s outlook on the world. A news publication is meant to inform the public and minimize harm, not create it. While they have the ability to reach thousands of driveways and share news through unbiased articles, they instead abuse their platform and direct hatred towards our public schools by pushing rhetoric such as, “CVUSD supports child genital mutilation”, and “For four years the [school board] has pressed an agenda to sexualize children of all the district’s k-12 classrooms.” These articles are not substantiated by verified cited sources, nor do they follow any of the basic journalistic writing styles that we learn in our high school journalism courses. It is irresponsible for a news publication to be making untrue statements. Based on SPJ’s code of ethics, The Conejo Guardian failed to “consider the long-term implications of the extended reach and permanence of publication.” The superintendent published a statement admonishing The Conejo Guardian’s spread of misinformation and community members have further criticized the publication as they feel it has empowered individuals to graffiti an elementary school and make death threats against district officials. One of the primary financiers of the publication, Pastor Rob McCoy of Godspeak Calvary Church outed himself after he pushed back against CVUSD in a podcast with Bryce Eddy, board member and writer for The Conejo Guardian, “The superintendent of schools wrote a letter to every parent in the district blaming the newspaper, The Guardian and saying WE were the ones responsible for the graffiti.”

SPJ’s code of ethics specifically states that all publications must act independently, meaning avoid conflict of interest. Professional news forums are supposed to be clear of bias, and while this is difficult to accomplish, The Conejo Guardian doesn’t even try to be unbiased or void of a political and religious agenda. The Conejo Guardian has financial ties with Godspeak Calvary Church and their pastor Rob McCoy, who sits on the advisory board for Public School Exit. McCoy has gone on record stating that his primary goal is to perform an exodus from public schools. Godspeak was cited as the paper’s assembly spot, inviting groups of all ages to “gather to prepare for the monthly newspaper,” which was printed in the TO Acorn. Moreover, McCoy recently announced his support for The Conejo Guardian and that Godspeak will be hosting a donation drive for it. McCoy continues to use this publication to push his agenda by publishing false hit pieces–the definition of a conflict of interest.

One of the most important steps a publication can take when printing something inaccurate is to print a correction so the public can receive the most transparent and accurate information. The Conejo Guardian continuously fails to acknowledge the harm their lies cause. The most vile of these journalistic sins is their failure to expose unethical journalistic conduct, especially within their own organization. The Conejo Guardian has also yet to address their failure of adherence to the three prior codes of ethics. Part of being transparent is responding quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness. While researching information for this article, I reached out to the editor of The Conejo Guardian, Joel Kilpatrick, to ask how his publication differentiates opinion articles from news articles, since we have noticed there is no delineation and they continue to print opinion articles as facts. However, Kilpatrick did not respond with a transparent answer, and offered me a job instead.

Sorry Conejo Guardian. I could not, in good conscience, sell my soul and write for a sketchy newsletter that writes fiction as fact, breaks every SPJ code of ethics, and trolls innocent bystanders by leaving trash on their driveway. Of course The Conejo Guardian still has the right to publish their hate-filled pamphlet, but if they continue to do so after they read this article, my final recommendation would be to change their title of “independent community news” as The Conejo Guardian is not independent, neither does it protect the community, nor is it news.