Speak Out

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment, a statement plastered throughout the building I have grown quite accustomed to over my college education.

So with all I have learned and experienced, it’s my right to express it. I’m not one to sit idly by while the world spins without me. I won’t accept defeat if I see discrepancy for not only me, but others who may feel helpless in a similar position. We all deserve a voice.

Unlike previous times I’ve felt the need to speak out on my own behalf, to tell my side of a story, I left plenty of holes for outside opinions to pick apart. That wide margin of criticism was my own fault, but it’s not like I had practice doing so. Today, clear facts are dictating my actions and words. There is little room to nitpick this time. I have a valid reason to be speaking out today. This is not only for myself, but for anybody else that may have been down a similar road. Hopefully, this will prevent anybody else from enduring the same frustration.

My entire college education, I have worked for my college’s independently run student newspaper. It has been one of my favorite aspects of being at college. I’ve met great people through the newspaper and have been able to find a passion in opinion writing and editing. I even continued writing columns for the paper while in another country. I have been dedicated to preserving the paper’s integrity and high standards, its reputation as a very professional setting and publication. With every column and editorial I have written, my hard work shows.

After my one misattributed source at my previous internship, leading to the removal of every story and public scrutiny, I received an email from my editor-in-chief. Although no article I wrote as an intern directly involved my work as an opinion writer nor my position for the student newspaper or the college, it’s still fair to ask questions. She understandably looked into two past columns that I quoted students, all of which I could easily refer back to word-for-word emails. From there, I heard nothing until receiving a one-sentence email saying that my work was no longer needed. I respect her position of authority to make such a decision, but to truly learn and move forward from that, I asked her for any sort of explanation. She replied saying, “The decision has been made. I don’t think any further discussion is necessary.”

I have emailed, texted, called, and messaged both the editor-in-chief or the managing editor. I have received no response from either person. I got in touch with former and current staff members. Most have no idea what is going on, but once hearing me out and knowing my character, they stand behind me with full confidence. Upon hearing that my exit from the newspaper comes without even mentioning any sort of context to the decision, staff members have all responded with similar comments, calling the limited interaction “unprofessional.”

I’m not hiding anything I wrote because besides the one piece I wrote, every other piece was accurately attributed to credible sources. Every piece of news reporting and opinion writing has been credible, well-researched and meticulously edited. 

I have received messages from six different sources I’ve quoted in my internship articles, all of which have affirmed their accuracy. Hypothesizing this as a valid reason for my termination, I tried sending those to my editor for greater clarity beyond what has been published by other news sources, but she ultimately blocked me on social media.

At first I thought I was the only one who has faced troubles with professionally resolving concerns with the paper’s current student editors. Again, upon recently talking to former and current staff members, I now see that my semester abroad has left me in the dark to the reality of the situation. My successor as opinion editor was also let go weeks into her work, being told, “Some people aren’t made for journalism.” She ended up changing her major altogether. Another freshman and sophomore dropped their prestigious journalism scholarships. Another columnist who worked under me wrote a detailed account of why, based on my experience, he no longer will write for them. He received a single sentence: “Thank you for letting me know.”

Trying to pursue any avenue I could, I was encouraged to contact department professors for any suggestions to move forward and find some sense of justice. However, because the newspaper is independent and entirely student-run, professors really have no control over it, nor have most shown interest in getting involved. They know of what has been published, as unflattering as it has been for me, and in this smaller scale case, it’s a “personnel issue.”

I know I did all I could as an intern for a larger organization, some of it backfiring on me, but for those directly affected, I made sure to resolve anything I caused based on my actions. I’m willing to admit that yes, one of my published articles had a fault, but I stand behind the integrity of every word I write. 

However, this decision is one meant to be pushed under a rug, expecting me to remain quiet and move on. This newspaper is highly regarded on my campus and beyond. But if current leaders are not supporting their writers and treating them with respect, I do not recommend other students to get involved. If a high-contributing staff member receives not even a chance to communicate to fellow peers nor a reason for those peers’ decisions, what lesson does that teach? How does one truly move on from a situation that could and should have explanation and closure.

I do not want to associate myself with an organization that won’t stand by its members, that won’t take the time to hear those members out and receive every piece of evidence at their disposal. That in of itself demonstrates integrity, maturity, and credible journalism. I’m not willing to settle and accept a flimsy decision and general disrespect toward myself and some of the most honorable, hard-working people I’ve come across.

People deserve to know every side of any story. This is no exception. Students should especially know about the organization that is representing their voice on campus. Students of any major, especially journalism, should be able to express concern and maturely resolve conflict within student-run organizations. How they may find a resolution is a work in progress, but as with anything, awareness is key. It’s our right to learn the truth and speak out for it. If journalism itself won’t do it, then we the people will.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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