L’editor: It’s your story, but our story to tell

Dear sources,

A student reporter’s job description is not up to you.

Their job is, first and foremost, a learning experience. Every quarter new students sign up and we start from scratch. Journalism is a very hard writing style to adapt to. It is precise, unbiased, and concise.

Students learn how to write articles without using their voice, something they’ve most likely been fine tuning throughout their educational career. The stories assigned are news features—our goal as a newspaper is to inform, not influence.

Students need to reprogram their brains, while interacting with their sources and taking any other obligations seriously. It can be daunting and students who walk into it with fervor and confidence deserve a pat or two on the back.

However, in rare instances, things don’t go as planned.

One of my writers recently came to me describing a concerning situation with a source, which then prompted me to clarify the duties of student journalists.

This source verbally abused and intimidated the writer assigned to the story. The source was clearly very passionate about the subject, but that is in no way an excuse for their actions.

If we call on you for your expertise, it’s for just that reason: you are the expert. We abide by the SPJ Code of Ethics, which states that we treat “sources, subjects, colleagues, and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.”

This principle is a two-way street. If a reporter is treated unjustly or disrespectfully they can’t opt to leave that source out of their story completely. A reporter should always treat people with grace and care, and receive the same back. Make sure you are on the correct side of the road.

Community involvement is a vital aspect in journalism. At the Horizon, we try to write stories that our community can connect with. Which is why you are the most important source.

Our students take this job as seriously as it calls for. If I assign an intense story to one of my writers, it is with confidence that they will tread carefully and thoughtfully throughout.

As an interviewee, you cannot and should not tell a writer what to write. The best you can do is answer their questions, and supply any other helpful information you may have.

If you do not have the information needed, please point us in the direction of someone who does. Preferably someone who frequently checks and replies to emails (thank you very much).

If you want your message in our paper, stay focused, on point, and clear during the interview. We are not here to promote for free.

Demanding that we further your specific agenda is missing the entire point. If you want to promote your own ideology, you can purchase ad space.

Stories that we publish always lead back to student life here at Whatcom Community College. We cater to our crowd, and our sources aren’t always part of the audience. This information is for students and staff at Whatcom to peruse.

Besides, students bring story ideas to the table and the Editor in Chief assigns them. It is then their job to ask any and all clarifying questions pertaining to their topic.

It’s the same chain of command you see behind the scenes of a movie set. You, the readers, are the audience; you keep us in business. Our newspaper is the film, and the stories are different scenes. Our writers are the actors, they don’t control the script they tell the story to the best of their ability, but the script is not up to them.

As the editor I’m considered the director. At the end of the day I call the shots. If you have an issue with our latest issue take it up with me, not my cast. Better yet, write a letter to the editor. Even though we don’t write with emotion, journalists do have feelings.


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