The Observer's explanation falls short
In defense of The Observer regarding last week's alleged assault headlines, the staff made a rightful attempt to justify their reasons for allowing unconfirmed and perhaps misleading information onto the front page of our school newspaper.
Unfortunately the response did not curb my frustrations over last week's headlines, nor did it present a logical motive guiding the actions of The Observer. Instead, the Friday column twisted the philosophy behind good journalism in order to cover the staff's mistakes.
The Observer typically does a good job of presenting pertinent information to our campus. With reference to the rape allegations, they had an inarguable responsibility to report that an assault had been documented by security on Aug. 31 and emphasize that the facts were still unclear. Printing room numbers as means of increasing awareness about the incident, however, was a step away from journalistic responsibility. Suggesting that room numbers were printed as a cautionary measure five days after the incident is a moot point. If someone else had been drugged they would have known by now and would not have needed room numbers to help them figure it out. Withholding the names of people who live in these rooms while using ambiguous words like "allegedly" does not keep them from being linked to the incident. Readers will ask questions, start rumors and jump to false conclusions.
The Observer has cited such formalities of journalistic etiquette as a way to remove itself from accountability, while disregarding any oversights in the matter. Ultimately the situation has become a breeding ground for sensationalism, the stuff that tabloids, not newspapers, are made of.
It is dangerous to automatically confuse information with truth, or even a means of achieving truth. On the contrary, our culture is indebted to a series of sound bytes and half-truths, fragments that potentially transform disinformation into fact. The editorial staff should not have made themselves out to be some kind of crusaders for journalistic integrity, as Friday's column attempted to suggest. Much like the vague articles that were allowed in last week's newspaper, The Observer staff is simply confused.
Sept. 9, 2001
All Viewpoint Stories for Tuesday, September 11, 2001