Inside our pages: Police arrests force newspaper decisions

I was going to write about all the changes readers will notice in The Hatchet this year.

That was before I got a call at midnight Thursday night with the news that police were arresting students at local bar Marshall’s. This bust was only the beginning of a deluge of arrests over the weekend, as Metropolitan Police cracked down around Northwest D.C. to teach students a lesson about underage drinking right off the bat.

These arrests also posed us at the newspaper with ethical decisions and social dilemmas, like reporting about friends’ actions.
Some have asked how a student newspaper can report on underage drinking and seem to denounce it when, in fact, it is no secret that some students on a staff of 31 drink before they turn 21.

Our position is simple – accept the fact that drinking underage and carrying false identification are illegal and carry certain consequences. No editor or staff member at The Hatchet would expect to receive any lesser of a penalty than the students at Marshall’s Thursday night, including the possibility of seeing their name in print.

The biggest issue became whether or not to run the names of arrested students. Opinions ranged from those of the students, who begged their friends to keep their identities confidential, to truth-monger student journalists thirsty for the whole truth – names and all.

A little over a month ago, The Hatchet dealt with a story about sexual assault. The motive for not printing names of students in that story was different, a matter of policy to protect the identity of students involved in charges of that nature, but the reasoning was the same. Simply put, the point of both stories was not who the students were, but what they were doing and what was happening to them.

The report about underage drinking arrests around Northwest D.C. last weekend would not benefit from a list of names of those arrested. The point stands – MPD is out in full force, and students should think twice about using a fake ID or drinking underage, at least for a few weeks.

Surprisingly, there have not yet been reports of many residence hall violations over the weekend. Maybe GW neighbors are finally getting what they want, to keep students partying on campus and in their residence halls.

Underage students should realize that this is what they are limited to. Police are notorious for hitting local bars and clubs at the beginning of each semester, hoping the fear factor lingers and keeps kids out of trouble for months at a time. As the average SAT score of the incoming freshman class trumps any yet, one would expect that these students can also be smart on the weekends with how and where they get alcohol.

Hatchet reporters rode along with police around Georgetown’s and GW’s campus neighborhoods last weekend. Not surprisingly, they reported most of the crime the police dealt with Saturday night somehow involved college students and alcohol. These police survey the area each weekend for this purpose, not to catch murderers in Southeast. Students should be aware that cops are cruising for them when they decide to walk down the street with a red party cup.

This is why I didn’t get to announce that our features section will run only on Mondays this year, while an expanded arts section will become a Thursday-only pull-out. Or explain how a new staff structure will hopefully provide better communication with the news desk.

My column was also going to be about how readers will soon get more information from the Around Campus section on page three, including weekly Student Association and Greek-letter news columns. And how they will also look to page 2 for any corrections or clarifications to help us be more accountable for what we print. Unfortunately, those plans were dashed like so much weekend fun in the last few days, as evidenced by the amount of alcohol sitting in MPD’s Second District headquarters, waiting to be destroyed.

-The writer, a senior majoring in journalism, is Hatchet editor in chief.

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