After last week’s student government election in which we (the editorial board) made an unprecedented endorsement of a slate, many readers questioned whether it was appropriate for the university’s student-run newspaper to make such a move.
Many readers questioned our objectivity and fairness. ‘Can they do that?’ many of you asked. And to that we answer, YES.
The business calls it watchdog journalism. It is our duty in our role as journalists to provide the Temple community with information vital in their decision-making process. As we say in media, we don’t tell people what to think, we tell them what to think about. We provide a forum in which free, responsible dialogue can take place.
Our Code of Ethics says it all: “Campus publications are a valuable aid in establishing … an atmosphere of free and responsible discussion on campus. Thus, the paper acts as a public forum for expression of numerous ideas and opinions.”
In our news pages, we make a persistent effort to be fair, balanced and accurate in our reporting, which is what we did in our coverage of this year’s election. Reporters from our staff covered every debate and reported each slate’s platforms. This was on page 3 of our news section on day one of the elections.
We feel that it is important for you, our readers, to differentiate between fact-based reporting and commentary. That difference is highlighted in our opinion and editorial pages each week.
Each issue, we tell you what we think on any given issue. The week before the TSG elections, we told you what we thought about the allegations of rape against members of Duke University’s lacrosse team. Last week was no different – just closer to home.
As a staff, we are entitled to have an opinion and express it on our opinion pages. The point of those pages is not to be objective, but to tell you what we think and hopefully encourage you to consider opposing views.
Make no mistake, however. The same amount of reporting and researching that is present in all of our other sections is present in our opinion pages. The key difference being that the goal of those sections is not to persuade.
In journalism, endorsing candidates for public office is nothing new. This is merely an example of us utilizing our right to freedom of the press to persuade you to make decisions that we believe are crucial to your livelihoods as students.
Many newspapers, including our local Philadelphia Inquirer, in 2004 endorsed Sen. John F. Kerry (D., Mass.) for president of the United States.
We pride ourselves in being the watchdog for the community and we believe that as a staff, we wholly researched this election and felt that we were learned enough to pick a candidate for endorsement.
We can only hope that from this experience, you understand the important difference between fact-based reporting and commentary.