Beechert: Time for a Change

by Michael Beechert | 1/26/16 7:30pm

Matthew Goldstein ’18, in an excellent article published on Jan. 19, bemoaned the lack of high-quality journalism on this campus. The author correctly identified the twin culprits as The Dartmouth Review and The Dartmouth, the former of which he indicted for being overly reactionary and the latter for shoddy reporting standards. Both of these criticisms have merit — the Review does seem to gain no small amount of pleasure from antagonizing people, and this publication oftentimes leaves much to be desired with regard to the accuracy and depth of its journalism. Unlike Goldstein, I don’t believe that either one of these publications should necessarily strive towards ideological neutrality, and I am cynical about the ability of any campus newspaper to significantly change the world around it. However, there are a handful of simple steps that could be taken to improve the quality of reporting at Dartmouth, and in doing so focus more attention on the problems that actually exist on this campus.

I have no problem admitting that I am a fan of the Review, which provides an important and oft-neglected political and social perspective that is sorely needed in the liberal echo chamber known as Dartmouth. Its irreverence and brutal honesty is a refreshing departure from the standard campus discourse, whose reliance on in-vogue buzzwords — think diversity, inclusion, and anything that ends with –ism — threatens to make one’s ears bleed. Sometimes, though, the Review’s desire to inflame overshadows the publication’s true value, which lies with the strength of its investigative reporting. If the Review wants its work to have a real impact, it should ditch the Indian mascot and lose the self-indulgent old-boy attitude that often permeates its pages. Stories such as its exposés on the Black Lives Matter library protest and the disturbing undergraduate advisor training process deserve more attention, and putting a halt to the likely alienation of the paper’s potential audience members would be a step in the right direction.

The Dartmouth suffers from the same ill — the lack of impact of its journalism — but for a different reason; namely, the reporting this publication trots out on a daily basis rarely meets the high standards to which an Ivy League newspaper should hold itself. Friends and acquaintances have complained to me on several occasions that they have been misquoted in pieces run in The Dartmouth, and the topics which the paper normally covers are, quite frankly, uninteresting and/or unimportant. Some recent gems include articles such as the Jan. 14 piece, “Students pursue pre-professional interests on break,” and the Jan. 20 story, “Documentary screening followed by panel discussion.” Seriously? Should readers really be expected to care about the job-shadowing adventures some people experienced over the interim or that the Rockefeller Center showed a film to a crowd that included just five students? The output of the opinion section is hardly more inspiring. Because there are only so many topics to write about on a campus of this size, many articles (this one included!) invariably touch on themes that have already been addressed at some point. Repetition does not make for interesting reading.

In order to help alleviate some of the problems that plague our beloved D, I recommend that the paper switch to a thrice-a-week publication schedule. I am well aware that The Dartmouth is proud of its status as a daily publication, but giving up this lofty mantle seems like a small price to pay for the improved journalistic quality such a move might engender. Presently-overwhelmed editors would be subject to less time pressure, allowing them to more carefully select which stories to pursue as well as to more effectively ensure that news reporting, particularly interviews, has been completed with accuracy and discretion. The decreased amount of space available for content would also benefit readers, who would no longer be subject to the filler that so often appears in The Dartmouth. Writers and editors alike would have more time to engage in long-form or serialized investigative journalism on topics that need addressing, such as the disastrous financial practices the College has adopted over the past decade. Quality over quantity should be the new mantra of this paper and scaling back production would go a long way towards improving the readers’ experience without sacrificing the campus’s need to stay informed.