Originally published March 9, 2014
Co-written with editorial board
The announcement of a “teach-in” in conjunction with the present Intercultural Festival greatly excited us. We’re all for fighting ignorance and righting misunderstandings.
And it’s really brilliant to expand the Intercultural Festival to encompass more than ethnicity. Religious and gender cultures are similarly prevalent at Grand Valley State University, as are various other subsets, which each work to counter specific stereotypes and misconceptions.
Although it may not be so obvious, the media enjoys a culture entirely its own. And we dwellers of the newsroom fight misconceptions of our own, too. To contribute to the intercultural celebration and teach-in and to increase competency of our culture, we’ve outlined a few corrections:
Misconception no. 1: “The Lanthorn is a mouthpiece of, well, anyone.”
We have no allegiance but to truth. That’s one of our principles outlined by the Society of Professional Journalists.
The purpose of The Lanthorn is to provide truthful information to the student body and shed light on both the good, questionable and negative things that happen in the GVSU community. We strive to be a critical voice for all and therefore rise above restrictions such as prior review or any form of censorship.
As such, demands from student organizations, departments or administrative offices to cover events or push features directly contrast with the purpose of the newspaper. Being a separate entity from each of these groups, we work to provide important news to the community instead going where we are directed or to those people or groups who speak loudest.
It is important to note that we welcome and encourage any news tips and requests for coverage. However, we are not public relations representatives.
Misconception no. 2: “The Lanthorn staff are full-time professionals with no lives.”
Believe it or not, but some of us in the office are goody-goody honors students with course loads upwards of 19 credits. We are very devoted to news, which is why we limit our precious free time to put out your paper every week, but we are also — in a lot of cases — Type A students trying to maintain 4.0s. So admittedly, we cannot always skip class or blow off term papers to capture news before some of the professional full-time journalists at local news outlets.
Our writers manage about eight hours per week, our editors sometimes work 20, the advertising staff rarely leaves the office at all, and we each have to factor in class time, study time and (if we’re lucky) a few seconds to eat.
So the next time we neglect to cover an event that you alerted us to three hours in advance, understand that we can’t always adjust our schedules to accommodate your last-minute advertising.
Misconception no. 3: “If something goes wrong, blame only the journalist. Or only the editor. Or only the photographer.”
Our organization relies on a complex network of checks and balances, as well as teamwork. The editorial, alone, is typically co-written by three or four editors, and every article passes through the hands of at least four people before being printed. If a mistake is made, we’re all a little at fault.
Of course, some are more responsible for the error than others, but one person is rarely to blame.
Misconception no. 4: “The Lanthorn doesn’t care about being accurate; journalists are lazy.”
Unlike doctors, lawyers or other professionals, journalists don’t have to pass any kind of standardized exam or gain any kind of certification in order to practice our craft. As such, our reputations are all that we have to let others know that we are qualified to do what we love to do. If a journalist makes a mistake big enough, it can end their career.
Unfortunately, when writers are up against a deadline and they’re getting contrasting information from multiple sources, mistakes happen. We certainly try our hardest to report the most accurate and truthful news we can as a service to our campus, do what we can to keep GVSU students well-informed, and watch out for any occurrences that don’t serve the students’ best interests.
The culture of the newsroom may be foreign to many, so if you’re curious about how we operate, don’t make assumptions or push misconceptions. Just ask. Because again, we align ourselves with truth.
Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2014/03/newsroom-culture