Don’t blame journalists for their job

Last week, I read a tweet by UTM Students for Life, saying that I stand with them because I wrote a couple of articles about their campaigns on campus. In case you didn’t know, over the past few weeks, UTMSFL was distributing pamphlets with photos of dead embryos, in an attempt to argue for their pro-life stance. And believe or not, when I found out about these pamphlets, I didn’t even pause to think about my views on UTMSFL’s message.

So when I saw the tweet, it took me a few seconds to actually process it. After over three years in this field, I still can’t seem to understand why people tend to assume things about the journalists’ views through neutral articles. How do you know? And what gives you the right to assume something—and publically write—about someone you only know from their neutral articles?

I don’t mind assumptions if you talk to me about them before making it public. I don’t mind assumptions if you ask me directly what you think first. That would be an easier way for you to solve your itching curiosity.

All I wanted was to report what happened, because that was my job as a news journalist. My job requires me to write a story for students while giving them space to decide on their own. That’s the reason behind neutral articles. If I wanted to write anything personal, I would go and write a blog post or an op-ed. But I didn’t—not in the news section.

In addition to the claim about my stance, there was another assumption that I am being oppressed by The Medium’s editor-in-chief, who wrote a couple of op-eds against the pro-life group. I mean, I appreciate your concern about my safety, but assuming that I’m being oppressed for the articles I wrote? Really?

Not only was that offensive to my boss, whom I really respect, but also very offensive to me on a professional and personal level. I decide on the topics, assign the roles to writers, and fact-check the content. I ask for advice whenever needed from the rest of the editing team. But the section is my responsibility. No one interferes in it unless they ask my advice or want to clarify something.

I’m a “rebel enthusiast” type of person. Everyone around me knows that. It doesn’t scare me to write something critical, as long as I believe it has a message and is important. And above all, I write neutrally. I do that all the time, not just in The Medium, but also on wider political issues on social media and sometimes, on my blog on The Huffington Post. So don’t make assumptions about my boss forcing me to cover things I don’t want, or oppressing me for writing things she doesn’t support. This isn’t how it works at all with me, with her, with the news section, or with The Medium as a whole.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just UTMFSL that I’m addressing here. I still haven’t and still won’t reveal my stance on the pro-life versus pro-choice controversy. I believe in the importance of keeping it to myself. But I’m also directing this op-ed to others who assume we report solely to make them look bad in front of students.

I started working as news editor at The Medium this year, and realized that this job is about reporting anything that people deserve to know. From the amount of things you actually report, you eventually stop thinking about your personal stance when you’re writing so that you end up with a neutral article.

One of the other controversies I witnessed this year was the hiring of UTMSU’s executive director.

Many people on campus were asking about how Munib Sajjad was hired, and I knew that this was something they deserved to know. If I wanted to write a sided article showing that I was against the process of Sajjad’s hire, I could have very easily made things up. But I didn’t.

If you actually read the article, you would find that nothing personal was stated. I left space for people to decide. So why did people have to assume that I was accusing the union of something? Merely because I asked Sajjad and the executives about his hiring in the first place?

If anyone thinks, as a result of my articles, that I’m doing this because I want to fish for mistakes, I doubt that makes me the one at fault. If anyone thinks I’m the evil figure for wanting to know the truth, then again, I doubt that makes me the one at fault.

Reporting isn’t the problem. It’s your hatred towards what the journalists report on that’s the problem.

Journalists learn to separate their views from their articles. So unless there’s a sentence that explicitly gives away any personal views in an article, don’t make assumptions about what I stand for. I don’t cover what I stand for nor what I oppose. I cover what needs to be covered. That’s what journalism is about.

Menna Elnaka
News Editor