By David McCabe and Lauren Toole, Editors-In-Chief
Working for the Collegian, you get used to criticism.
“I was misquoted.” “This isn’t the real story.” “That headline is misleading.”
The commentary is endless, and the examples above are an anaesthetized version of what we’ve heard. There is a certain type of story that attracts these criticisms. Maybe a student gets arrested, the president of a club says something embarrassing in a meeting or an administrator makes a mess of their job. These are rarely things those individuals want made public — least of all in the Collegian. And when they are, the critical emails invariably start.
Up front, we’ll admit this: mistakes and errors are an unfortunate and unavoidable reality of journalism. In the effort to pursue a hard truth — one that reflects well-reported and honest journalism — we make errors. And in the effort to further pursue that truth, we learn from them.
It is in essence what professional news outlets do, too. As we prepare to leave this phase of our lives behind, we thought we should clear something up: the Collegian is, for all intents and purposes, a legitimate news source. Our journalists are real reporters, and they deserve to be treated that way.
Some of you likely view the Collegian as a “fake” publication that should play by the rules of Kamp Kenyon. That means keeping stories about student misconduct quiet and treating everything with kid gloves.
But protecting those people was never our role as editors or as a paper. This publication ascribes to a higher code of ethics than that which the student body and administration occasionally deems appropriate. And sometimes that leads to conflict and behavior from such individuals that would be unprofessional for even the most hardened PR flacks in the real world.
In a particularly memorable instance, we were told by a student leader that it would be “in our best interest” to retract an article so that we could continue reporting on a certain organization’s events. Other fond memories include an administrator loudly and enthusiastically urging members of organizations which said administrator advised to refuse interviews with us, claiming that long-ago mistakes and inaccuracies had made the paper “untrustworthy.” And for the continuation of that vendetta, this administrator sacrificed integrity and transparency in order to get their point across.
The Collegian has occasionally been accused of sensationalizing events, acting out grudges through articles and reducing conversations to a binary. We always listen to these criticisms with an open mind, but we maintain that we are always accountable to the reading public – that every article of ours will be honest, factual and foster self-criticism on campus. We will not keep an issue quiet in order to appease an individual or organization. We will continue to balance an individual’s right to fair trial with the public’s right to know. And first and foremost we will abide by the harm-limitation principle — if everything learned should be reported.
The Collegian follows the rules and code of real-world journalism — not those that some members of the student body and administration have fabricated in their effort to prove that this publication has wronged them. We’ve made inadvertent mistakes and errors, and we’ve issued an apology each time this has occurred. But a shocking number of individuals at Kenyon, rather than owning up to their mistakes, always found a reason to fault the Collegian.
To those people, we say this: learn the rules of the real world and play by them as we do. When you make a mistake, take responsibility for the consequences. Don’t waste your breath fighting the Collegian about it. That air could often be better spent elsewhere — perhaps on an apology.