Transparency in the Editorial Process: Our Dean Search Coverage
You will notice that there is no article in this issue about the second dean candidate. In the spirit of transparency that we strive to bring to as many aspects of the university as possible, we feel we owe our readers an explanation of why that is, and the long editorial debate that lead to the decision to hold off — for now — on covering the dean search.
Faculty and administration raised concerns after the publication of the first article, “Mixed Reviews for First Lang Dean Candidate,” that by discussing student and faculty impressions of the candidates, and even by revealing the names of the candidates before the search was complete, we threatened the integrity of the search and, by extension, jeopardized Lang’s ability to find the best dean possible.
There is a lot riding on this search. It is crucial to the college that the next dean chosen be the best candidate possible and end up staying for more than four years, the length of the longest running of five deanships in the last decade. We understand why people would take pains to ensure that it went smoothly.
Throughout this past week of internal editorial debate over whether or not to go ahead and print the story anyway, a lot of questions were raised about what role a student paper can/should play within the larger university community. Journalism is a public service, but complications arise when it’s not clear how to best serve the community.
The initial impulse of a journalist is usually to assume that the more information is shared, the better off the community will be. It was in the spirit of this impulse that we considered printing the story despite requests not to. We were afraid that if we didn’t cover the search and the wrong person was appointed dean, we would have failed our community by not providing them with the information they needed to step in before the decision was finalized. If students and faculty had known in 2001 that Bob Kerrey didn’t have a background as an educator, they might have objected to his initial appointment as president, rather than protesting outside his house and occupying a building seven years later.
But in the end, since we haven’t yet uncovered anything to suggest that any of the candidates are unfit for the job, it was agreed that printing the story had the potential to cause more harm than good. And it is not our goal to stir up trouble for trouble’s sake; only when it’s called for.
There will be extensive coverage to come, as soon as we can provide it without getting in the way of the story we’re trying to tell.
The only problem that hasn’t yet been resolved is that we weren’t able to come to this conclusion on our own, as adults responsible for putting out a publication that serves our community, but were told, as students, that we weren’t allowed to print the story. This is the central question at hand at the moment as to how a student paper should relate to the rest of the university, and whether being published by the very body that it is our job to keep in check is the best model.
We haven’t found an answer to this question yet, and that’s part of why we decided to discuss it in this forum. We want the community that we serve to be a part of deciding how we run our paper.