Verbum Ultimum: The Importance of Accuracy

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 1/26/12 11:00pm

It is the responsibility of any journalistic publication to ensure the accuracy of the information that appears on its pages. The Dartmouth takes journalistic integrity seriously. We do not censor our content to protect specific interests, nor do we print statements presented as fact without first verifying their truth to the best of our ability.

The recent column by Andrew Lohse ("Telling the Truth," Jan. 25) leveled serious allegations against both a fraternity and the College administration regarding issues of hazing. Unfortunately, the College administration managed to procure a copy of the original draft from a professor whom Lohse had contacted for editorial input. Prior to its publication in The Dartmouth, an early draft of Lohse's column was leaked to an independent blog operated by a Dartmouth alumnus. We would like to state unequivocally that no member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff was responsible for leaking drafts to this, or any other, third party. The unauthorized disclosure of content must be taken very seriously, and we will endeavor to ensure that leaks of this nature do not occur again as they are against the editorial policy of The Dartmouth.

The Opinion section of The Dartmouth provides a forum for members of the College community to discuss their views on issues relevant to this campus. Authors are given the opportunity to voice their perspectives on topics of their choice. The strongest arguments are those rooted in facts, however, and it is the responsibility of a newspaper to ensure, to the best of our ability, that these facts are true. To publish a column that levels such serious allegations against any institution without taking the time to corroborate such accusations is an affront to the principles of integrity widely cherished by responsible journalists. We did our utmost to confirm that The Dartmouth would not, in publishing this column, be giving voice to patently false claims against both a campus fraternity and the administration. Ultimately, a number of changes had to be made to the original draft after new information came to light.

It was not a desire to shelter Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity or the College administration, but rather our responsibility to corroborate facts that led to a delay of several days between our receipt of the column and its publication. No member of the Editorial Board intended to suppress the contents of Lohse's column. Corroborating facts should not be mistaken for censorship. To treat the two as one in the same constitutes a gross misunderstanding of journalistic integrity.

The Dartmouth is an independent newspaper. It is not our place to advocate for any one of the various groups on this campus. Some members of The Dartmouth Editorial Board are actively involved in Greek houses in addition to numerous other campus organizations. This illustrates a simple fact about our small community issues that affect some sectors of Dartmouth ultimately affect all of us. The College as a whole would do well to sustain a serious discussion concerning hazing, and we hope the events of this past week have demonstrated that The Dartmouth's only agenda is ensuring that this debate is conducted in good faith and rooted in fact.

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