Originally published Jan. 8, 2014

It’s syllabus week, which means that we get to relax with a sort of meta-lesson that won’t be on the first exam. It’s not particularly challenging— ok, it’s not at all challenging — but we appreciate the ability to ease into the anxiety and panic of the semester without hitting an immediate wall of adrenaline.

Although we love syllabus week as much as the rest of you, in the spirit of education, we thought we’d provide you your first true lesson of 2014.

As students, one of our first lessons at GVSU was about our role as journalists. We were supplied a standard code of ethics defined by the Society of Professional Journalists and were charged with four actions: seek and report truth, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable.

These practices keep us honest, keep us out of trouble, and help us to be good students, professionals and people, overall. And they don’t have to be specific to journalists.

We think that, if you abide by our code, you’ll find your experiences at GVSU and elsewhere far more fulfilling. So let’s take a look at how our standards translate to your personal experience.

We’ve devoted our professional lives to seeking truth. So have you. Throughout the semester, you’ll crack open textbooks, pick the brains of your professors and mentors, and soak in hours of lectures. All for what? Truth. And you’ll find that the rest of your lives — no matter if you become an engineer or a lawyer — you’ll continue to seek and report truth in your respective field.

As journalists, we must remind ourselves that our allegiance is to truth before anything — or anyone — else. As you toil throughout the semester, don’t let yourself forget the purpose of your education, profession and existence: seek truth, report it, and make the world smarter and stronger than you found it.

The next point is to minimize harm. This principle will help you not as a professional, but as a human being. Just avoid hurting others, and you’ll avoid hurting yourself.

Act independently. As journalists, we maintain no obligation to outside forces and we reject agendas other than disseminating truth. Do the same. Don’t let yourself be controlled by other people with personal agendas. Act how you believe you should act, and define your mission for yourself.

And be accountable. Just as we’re meant to run corrections for our mistakes, be quick to admit yours and make amends. Take criticism — in fact, encourage it — and then do something to become a better student, better professional and better person.

So there’s your lesson for this slow, dry syllabus week. Do with it what you will.

And don’t forget to collect your semi-weekly bout of knowledge in this newspaper and let the Lanthorn be your guiding light for all things current.


Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2014/01/the-purpose-of-the-paper