The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff Editorial: Our commitment to journalism

In times of turmoil, The Scarlet & Black staff finds it imperative for media outlets to provide comprehensive and objective expositions on current events. To do so requires publications to decide on whether they prioritize sales over informing their readership. As publications have chosen revenue, they have sensationalized the news to the point of disrespecting victims of strife and alienating parts of the public. Our staff aims to connect current events to and include the wide range of voices found on our campus community. In turn, we appreciate any constructive criticisms from readers who feel as though we have not maintained our goal.

The S&B staff felt it was imperative to address this issue after we noticed a bombardment of sensational reporting by many publications. Within pieces meant to present news, journalists have included their own viewpoints and misconstrued the fact of the matter. From failing to call white supremacists terrorists as they commit violence against citizens of color, to portraying victims of sexual assault as people who caused their own harm to representing victims of police brutality as “thugs,” publications have failed the public as they use misleading language when dealing with sensitive issues. For the most nuanced issues, publications that view themselves as trustworthy have the duty to use language rooted in journalistic accuracy.

Although it is easy to consider the College as a bubble, we come to the College from various backgrounds that affect our interactions on and off campus. Even when we remain within our so-called bubble, we must care about what happens outside of it. This is why The S&B wants to take the opportunity to report on nuanced issues, to distill the news and contextualize it for our local readership.

In addition, The S&B staff condemns publications’ use of gruesome and invasive photos of victims as props to heighten the audience’s interest. Photos and videos can provide necessary evidence of wrongs committed against victims. However, we encourage journalists, activists and anyone using social media platforms to distinguish between shock value and informing the public. We understand that sometimes the line between the two blur, but to be a legitimate publication and inform the public on current events, writers should keep in mind the intent of their work before publishing. Is the point of journalism to sell papers, or to inform an audience?

Media outlets can support good reporting by passing the pen to the people affected by current events. When reporting on sensitive issues without doing so, journalists often let their biases show in their final product. Yet, encouraging affected individuals to speak is easier said than done—many people affected by controversial issues cannot or may not want to speak on their experiences. We also cannot assume that individuals from the same demographic share identical experiences. The voyeuristic approach that many reporters have taken distorts the context of the issues they cover. Journalism should expose conflicts, but to do so effectively, journalism must include and appeal to those directly involved. Therefore, journalists must confront their own biases and present news as respectfully as possible.

The S&B works to serve our community. If at any time you feel we have not reported on an issue that is relevant to community members or have failed to properly contextualize an event, please let us know. As student journalists, we welcome learning opportunities. In that spirit, we welcome anyone who expresses interest in writing, whether it be for reporting on events on campus to penning editorials. Our paper can only be as strong as the commitment of students’ engagement with current events.

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    Diane Alters '71Apr 18, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Thank you, S&B staff, for this very thoughtful editorial.