Thoughts on Objectivity

by Dave Gacioch | 4/23/98 5:00am

According to Webster's, "monopoly" means "exclusive control of a commodity or service in a particular market or a control which makes possible the manipulation of prices." America has enacted very strict statutes barring monopolies from most areas of business because of this ability to manipulate and holding those which are allowed to heightened standards of responsibility and ethical behavior. Let us not forget, though, that monopolies which can manipulate information rather than prices are equally if not more dangerous to society and must also be held to higher standards. Unfortunately -- and getting to the point of this column -- some aren't ...

On Monday, April 6, 1998, this very newspaper -- The Dartmouth -- published in its top front page story the name and photograph of a fellow student who, according to the story, had turned himself in to the Hanover Police for possession of child pornography. Even assuming all of these facts to be true, The Dartmouth, in its uncontrolled lust to break the story of this "scandal," ruined the reputation of a Dartmouth student who has not yet been formally charged with a crime. The Editorial Board of the Dartmouth, acting for no other reason than self-aggrandizement, may well have ruined the college career of a young student who was convicted by The Dartmouth before he was arraigned by the appropriate authorities. We must ask ourselves if the actions of this paper meet our standards of responsible journalism.

Strange, you say, that you have not heard of students speaking out and criticizing the Editorial Board for this abhorrent decision. Now, my friends, you see the wonder of an informational monopoly. For two straight weeks, members of the Student Assembly and the community have spoken up during Assembly meetings and lambasted The Dartmouth for its decision to print that story. All of these comments have been made in the presence of the paper's Assembly correspondent, yet none of them have made the weekly Assembly coverage. In fact, at the April 14 Assembly meeting, member Matt Benedetto '00 directly challenged the reporter present to include mention of the numerous remarks made deriding the Editorial Board's decisions in that week's Assembly coverage. Not surprisingly, no coverage of the comments about The Dartmouth was included. You see, The Dartmouth feels safe in its monopoly -- if it doesn't cover such things, it can be confident that most students won't find out about them.

Let me share with you another example of the Editorial Board's policy of printing only that which furthers its own agenda. In the recent elections for next year's Assembly, presidential candidate Daniel Rygorsky '99 told those present at the debate (including a reporter from The Dartmouth) that this year's Assembly had failed to address important student services concerns such as cable in rooms and parking. Consider, then, the fact that Benedetto once again publicly corrected Rygorsky that the Assembly had been working on cable all year and had also exhaustively addressed parking.

The Editorial Board must have missed that one though, because in its endorsement of Rygorsky for the presidency, it cited the current Assembly's failure to address cable and parking as student concerns. In the absence of a competing information resource at the debate, The Dartmouth quietly decided not to print mention of Benedetto's correction and instead only told the campus of Rygorsky's bold new platform. After the endorsement came out, Assembly executives once again addressed the issue with the Editorial Board, just to confirm that no one was misinformed about what the Assembly had been doing about cable and parking.

The Editorial Board, though, chose to once again ignore accurate information in its comments on the day after the election results were announced when it stated that next year's Assembly could start on a more productive course than this year's had followed by addressing, you guessed it, cable and parking. I think you get the point.

Americans hold freedom of the press in such reverence because it is meant to protect the right of the people to receive accurate information. Unfortunately, our campus has this year seen that freedom whored to allow the press itself to inform and misinform us as it sees fit. We can no longer sit idly by and allow ourselves to be systematically fed misinformation, nor can we allow the lives of our fellow students to be ruined by self-important pseudo-journalists. We must demand more from our newspaper -- that it uphold the heightened responsibility placed on an informational monopoly.

The masthead of the New York Times proudly states that it includes "All the news that's fit to print." Perhaps The Dartmouth's should be changed to "Just the news that furthers our agenda."

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