Shortly after I was offered the position of Editor-in-Chief for the Pleiad at the end of last semester, I embarked on a 10-week journey of conducting my own research through Albion’s Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (FURSCA). In those 10 weeks, I sought to gain a better understanding of what makes a quality Opinions Section.
While I did find answers to that initial question, I was also left thinking about publications as a whole. Reading comprehensive and enlightening literature like Bill Kovach and Tom Rosensteil’s “The Elements of Journalism,” or Stuart Allan’s “The Routledge Companion to News and Journalism” had me thinking about journalism in ways that I never had before.
One concept that seemed to come up no matter what book on journalism I read, however, was the concept of objectivity. Moreover, it was the question of whether total objectivity is even possible in journalism.
Objectivity in journalism is a modern issue stemming from modern technology. Prior to the twentieth century, news readers weren’t presented with a plethora of news options. If a guy in your town a few miles away was the one with access to a printing press, then he was your source and you likely didn’t have any other choice.
It was only at the turn of the century with big names like Pulitzer or Ochs at the helm that journalism became more recognizable to us today. As the profession and industry continued to mature and more publications entered the scene, readers became more interested in just the facts, as opposed to some facts with lots of commentary from that guy in your town with the printing press.
In the internet age of fact checking, misinformation and disinformation, the elusive goal of objectivity has become more unobtainable and scrutinized each day. In fact, some journalist groups have sworn off promising it altogether.
As a student journalist heavily invested in the school I report for, the premise of objectivity feels even more distant. While I am still heavily invested in ensuring The Pleiad provides unbiased news content, I am also invested in two other journalistic concepts: transparency and accuracy.
I want to be transparent with you as readers to our process. We are a completely student-run publication. While we receive support from the College, the College does not review stories before publication. Each article from conception to its publication is curated by a staff of students at Albion College.
Our staff is not a part of a formal journalism program. While there are classes offered at Albion related to creating content for the Pleiad, Albion College has no journalism program to drive this publication. Instead, we are students working of our own interest and volition to publish three times weekly during the semester.
We work with a quick turnaround, often pitching and being assigned stories within a week of publication. We do this in the interest of providing as much quality coverage to our readers as possible.
Our dedication to timeliness does not come at the cost of accuracy. Part of my position is to pledge that my staffers abide by The Pleiad Code of Ethics outlined in our student handbook. This Code of Ethics aptly begins that we must take “additional steps to ensure the accuracy of everything stated as fact in the Pleiad, regardless of the source.”
While I cannot be the great mind that settles the debate over objectivity in journalism, I can promise you accuracy and transparency in our publication. Falling short of these pillars that uphold our publication would ultimately and rightfully fall upon my shoulders. If you ever think that we have missed our mark and have broken my promise, we encourage you to contact us directly so we may make the appropriate corrections.
With these principles in mind, it is my duty and honor to present the Pleiad for its 138th publishing year.
Welcome, Sam. I applaud your initial editorial and wish you well. In my era, the word “fair” owned the day. “Are we being ‘fair’ to the complexity of an issue? To competing interests? To readers’ time by writing and reporting on relevant topics? This word has been hijacked by cable television public relations entities masquerading as “news” organs. I know you will navigate these guiding principles with honesty. The campus community is fortunate for your leadership. Write on!
Proud of you, Sam 🙂 Can’t wait to see all that The Pleiad accomplishes this year with your leadership and guidance.
What a thoughtful and helpful contribution. Thank you Sam for your leadership and integrity.