The death of objectivity

It was never my true intention to be a journalist. I always enjoyed writing and felt a sense of accomplishment when research papers and English essays came to me with ease. It wasn’t until entering the newspaper world that I fell hard for the pursuit of the truth and reporting it to the public. What better way to merge my love for writing than serving our readership, providing them the facts to ask the questions that keep conversations vibrant. I would soon find out that exercising my right to free speech came with a price.

At first, it was exciting to converse with the movers and shakers of City College, hear about their ideas to turn our school into an educational mecca for San Diego. I would also hear about their inner conflicts within clubs and organizations and how they struggled to keep their goals a main focus. Relationships of trust were built, where I tried to draw clear boundary lines: this is on-the-record, this is off limits. It was my goal to share their stories so the public would understand their struggles. That all changes once the papers hit the stands.

I quickly learned that I wasn’t a trusted colleague anymore, but the enemy. I had failed to paint the picture they wanted to share. My sources confused my role as a storyteller with that of a publicist, and I was slammed for choices I made as the chief. I felt attacked.

I was grateful when I had students and staff visit the office or send e-mails informing us of an event or asking for coverage. With a newspaper staff that consisted of both passionate journalists and students merely filling their time with an elective, it was definitely a challenge to cover everything. I didn’t understand the negativity that followed: not enough coverage, not the right picture, not the right message.

The negative feedback we received was vicious. Over the past year, we were compared to Fox News. Our adviser’s performance was questioned numerous times, accused of being homophobic. Twice. Our funding was even questioned.

I grew frustrated as my newspaper experience became a balance of “will this review offend this party?” and “is that picture sending the wrong message?” I found more and more that we were told to thrive in an environment that had numerous boundaries. We were pulled in two directions: one way skewed toward good publicity for the campus and the other pushed toward seeking the truth no matter what. The thin line between politically correct and brutally honest was one made nearly impossible to tight rope on.

As student journalists in a learning environment, it was open season. What an easy target to go after; no staff of attorneys to protect us like larger organizations. How easy to criticize misprints or placement of pages. Shame on those administrators and students that once supported us to turn on us, upset that we didn’t push their personal agendas and bitter that we chose to express the truth.

I’d like to say I fought the good fight and overcame all the ridicule of the past year. The truth is I’m left with the notion that objectivity is dead. Why try to serve a public that accuses us of being the enemy? Why try to be politically correct when someone is bound to be offended?

It is with mixed emotions that I write this piece, my last contribution as editor in chief of City Times here at City College. It’s not my intention to make this entry sound like a yearbook farewell. (Keep in touch, have a great summer!) I have to say that, even though I leave jaded and more confused about my career path, it was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. I can only hope that I take the positive elements of my experience to further my career and hold dear the colleagues I plan on remaining fiercely loyal to.

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The death of objectivity