It’s come to my attention recently that the Trinitonian’s mission may be unclear. Primarily, it seems to be unclear that we are an independent and unbiased publication. I can see where that confusion is coming from, so I’d like to clarify everything.
The Trinitonian is independent. We are under the university name, and in an indirect way, we receive money from the university, but that doesn’t affect our independence as a news publication. To start, the university explains in its statement of students’ rights and responsibilities that “students must have access to accurate information and be able to engage in unfettered exchange of ideas.” The university doesn’t interfere with our production in any way. Though the Board of Campus Publications, which acts as our publisher, oversees our work, it is only involved to ensure that we follow the code of ethics published by the Society of Professional Journalists. Aside from that, we’re on our own and decide ourselves what goes into the paper.
Like I mentioned, Campus Publications (which includes Mirage) does receive money indirectly from the university. Student Government Association (SGA) grants us a portion of the student activity fee (SAF), a semesterly fee that students pay when they pay their tuition. The SAF goes to a fund that our SGA allocates to registered student organizations (RSOs), university-sponsored organizations (USOs), Recreational Sports and Campus Publications.
Part of the Trinitonian’s budget comes from SGA, or rather, the SAF. Think of it as a sort of subscription to our publication. While some of the $150 per student per semester goes to funding the Welcome Week concert or to cool Trinity Diversity Connection events, some of it goes to Campus Publications, so we can produce records of Trinity’s present for the future and up-to-date news and features, among other things.
Unlike USOs, Campus Publications is guaranteed the average allocation of the past five years. This ensures that the publication cannot be shut down by SGA or the university. Neither can stifle the freedoms promised by the First Amendment, including freedom of the press. That’s just another way you can ensure that we’re accountable. We aren’t reporting to please the administration or to make sure we receive money. The university must support what we print, no matter what it is — even if it’s bad press.
The money we receive from the SAF isn’t, however, enough to fund our entire production. In fact, our advertising staff does amazing work that funds more than 60 percent of our budget. So, the money we get from the SAF just allows us to put the paper out there, in print and online. (We also pay all of our staff members, but I’ll get to why that matters later). Journalism is expensive, and it’s hard to sell ads, but the money from the SAF helps us continue to publish.
Our mission is to be an unbiased source for news and other things. And we are. Some say we aren’t since our staff appears to be majority left-leaning, which makes sense for a school that is majority left-leaning. (Wouldn’t it be curious if the news publication at this university didn’t reflect the makeup of its students?)
But even then, our staff puts journalistic ethics before anything. So when we report, we aim to cover all sides of the story. The good, the bad, the ugly. We are more aware of conflicts-of-interest. We have been better about not publishing articles with unsubstantiated claims or missing information.
We miss some things. Since we have an editorial staff of 40 or so people, we can’t cover everything. So we cover what our editorial staff agrees is most important or necessary to cover each week and what we have the staff-power to cover.
We do pay our staff. Not much, as they’ll readily tell you; once you do the math, not one staff member gets close to making minimum wage. So you can be sure we’re not in it for the money. But what these wages ensure is accountability. This isn’t just a hobby for our staff members; this is a job and a duty. Our affiliation with the university, although not directly connected, ensures a similar sense of accountability. Being overseen by the Board of Campus Publications ensures accountability. Our staff members follow the journalistic ethics we uphold through diligent reporting. We are the university’s only student-run, independent and unbiased newspaper. By that, I mean we are the only publication led by students and affiliated with the university that covers Trinity-focused things.
You’ll notice we don’t often cover things outside of Trinity, or that when we do, we somehow tie it to the community. That’s on purpose. A lot of publications can cover national news or state news or local news. Few have the opportunity to cover Trinity news, and that’s why we’re here, to try to cover as much as we can, to try to be a record for the future, to give a good representation of what’s happening on campus. We provide the Trinity community with news and information it won’t get anywhere else.
We are accountable and ethical journalists, but we can be better. We need to try to cover more things. We need to hire more students who will help our staff better represent the student population. We need to strive to be more accurate, always.
And we need to hear from you. We’re here for you, so tell us what you want done better. Tell us how we can be better. We aren’t accountable to the university or to the administration, we’re accountable to you.
| Class of 2020 | Major: English