In taking the position of Editor-in-Chief, I expected the stresses of deadlines, dreary late nights and incessant Google Calendar alerts. Less-expected, however, was the continuous challenge of obtaining sources for stories. It’s my fourth year on this campus, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned to be certain, it’s that every Occidental Tiger has an opinion — and, more often than not, a powerful one. When approached by “the media,” however, I’ve noticed that many of us tend to stay silent, plead for anonymity or provide just vague enough quotations to ensure that we avoid all possibilities of stirring up potential controversy.
Perhaps it’s the recent political rhetoric of labeling the media “the most dishonest human beings on earth” — a topic former Editor-in-Chief, Jane Drinkard ’17, eloquently covered in her first letter to the student body. Maybe it’s the dread of institutional conventions: fears of being judged by your peers or having an “Oxy Confession” written in your honor. Cyber anonymity has given free reign to those with extreme and often problematic opinions. This is our reality, but we cannot live in fear of speaking our minds, confirming facts and participating in our right to a free press.
During my four years on The Weekly, I’ve watched countless informative, timely and crucial stories remain unpublished due to a hesitancy on behalf of solid sources to speak to us on the record. The Occidental Weekly aims to maintain high standards by strictly adhering to the Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) Code of Ethics. We strive to never publish quotes out of context, to respect our sources’ requests when they ask to speak off the record, to remain neutral and unbiased — and if we don’t, I expect you to call us out on it. Seriously.
The student body’s trust is our main priority. Without it, I wouldn’t expect any of you to consider us a reputable source of information. Trust is something we’ve been working diligently to maintain. Last year, we prioritized the inclusion of diverse voices in our opinions section, and this year I hope to expand our diversity of voices by beginning a dialogue with our local community through reallocating print to local businesses, partnering with local publications and increasing community coverage. We at The Weekly — through fair coverage, equal representation and transparency — will continue to work to obtain and maintain your trust.
When you hear something, see something, think something, talk to us. We are here to serve as the pulse of the Occidental campus, and your input is what allows us to serve you best. The media is a powerful tool, and it’s your tool. Without it, we could not hold powerful institutions accountable — our current leaders have highlighted very clearly just how threatened they feel by journalists. To refuse to contribute to The Weekly is to forfeit your right to a free, unbiased and fair press. Furthermore, a story that goes unpublished due to a lack of participation from sources becomes a huge disservice to the student body. Your peers have a right to know what takes place on their campus.
So, as we all enter the Fall 2017 semester, I want to ensure that we (The Weekly staff) and you (our student body) create and maintain a consistent and productive dialogue. I expect to hear your frustrations, to represent your concerns and to be held accountable when you feel we are not doing our best to serve you. I encourage you to meet with us, speak to us, write us letters to the editor and come to us when you hear of injustices on our campus. We are your resource, and I hope you will take advantage of all that we strive to offer.