In my past year as the Editor-in-chief of The Knox Student (TKS), I feel like every time I have met another journalist, we always discuss the topic of making people angry. I remember sitting across from student journalists from another school at the Illinois College Press Association (ICPA) conference this past winter, and the first thing their advisor asked me was, “Who have you made enemies with this year?”
I thought about it, and realized that there were a handful of people that would probably never be particularly happy to see me again. But then I also thought, isn’t this a rather antagonistic way to think about journalism? I don’t want it to be the reputation of journalism, something that exists to be negative towards other people. I have always wanted to pursue journalism to tell stories that might not be told elsewhere and to hold accountable the people that conceal the truth about what they do, especially if it affects other people in an unjust way.
But as I thought about it more, I realized, there is nothing wrong with making people angry—as long as you’re doing it to the right people.
A story that sticks out most in my mind when I think about this is a story I wrote about an underage Knox student being arrested for alcohol consumption. In the course of writing the story, I discovered that while the student being arrested might have been a fact of what happened, the story was not in the arrest, but in the police officer’s treatment of the student. After I learned from several students that witnessed the incident that the officer’s treatment of the student seemed less than appropriate, I asked the cop what he did. While other students said that he allegedly tried to kick the student to the ground, the officer denied this phrasing and said, “That would have been a leg sweep.” A student also asked the officer for his badge number, and he did not provide it.
“I wouldn’t ever pay attention to them,” he said, “I don’t have to provide that.”
To quote a lieutenant of the Galesburg Police Department in that same story, “The officer should have provided it [his badge number].”
Even though that was, by anyone else’s measure, a small story in the course of the year, it was one I was still proud of. It was a chance to make someone be accountable for something they did wrong and to me that is a large part of what journalism is about. To me, it’s perfectly fine to p*ss someone off if they’ve already been the perpetrator of a wrongdoing. It’s part of what makes this job great. We here at TKS have made a lot of sacrifices for this newspaper. Those of us who are of age have never or almost never attended a senior meeting because our production night is always Wednesday. Some of us have had to give up taking Wednesday night classes, since we would never produce a newspaper if the whole staff were gone for three hours.
But even so, I think it has definitely been worth it. We have accomplished something great this year. We won second place in General Excellence at ICPA, and I think in large part that is due to how well we balance as members of a team. It’s not always easy to create an editorial letter every week that represents the opinion of every editor, nor is it easy to deal with the constant criticism when you work a thankless job. But I always remember how lucky I am, and how lucky we all are, to be a part of a student newspaper that is completely controlled by students and undergoes no prior review by staff or faculty members before each issue is put online and released to campus in print. It is things like this that make me grateful for having made Knox my school, a place that does give us authority over what we print, and also therefore gives us 100 percent of the responsibility when we f*ck something up. It’s been a sometimes painstaking but worthwhile learning curve.
One of the most important things I want to mention is our team of writers. I would like to sincerely thank everyone that has written for TKS this year; y’all don’t get paid, but you still put so much effort into what you do. Therefore, you are badasses. It takes people who care about reporting outside of monetary compensation to uphold journalism, too. Give yourselves a pat on the back.
To the new staff: good luck and stay weird. I sincerely hope that all of us seniors here at TKS will go forward to bigger, better things, to educate and p*ss off many more deserving people in the future.
Class of 2011
Editor-in-chief of TKS