Every newspaper and other news source has to handle questions from readers when they report on negative news, from the angry parties involved to readers who do not understand the reasons behind reporting on such news. The misunderstanding of news media hinders our ability to properly inform our readers.
Last week’s report on Clarke Cuthbert’s arrest sparked a new round of questions. We would like to publicly field these questions in the hopes of deepening your understanding of our newspaper and why we report on such news. While the Cuthbert situation reignited these questions, they arise often to any news source, big or small. They have been raised to our newspaper several times this school year.
The overarching question brought up many times to our editors over the past week was why did we report on the arrest in the first place?
Being in the news business, our first duty is to report important news which affects the campus, and an arrest of a student and charge for two Class Four felonies is very important news to the campus. Without our reporting on the arrest, most students wouldn’t have known of this event.
It is never the goal of our reporting to cause harm to any individual or organization. Our goal is to inform the reader; this arrest is important to our readers because of the large amount of drugs that Cuthbert was charged with possessing.
Some of our readers brought up the worry that we reported on this news because we are a puppet of the college or the Public Relations Office. We stand by our motto of being “Student run, student written, student read,” and we see very little oversight from the college.
The Broadcast, Internet and Publications Board (BIP) helps with our funding and provides a very light oversight of the newspaper. This includes selecting the Editor-in-chief each year and setting a budget. The only other time that BIP directly interacts with the staff of TKS is during gross misconduct or other inappropriate actions by the newspaper. Certainly BIP can cut our funding or reprimand us for misconduct, but the Board and the college administration have a deep respect for our newspaper, even while reporting news that is negative for the school.
It was also questioned why we name the location or individual involved in stories like this. The article used information from court documents, which are public record, and the newspaper is the only other outlet for this public record to get to the public. The protection of identity only comes up during cases that involve minors, sexual assault or similar cases.
While you are allowed to disagree and be upset over unfavorable news, we hope that you can understand why we report on this news. You are always welcome to provide your view on the situation by writing a letter to the editor.
Certainly we feel better when we report on good news, but our first job is to inform our readers, and bad news is a vital but unfortunate side of our news product.