Every great newspaper has a motto, a mantra that stresses the importance of independent, objective journalism. “Democracy dies in darkness.” “All the news that’s fit to print.”
“The Oldest College Daily” can hardly keep pace, despite technically being the best collegiate newspaper. Our epithet is pretentious, boastful and old-fashioned, but it’s ours and I guess we wear it well.
And in keeping with the ostentatiousness of our creed, I share my own pieces on occasion. For mainstream reporters, that can be justified; breaking news must be promulgated amongst the townsfolk, and social media is bar-none the most convenient and efficient means by which to do just that.
I write stories about cigarettes, Tinder and shitty commutes. Suffice it to say, the people don’t need to be — and perhaps shouldn’t be — exposed to my nonsense.
As a result of my hubris and my Yale Daily News posting, Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of Facebook conspired to place in my virtual lap a variety of pieces, stories and what-have-you’s published by other Ivy League newspapers.
I know Mr. Zuckerberg went to Harvard (kind of), but I can’t help but feel targeted and mildly attacked. Does he think I only care about the woes, columns and happenings — the prestiges and pretensions — of the Ivy League? I cannot and will not confirm or deny this suspicion, but I can and will confirm my intrigue.
And so I found myself in foreign lands, reading a paper that wasn’t published at my university or in my home state of New York. Well, that’s a fucking lie. I turned immediately to reading the Columbia Daily Spectator: “Founded 1877 · Independent since 1962.”
Here at Yale, there are a list of tensions between the administration and its students. The ER&M major is woefully underfunded, Yale’s endowment investments do not meet the standards of its students and Yale requires students deemed unable to afford tuition to give the university its literal labor.
Columbia’s administration banned the marching band.
Excuse me, what?
There’s a written history carved in the annals of Columbia’s independent newspaper. Allegedly, the marching band has continually defied the university’s stance that they should not hold what they call “Orgo Night” in Butler Library (the ‘lite’ version of Sterling). “Nick,” you may ask, “what is an ‘Orgo Night?’”
In my most charitable interpretation, I would posit that members of the marching band celebrate the existence of Organic Chemistry in a wholesome and library-appropriate sounding event. If you think in your infinite wisdom it could be ANYTHING more rowdy than that, then you are certainly correct. The night, according to the Columbia Daily Spectator, involves the entire marching band sneaking instruments into their library and playing a “satirical performance” — whatever the fuck that means. The marching band, or CUMB for those in the know, has been ruining your midterm studying for over 40 years.
As a result of such a happening, the Columbia administration indefinitely banned the marching band earlier this month from all home sporting games and revoked their funding. Big government, at it again.
Yet, you wanna know what the fucking marching band went and did? In an act of sheer brilliance and grassroots pandering, CUMB amassed $25,000 in donations in just five days. Within two weeks, the ban had been revoked and the CUMB musicians were back on the field.
I wish I could regale you with news from around the Ivy League. Instead, I encourage you to read The Dartmouth and learn why you shouldn’t vote for Andrew Yang, read the Columbia Daily Spectator’s modern love column and learn why you shouldn’t hook up with people on your floor or in your entryway, or read The Daily Pennsylvanian and see how kickass their student body is when ICE comes to Philadelphia.
But I want to focus our attention on a piece written in The Crimson. “Objective journalism doesn’t exist.” The writer uses historical accounts of journalism to argue that objectivity and the news do not mix, and that journalists must take more care in their writing.
The Harvard writer cites accounts of lynchings, in which reporters would explain why the mob decided to lynch. The writer cites journalistic accounts of women as hysterical and emotional, which, as he writes, “reduces the female claim to so-called ‘rational’ discourse.” And the writer notes, most in-depth, the 2014 New York Times account of Eric Garner’s murder.
In the Times article, Garner is referred to as a “350-pound man,” before he is mentioned by name. His criminal record, too, is detailed. The Crimson columnist writes that, “By including these details about Garner’s death, I believe the Times constructed a world in which Garner shared responsibility for his death with the police that killed him.”
It’s hard to imagine a world without objective journalism, where Fox and Vice are fighting it out while the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have, too, have been deemed incredible. And while every journalist would argue that their objectivity is real and important to them, we are all people and angle stories, on occasion, with subconscious biases in mind.
The columnist writes that objective journalism is a happy thought but nonexistent. But I would stress that it is not just a happy thought, but an important one, no matter how true or misguided. While news outlets like CNN, MSNBC and Fox have all come under fire for their alleged lack of objectivity, our faith and confidence in institutions like the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal still remain incredibly necessary. It is the belief in the objectivity of the news — by journalists and news consumers alike — that forces journalists to stay, as best they can, objective. In this way, our belief and expectation of objective journalism act as a check and balance on the news, which may otherwise be swayed by editorial tendencies. And while objectivity may never be purely or ideally reached, our belief in it gives it it’s only fighting chance.
As a young and hopeful journalist, the Crimson story forces me and any journalist — collegiate or professional — to consider how we frame our stories. It reminds us that stories are not measured by the number of people who read them but the positive effect we have on our readers and our society. It reminds me of the importance of journalism in all forms and the care and consideration all journalists — myself included — must take in writing our stories. And while we strive for objectivity — perhaps in vain, perhaps not — we must remember that we write about real people with real problems, problems that we likely do not face ourselves, and that our job is to give a voice to those who are less able to freely express themselves.
From one novice journalist to you,
Nick Tabio | email@example.com