Letter to the editor misses a few points
December 13, 2007
In last week’s Letters to the Editor section, Michael Defenbaugh attacks the staff of the Student Voice for not checking facts and as a result, completely misinformed the campus and community about a concert on Dec. 4.
I won’t deny that any newspaper is responsible for making sure that all information printed as fact is, indeed, fact. I won’t deny that the Student Voice erred in failing to confirm the material before printing it. I won’t even deny that such a glaring mistake reflects very poorly on all the staff at the Voice and goes so far as to jeopardize the legitimacy of the entire paper. After all, if one thing could be so wrong, what else could be wrong?
I would like to make a few comments however.
But before I do so, let me state that, though I am one of the editors on the Student Voice staff, this is not the opinion of the newspaper. What is written here this week is the sole opinion of an individual with a slightly different perspective on the issue. Let me reiterate as well that I in no way argue that the Voice was at fault.
I thank Michael for calling the paper out. The campus and community does deserve to know when one of its major sources of information fails at its job. But is it really necessary to recommend, even implicitly, that students take any words printed in the Voice as something little more than fiction? While this mistake was one of substantial magnitude, how often does such an error occur in our pages? This is a newspaper that has won awards and continues to produce competition-winning works of journalism.
I personally take great offense to the disparaging comments about the student journalists who produce the Voice. Yes, we do hope to pursue careers in journalism, and we are working towards that goal. This is an environment to hone our skills—not to showcase our perfection.
Those who don’t know the process of putting out an entire newspaper, even one as small as the Student Voice, have absolutely no clue how much time and effort we put into this little bundle of paper and ink that appears without fail every Friday morning in newsstands around campus and in the community.
Not only does every person on staff spend hours of personal time to gather information, write stories, lay out pages and edit design and copy, but they do it knowing that whatever form of reimbursement there may be is worth far less than the amount of work they are putting in.
Another point is that not every single body that works for this paper sees every single article that gets published. If you think that should be changed, there’s obviously a failure of rational on this campus. Such a thing would be impractical. Even the cheapest businesses know that the key to success is delegation and a chain of command. The same goes for a newspaper, and, though in this one case we failed, usually we manage it pretty well.
We don’t write stories about a student musician who makes a mistake in a concert; we don’t see that flaw in one performance and accuse the entire program of trying to throw faulty entertainers and artists out into the world. We don’t tell people that they should never go to a concert again because somebody didn’t play a march with quite the alacrity required by the score. We don’t do that because it’s not good journalism, and even though a program may not be perfect (and I don’t know any that is), we still will hold it up for the good things that it does in spite of its flaws and encourage readers to support the events.
Finally, I would like to add that, as the one responsible for editing the letters to the editor, I found it hilariously ironic that in a complaint that put so much light on errors in the particular article, there were, in fact, more grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors than I cared to count. In all honesty, I would like to know how someone can make it through five years of college and not know how to write even such a simple document in a manner that appears only moderately professional.
Perhaps, Michael, in your criticism of the Voice, you should also take into account that the very same people you are condemning as horrible excuses for journalists are the ones responsible for making sure you aren’t exposed to the entire school and city as an illiterate with no other excuse than “I’m a music major—I don’t have to know how to write.”
Katrina Styx is a student at UW-River Falls.