Verbum Ultimum: Media Matters

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 5/1/14 7:03pm

Important events and conversations take place on campus every day, and our responsibility as a news organization is to report them accurately, preserving them in the College’s history and sharing them with the broader public. Yet since we began as editors of the paper, we feel we have failed to do this job as best we can. Countless times we have found event organizers unwilling to allow a reporter the same access that other citizens receive, and we find this lack of accountability disturbing.

This speaks to a broader trend that we have encountered in our reporting. From requests to screen entire articles before publication to asking to revoke quotes made on the record and select which photos we print, students, faculty and administrators have attempted to upend the editorial process, which demands impartiality.

We respect our fellow community members, but part of that respect includes promoting and upholding accountability. Of course we use editorial judgment to decide cases that warrant anonymity. But to not provide our readership with accurate and comprehensive coverage of a public event would be neglecting our responsibility as a news organization and doing a disservice to our readers.

Open, public events deserve complete reporting so that those who could not attend the event can know what happened. It’s our duty to tell readers the truth as fully as we know it, so at public events, our reporters, and thus our readers, must have just as much access to the content of the discussion as other attendees.

Our goal is not to discourage anyone from speaking out or to disrupt a safe space. In fact, it’s the opposite. We want to encourage and expand this dialogue. But as a news organization, we believe in personal accountability, and with that comes attaching ideas and opinions to names. If we publish anonymous criticisms in an article, how would The Dartmouth differ from a forum like Bored at Baker? If people are held accountable for their words, they’re more likely to think critically about what they want to say.

We’ve also noticed that some readers conflate the content of the opinion pages with news coverage. This is alarming but not surprising in the current age of cable news, in which commentators blend the two. Our news and opinion sections are separate and serve different roles, but both reflect our commitment to integrity. In news, this means reporting the truth as best we know it, and in opinion, this comes from critical thought from an informed standpoint.

We at The Dartmouth strive to create an atmosphere of trust and respect. We care deeply about editing and reporting ethically.

We welcome questions, feedback and criticism about our reporting policies and editing procedures.

We are in the process of revising our ethics code to make this even clearer, and we will continue to promote accountability and respect throughout campus. However, in order for our reporting to be as comprehensive as possible, we need that trust to be mutual.