Running a paper gives the opportunity for several people throughout the year to come knocking on your door or calling the office with complaints. Regardless, if it was something that you yourself didn’t even say, people are opinionated. Which they should be.
But as the editor-in-chief of this paper, it’s my job to defend journalistic practices. It’s my job to defend this team. It’s my job to stand by any journalist, past or present, from this paper and defend their devotion to their duties.
Admittedly, I don’t speak with as much experience as previous editors-in-chief. I’m only in my fifth week of my editorship. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to journalistic practices and integrity. I’ve been at this paper for four years, and I’d like to think that I’ve picked up a thing or two.
In the years that I’ve been here, I’ve quickly learned just how important it is to stick to your opinions and to stick your knowledge, despite what others may think. This lesson has become more evident now that I’m editor-in-chief.
In this position, my eyes have been opened a little wider to the difficulty of obtaining information. Sources don’t answer you or they claim that information is incorrect when that isn’t the case. I’ve been here long enough to know that past incidents have held us responsible for printing stories that weren’t spun in the favour of those we were writing about.
We’ve spent countless hours in the newsroom to ensure that students are getting the full story of anything they may have heard. It’s our job to search for facts. It’s our job to ask the hard questions. It’s our job to take the heat from people when we inadvertently push their buttons.
I think the job of a student journalist is immediately thrown under the rug as a legitimate profession. If we ask the tough questions, all of a sudden we become snoops. If we persist for answers, we’re annoying. The harder we try to get to the bottom of a story, the more resistance we face.
Though, it’s important that journalists keep pushing. Students have a right to know where their money goes. They deserve information on a CUPE strike or the fact that the English and drama department faces sexism in their department.
I can’t stress enough just how little credit investigative journalists get for their work and dedication to finding answers. I think people underestimate our job and publication because we’re perceived as students who take the paper too seriously, thereby making us look like just another student paper that tries too hard.
I also think another significant reason that we’re underestimated is because we’re students. Unfortunately, student journalists don’t get taken seriously, because others don’t take the publication seriously. Thereby, we all get lumped into the same category of something that can be ignored because it’s irrelevant.
But serious student journalists are the ones who bring information to the students, regardless of how difficult it is to obtain. Countless students write to us, post on our website, or even mention to me on the way to class how they want stories on this or that. And we try our hardest to bring those stories to light.
Despite my short amount of time here, I think one of my biggest qualms about any criticism thrown our way—recently or in the past—is that we’re somehow in the wrong for chasing answers. Journalists, especially student journalists, get a lot of flak for asking the questions that some people don’t want to answer.
Journalists are even depicted in this fashion in the media. The little annoying journalist who snoops too much or goes too far. Before I became a journalist, I thought the same thing of those in the field. But, when your job is to report on the facts, it’s your duty to achieve those facts.
The importance of getting both sides of the story is something any journalist tries to give the public. It’s the same with giving as much information as possible. To face backlash or complaints just comes with the job.
Student journalists are often misperceived as people who are willing to sacrifice their journalistic integrity that other, larger, papers follow. We’re young and on a smaller scale, so we have no set of journalistic principles that we follow. We’re part of a smaller paper, which somehow translates into asking us to bend the rules that every journalist follows.
In all my years here, I’ve been exposed to this numerous times. It happens even more now that I’m the editor-in-chief. I can’t explain our jobs any better than I am here.
Our job is to report the facts. There’s no hidden agenda, and we’re not out to get anyone. Students have always had the right to know where their money goes, who’s a part of the union, departmental changes, and the like. Journalists mustn’t be afraid to give students the truth, even in the face of resistance.