Recently, our colleagues at The Hatchet, George Washington University’s student newspaper, started publishing a feature at the top of its opinion section called “What the university won’t talk about this week”. Flyer News isn’t at that point yet, but many times this year administrators have declined to comment based on the perceived negative effect a story would have.
In this issue, Flyer News published a story on attendance at Ash Wednesday Mass. Flyer News hit a speed bump during the news gathering process.
An email sent through the chain of command at Flyer News details how Campus Ministry officials had questions about the angle of the story, and would withhold details from Flyer News without first knowing why we’re covering the story the way we intended. One official said there were other angles they would better support.
Administrators have every right to decline to comment, and we respect that right. But administrators should recognize who loses when they decide to keep quiet. As The Hatchet’s editor-in-chief, Priya Anand, told the Student Press Law Center about the paper’s decision: “It hurts reporting when you don’t give out info … but it hurts the reader more than the journalist at the end of the day. You pay tuition to go here, and that makes you a stakeholder.”
We agree. We want to give voice to Campus Ministry – and every stakeholder in our community. That’s why Flyer News decided to run the story, “Masses see spike in attendance numbers on Ash Wednesday,” to shed some light on a phenomena even discussed during homilies: people go to Ash Wednesday Mass in numbers exceeding the routine.
The Campus Ministry official correctly acknowledged that stories published in Flyer News affect student attitudes toward Campus Ministry. We’re keenly aware that what we choose to print matters. That’s why we believe Campus Ministry’s voice matters, and why the absence of its voice disappoints us.
It is the express mission of Flyer News to serve the campus community in a manner befitting a Catholic, Marianist university. Accordingly, we choose to cover these stories because we believe the success of Campus Ministry is integral to the character, health and vitality of our institution.
There are ways to gather information outside of the traditional university spokesperson. In this case, we were able to write a fair and accurate story despite an attempt to change the trajectory of our efforts.