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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Setting the record straight: allow us to reintroduce ourselves

Since 1905, The Middlebury Campus has worked to inform our community of important issues through reliable student reporting. Like most print publications in the United States, we contribute to public discourse by publishing factual news pieces and articulating arguments. As a student newspaper, our purpose comes from telling the stories that matter the most to our college community . 

However, we’ve noticed some confusion about our process, values and goals. So allow us to reintroduce ourselves and set the record straight. Our paper includes dozens of student writers, 30 editors and six sections — a sizable team working together to produce a 12-page paper every Thursday. Within each issue, there are four sections devoted to reporting factual information on news, local issues, sports and the arts. 

As a whole, the newspaper has two distinct roles. One is in our news section, which reports objectively and independently, without outside influence. These stories are objective and undergo a rigorous editing process to ensure they are accurate. The other is in the space we offer for our opinions, both in op-eds and our own opinion through our weekly editorial. While these pieces are subjective and opinionated, they are still thoroughly fact-checked and edited to ensure we only provide verifiable information to our readers. 

The news section in our paper is dedicated to objective, factual reporting on critical issues on campus such as vandalism, crimes and controversial policies. In recent weeks we have encountered multiple individuals, departments and programs that have attempted to exercise editorial control over our news section. They have claimed that reporting on an issue perpetuates the injury of the original incident. We argue that letting valuable stories on campus stay unwritten in the name of conflict transformation or keeping the peace would be to promote ignorance and silence the truth. The Campus is a student-run paper, but we are independent and have a crucial role to play in the college community. 

Our opinions section is a place for people from every corner of the community to express their voices. We work with writers to verify information and craft the strongest version of their argument, whether we agree with it on a personal level or not. 

In our editorial, we bring the varied opinions of the board together into one unified 800-word argument. While we act as a single voice, we all list our names in each issue of the paper as proud members of the Editorial Board. Our editorials are consistently our most read articles on the website. Whether or not you agree with the argument we make in our editorial, it serves as a starting point for productive conversations about issues on campus and beyond. 

As a newspaper, we value gathering facts, reporting objectively and representing a broad range of perspectives in our coverage. We are only human, however, and sometimes we make mistakes. We have an obligation to own up to our factual errors and issue a correction. It is impossible to expect us to always get everything right, but you can trust us to inform you when we make a mistake.

Last week, for instance, we published an endorsement for one of the SGA presidential candidates. After speaking at length with each presidential team about their policies and experiences, we as an Editorial Board made a unanimous decision to recommend what we believed was the best choice for SGA president based on our meeting. Our decision to do so followed precedents in previous years. Furthermore, it is common in the United States for independent newspapers to endorse candidates, as well as to research candidates and provide voters with an election guide. 

We stand by our decision to both report objectively and editorialize on the candidates. We have called for civic engagement on all levels, from the national presidential election to SGA elections, and we were glad to see voter turnout increase in this year’s election.

Writing an op-ed or a letter to the editor to be published in The Campus is more productive and meaningful than anonymously posting on an online forum. For a community that values belonging and positive change, we must get our information from reputable sources and engage with each other in a respectful, open forum. 

We call on all members of our community, including students, faculty, staff and alumni, to participate in productive dialogue through The Middlebury Campus. We aim to provide open space for factual information and diverse perspectives. We welcome respectful disagreements, requests for clarification and notifications of our errors. 

This is the power of the paper; by putting our name behind a fact-checked and edited argument in a reputable publication, a newspaper can inspire positive change within the community. 

We encourage people to send tips, write op-eds and submit letters to the editor. Clubs and organizations, such as It Happens Here, Middlebury College Republicans and Blackbird Arts Journal have used our forum to spread awareness about how they want to impact the Middlebury experience for the better. If you truly take issue with our weekly editorial, write us a letter to the editor.

So now that we’ve reintroduced ourselves, we invite you to do the same. Share what you believe in, what you would like to see differently or what you’ve learned while at Middlebury.