Hail from the Chief: How we plan to make value calls on what we print

In an editorial reflecting the majority view of The Chronicle’s senior staff last week, we reported that our staff members occasionally make value calls that offend a portion of the campus community.

I, along with several of my colleagues at the student newspaper, recognize the weight this issue carries.

That’s why, in the wake of this realization, I sat down with the copy editors who read every story for issues, such as story holes, newsworthiness, style, grammar-and now appropriateness-to discuss how we could better serve the campus in making value assessments.

We formulated a brief and simple plan to better represent and portray the U campus while maintaining the important role of challenging students, similar to the way they would be challenged in a classroom, with content that may be deemed offensive by some but necessary by others.

The answer at which we arrived seems logical and should serve the majority of readers: We will make every value judgment a case-by-case issue with input from everyone around us.

This process should facilitate our decision in a democratic manner in which several voices will have a say. We should garner more diverse input regarding what represents poor taste and what phrases can be deemed “common knowledge.”

Sometimes pop culture or slang printed in the paper (e.g., “Cock rock”) can be misconstrued as immature banter rather than a common colloquialism, representing in this instance a specific style of rock music. Unfortunately, some readers were unfamiliar with the term and, as a result, assumed the tag was created in-house at The Chronicle and printed on page one with the purpose of offending or shocking our readership.

Had we raised this issue earlier on in the editing process, we could have conducted an informal poll of those in our own office to get a better sense of the general public’s familiarity with the phrase-to see whether it would be generally understood and accepted by the campus at-large.

I cannot guarantee that we will never challenge our readers. Such would be the downfall of a university publication.

At an institution of higher learning, the paper should serve a purpose similar to that of the campus as a whole-to push and educate readers about their surroundings rather than state the obvious and conform to what everyone already knows.

However, in the future, we will do so more conscientiously, with the majority of our readership in mind. Though we are an independent student newspaper, we want to function responsibly and responsively.

Please hold us to our purpose and the standards of the community we serve-the university. While we wish to challenge the readership, there is, at times, a fine line between successfully broadening a reader’s horizons and unduly offending his or her conscience. To help us better serve you, e-mail your feedback to:

[email protected]