Analysis: opinion checking the News section

Photo credit: Gettysburg College Flickr

Photo credit: Gettysburg College Flickr

By Joshua Wagner, Copy Editor

Since 1897, The Gettysburgian has been the unbiased documentation of campus history.

110 years later, the News section of The Gettysburgian carries on the tradition of providing accurate, unbiased, and timely articles concerning the happenings of Gettysburg College’s campus.  On occasion, typos or wrong figures leaked through, but overall, the editing procedure sustained the quality of these articles.

With this in mind, it was with great surprise that I unfolded my copy of The Gettysburgian on February 23rd to find that an article about boxes found its way above the fold on the front page.  This was particularly surprising because for that week, I was the News Editor!  Reading through the article, I found something dreadful – a pair of double quotes encapsulating the phrase: “strictly factual.”

What does this even mean?

Was The Gettysburgian directly quoting someone or was the writer sassily wagging a pair of air-quotes when he typed this sentence?  Surely the News Editor would catch this ambiguity.  He had, and he was confused.

Horror struck when I looked below the fold.  Behold!  An article that I had never even seen sat before me.  While perusing it, I wondered to myself whether this was a fair and unbiased report.  It was heavily critical of the Student Senate’s policy to not allow club representatives to vote.

The article failed to include any counter arguments; however, it did include the words, “Marogi said,” seven times.  While I am friends with Biosphere’s Senate representative, I think an unbiased front page story might not need seven of his opinions.  Perhaps six?

As this was my last time serving as News Editor, I thought that I would check the online edition to make sure everything looked alright.  More surprises awaited.  An article entitled Analysis: Fact Checking GACC’s Library Display was featured in the News section.  This was the second article that I did not have the pleasure of editing.

Recently I have received some flack for my high standards for the News section as a member of The Gettysburgian staff, but I insist this article did not qualify.  Its reuse of “strictly factual” set the tone for what could have been a superb opinions piece.

One overarching theme of this article was that Musselman Library’s wall of paper boxes contained statements that were with one partial exception, true.  However, the writer admonished the library for being biased and had recommendations for what information, “probably should be included.”  These suggestions, known to many as opinions, were spread throughout the article.

Fact-checking in itself can be news, but fact-checking is dry and lacks sensationalism.  Do we print to increase readership or to relay accurate, unbiased, important information?  To that end, I would rather see the paper maintain its reputation than have papers flying off the shelves.

How do we maintain that reputation?  Let writers write and editors edit.  Perhaps if The Gettysburgian allowed enough time for editors to preview what was printed in their own section this problem would be solved.  To put it succinctly, the paper should be held to the same standards of “balanced presentation,” that it expects from the library.

If this means that the newest news is not printed, so be it.  Only well developed, researched, and edited stories deserve to be printed.  Anything less is a dishonor to the long and venerated history of The Gettysburgian.

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7 Comments

  1. I find it interesting that the GACC fact checking article that you have such an issue with was written by the same person who now holds your former position. Sour grapes, perhaps?

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    • Or perhaps an important insight into the troubling state of The Gettysburgian’s management. Changes need to be made. A good place to start would be for members of the paper’s leadership to refrain from making anonymous comments on their own website under the name ‘Hmm’, as I believe is the case here, and to address potential problems with the publication head on. Word has it that the author of this editorial is not the only member of The Gettysburgian staff with concerns regarding the integrity and balance of the paper.

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      • Actually Anthony, although it does seem at first glance that the comment was posted by a certain member of the editorial staff, we verified prior to publication of this comment that it was in fact from a community member not connected to the paper. I implore you to please do us the courtesy of refraining from making baseless accusations in the future.

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      • Oops! I apologize for the anonymous name. I typically use one if I comment online in forums I am unfamiliar with, and out of habit I simply failed to include my real one. I’m Alexa Secrest, a First-Year.
        I don’t have a dog in this fight, and I do not know Josh or Ben well, but attacking one’s colleague so publicly just seemed inappropriate to me.

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  2. Let’s only post comments with names attached, shall we? What are we – a newspaper or Yik-Yak? As for sour grapes, I believe an editor should be able to preview articles in his/her section. My issue here is not with Ben, but with the larger issue of a student led paper not sending articles through the appropriate section editors.

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    • Again, I apologize for the name. I have never commented before and am used to doing so anonymously on sites with which I am unfamiliar. I agree that a student led paper should send articles through their respective sections, but like I stated in a comment above, calling a colleague out publicly seemed harsh to me. Just an observation…

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  3. I love how publicized the Gettysburgian schism is.

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