In response to Alex Kingsbury’s “Police net local students (Sept. 3, p. 1),” Andrew Snow’s photograph and Kate Stepan’s opinion article “Police arrests force newspaper decisions (Sept.3, p. 4),” I am quite disappointed in the newspaper’s handling of its coverage of the situation at.
The fact that the Hatchet decided it to be a good idea to print distinguishable photographs of those arrested baffles me. I really wonder what the paper or its readership had to gain from the publishing of those photographs. “Simply put, the point of both stories was not who the students were, but what they were doing and what was happening to them,” said Stepan in her opinion piece. If the point of the story was not who the students were, why did she and her editorial board approve two photographs of those students where their identities were clearly discernible?
Stepan assumes to take the role of advocate for the students in stating that the point was to warn them that “MPD is out in full force” so they should just lie low and drink in their dorms for a while. She goes even further with the implication that the newspaper’s decision was objectively based and that the students were lucky that their names were not printed. Its decision not to print names but publish photographs was the Hatchet editorial board’s idea of satisfying its struggle between confidentiality and the paper’s “truth-monger student journalists thirsty for the whole truth – names and all.” The search for truth should not be overshadowed by the hunger for sensationalism.
I also have issue with Stepan’s challenging of the students’ intelligence and responsibility. Neither she nor the Hatchet nor the readership should presume to know the details of each individual’s situation and then, especially, be quick to pass judgement based on those presumptions. Responsibility (and irresponsibility) go all around – even to members of the board and staff, who should probably refrain from discussing their editorial decisions, especially controversial ones, around campus and in their classrooms.
I do believe that the Hatchet was attempting to do something decent and honorable for its student readership. I also have not lost my belief in the integrity and purpose of the publication, nor my respect for Stepan and the tough position she holds. However, the point is that a decision to omit a couple of photographs and even reconsider some choice of language would not have sacrificed the integrity or purpose of the piece and could have avoided controversy.