STAFF ED: Nature of Journalism
For this issue, the piece, “Undermining Purpose” on page 42 was intended to be the Staff Editorial. The Globe staff encountered difficulties reaching a consensus on that piece. In the process, the staff learned an important lesson about the nature of journalism.
November 3, 2017
Every Tuesday morning at 7:25 A.M., the full staff of the CHS Globe meets to discuss weekly news, as well as progress on the current month’s Globe issue. This Tuesday morning, however, was somewhat different.
The meeting began as usual, with all of us taking a short quiz on the past week’s events in the world and then discussing the answers. But when we approached the topic of this month’s staff editorial, the meeting slowed down.
The original editorial, “Undermining Purpose” (appearing on page 42) concerned Black Lives Matter demonstrations and similar protests, especially those following the acquittal of Jason Stockley, the St. Louis police officer who fatally shot Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011.
It is unusual for the staff to spend so much time discussing a single article, but the staff editorial is intended to express the views of the whole staff, and there was a clear divide in the group’s opinions pertaining to the piece.
Some of us disagreed entirely with the message, while others were more accepting. The closest the staff came to reaching consensus was that many of us felt that the staff editorial should be written with more careful, less blunt wording.
This subject is not only controversial, but also sensitive; a human being was shot, and no matter how any of us feel about the circumstances, that death is a tragic event.
Originally, we planned to run the editorial after simply having made some changes. But after the discussion, which took up the vast majority of our morning meeting, it seemed as though there was simply too much disagreement around the topic to use the original editorial.
The events surrounding this staff editorial will affect the way we will write for The Globe in the future — in a positive way. For instance, when we planned on using an altered version of the original staff editorial, a survey was sent out to each member of the staff, and writers were encouraged to read the editorial and vote on whether or not they agreed with its message. If staff members did not agree, they were given the option to write in what they wanted to be changed.
We plan on adopting this method of utilizing online voting for every staff editorial written in the future. Even though we don’t always write on such controversial topics, we now more fully understand the value of seeking everyone’s opinion, as, again, the staff ed is meant to express the overall view of the entire staff.
As journalists, we value disagreement over issues. Even more than that, we value discussion about those disagreements.
People will naturally have varying opinions on all subjects, especially controversial ones. By creating an environment that celebrates those civil debates, we can improve the way we write. While we don’t have to be ambivalent, it is important to recognize the many facets of the issue about which we have chosen to write.
Another matter we must realize is that Clayton is a place of relative privilege (not to say that each individual student does not face struggle), and we must acknowledge this in our writing.
We have always strived to recognize the historical significance and context of the modern issues we explore in our writing. Because some of us felt that the original staff ed did not take these matters into consideration, we are now even more aware of the importance of this background and framework.
Our difficulty in reaching consensus for this issue’s staff editorial gave us the opportunity to discuss the importance of noticing our own privilege, considering context, and incorporating that into the tone of our articles.
These disagreements have opened our eyes and sharpened our skills as journalists.
Despite the disruption to our normal writing process, we do not see the original staff editorial as a failure.
Rather, we see it as an opportunity to discuss the nature of journalism.