On Dec. 2, former President Jimmy Carter called out Yale on the issue of sexual assault. It was a memorable moment. “You can’t just warn a boy and chastise him — that doesn’t help,” Carter said. The audience cheered. University President Salovey appeared “visibly uncomfortable,” according to a News report (“Carter to Salovey: punish rapists,” Dec. 3). The moment reverberated around the Twitterverse and was picked up by a number of national publications.
“Jimmy Carter decries discrimination, violence against women,” ran the headline in YaleNews. Yet this article did not mention the comments Carter made that were critical of Yale. It did not mention that he had confronted Salovey to his face; it did not mention the audience’s enthusiastic response. Instead, its lede read, “In an open forum at Yale on Dec. 2, Jimmy Carter, the 39th U.S. president, spoke about the world’s discrimination and violence against women and girls, which he believes is the most serious, pervasive and ignored violation of basic human rights.” The article did mention that Carter discussed rape on college campuses, but it did not quote his comments about Yale. At all.
This article struck me as both odd and totally predictable. Odd in that the article completely omitted the most newsworthy — and, indeed, important — moment of Carter’s appearance. And totally predictable because I didn’t really expect YaleNews to do more.
I don’t mean to insult or pick on YaleNews. In many respects, it serves a valuable purpose. It was created in 2011 to serve as a sort of “Huffington Post” for all Yale-related news, YaleNews Editor LuAnn Bishop told the News in 2011. The site adopted a user-friendly interface and expanded the multimedia offerings of its predecessor, Yale Bulletin. The new site “allows us to showcase the rich diversity that’s here at the University and allows various voices to come through as we include pieces that might appear in the external media,” Bishop continued. “We’re essentially now curators of the news.”
Yet curators make choices, and I have become highly skeptical of the choices of those running YaleNews. The site is not a real news source; it certainly doesn’t “showcase the rich diversity” of Yale or allow “various voices to come through.” And it is far more — or less — than merely “the University’s official news channel,” as the website of the Office of Public Affairs & Communications, which runs YaleNews, describes the site. YaleNews is an attempt to whitewash the realities of life at Yale. We all receive weekly emails from YaleNews; it is a site that many visit to learn about the school. Its omissions do a disservice to all of us who expect genuine communication or, dare I say, journalism, from a site with the word “News” in its name.
OPAC is designed to “promote the institution and to tell the many stories of Yale.” Yet these are, sometimes, diametrically opposed goals. There is a time and a place for self-promotion, and there is a time and a place for telling real stories. Apparently, a single office cannot do both.
A Nov. 25 article, for example, boasted, “Seven more reasons to shop and dine in New Haven.” This article had all the positivity of a happy piece of propaganda. “Just in time for the holiday shopping and dining,” this article promoted Extra Virgin Oil Store, Barbour Inc., Lou Lou, Emporium DNA, Kiko Milano, Harvest Wine Bar and Restaurant and Tarry Lodge. I don’t know too many students who could actually afford to shop at these overpriced vehicles of gentrification, but that’s hardly the point. This article is just not news. It is self-promotion. Even a subpar news article would have covered the debates and dissent surrounding the appearance of these new, pricy stores. If YaleNews simply admitted to being a University mouthpiece, that would be fine. But it is misleading in its use of the word “News.” It claims to showcase diversity and highlight multiple voices and all that jazz. It doesn’t.
YaleNews did not run a single story about Ayaan Hirsi Ali coming to campus last semester, and the scandal that accompanied her arrival. It has not run a single article about the allegations of sexual harassment at the Medical School. National newspapers covered both of these stories.
I’m not looking for a site that highlights all things wrong with Yale. But if YaleNews is actually supposed to inform as well as promote, it needs to step up its game. To only display fun, peppy stories about Yale — and to actively omit the bad stuff, as YaleNews did with the Carter article — is creating a dangerous false impression. One of the many problems with propaganda is that it makes for really bad journalism. Students or parents who read YaleNews will inevitably be disappointed when they experience the real Yale — warts and all. Besides, YaleNews’s omissions prevent readers from becoming genuinely informed members of the Yale community.
YaleNews can do better.
Or maybe it can’t. Either way, we deserve better.
Scott Stern is a senior in Branford College. His column runs on Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.