To be a public forum. To be a public record. To be a public source of news. These are three parts of the Trinitonian’s mission as the sole independent student-run news publication on Trinity’s campus. Generally, we maintain all three with ease.
We are editors of content. Our staff members are trained to seek out and report the truth, and we hold ourselves highly accountable.It’s an easy feat, until it’s not. Being a news publication on such a small campus is harder than it looks. As one of our staff members, you could be a supervisor of your peers. You probably will report on your classmates, and you may receive opinion columns that mention administrators that you see walking around daily.
Aside from the Trinitonian’s mission to produce unbiased journalism, there are additional pressures that we have to think about to maintain accountability and to maintain trust.
Now, you think it’d be easy to balance accountability and trust; if you’re accountable, you’ll be trusted. Be consistent and be honest, and your audience will continue to trust you. But that’s not necessarily the case within such a small community.
If you write a story about how four black students were appointed as residential assistants in the spring but lost their jobs before the end of that semester, you have to expect that the Residential Life Office may feel less willing to speak with you the next time you’re running a story about their staff, even if you give straight facts
If you publish a column that two students wrote about the aforementioned ResLife situation, you need to give those writers the space to tell their stories and describe their experiences. However, you can’t just print it because it’s a guest column. You trust, but must verify.
We stand by our mission to be a public forum, but at the same time, we’re also a source of unbiased, honest news for the campus community. So, we comb through everything we publish. Is it substantiated? Can we confirm this happened? What does this language imply? Is it editorialized?
There is an extremely fine line between censorship and free speech, and it’s a line we are aware of with every issue we publish. We cannot just publish anything because we have to keep in mind our accountability. We cannot censor guest columns because we have to maintain our readers’ trust.
So, what do you do? You keep trying. You go back and forth with your fellow editors and fellow journalists, you dissect every sentence and every word, and you think about your accountability and your trust. And you make it look easy.