Inside our pages: Some clarifications on our hippo coverage

Hippo or no? It’s time to set the record straight.

The Hatchet led its front page on Thursday with a headline reading “Univ. to phase out unofficial hippo mascot,” followed by a strongly worded staff editorial and a cartoon of former president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg walking with his weeping animal off into the sunset.

Some of these items may have given the impression that there was a senior-level decision to phase out the hippo, which is beyond the written facts of the news story. The story accurately quoted an administrator and an official overseeing the bookstore who said the school was phasing out the mascot. But the headline, staff editorial and cartoon jumped to conclusions about the origin of this decision.

Regarding the senior administration’s stance, a news editor called and e-mailed Senior Vice President for Student Academic and Support Services Robert Chernak prior to publication, but he deferred comment to trademark coordinator John Och, who was subsequently quoted in the story. Considering the article’s major implications, we should have made an extra effort to inform Chernak of the details.

That being said, it is not uncommon for reporters to speak with lower-level administrators in the course of reporting – especially when their supervisor has approved the interview. In this case, we spoke to Och about many of the licensing and trademark issues that he oversees.

After the story was published, officials said the senior administration never discussed the removal of the hippo. We have laid this out on today’s front page.

A lot of time at The Hatchet is spent ensuring the accuracy of our articles, but we are also taking steps to ensure that our headlines and staff editorials are based only on the raw facts.

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