Op-Ed: Our Student Press and the Zoellick Embarrassment

In the wake of the fiasco culminating in Robert Zoellick ’75’s decision to refuse both the College’s honorary degree and the opportunity to speak at this year’s commencement ceremony, it is past time to call attention to the role of our student media. Increasingly, Swarthmore’s student press has served to not simply report on controversy, but to manufacture it.  While I do not speak on behalf of The Phoenix‘s editorial board, as a Phoenix editor I wish to offer students my personal apology for the newspaper’s role in sensationalizing disagreement and legitimizing the views of an extreme minority.

Simply put, there should never have been any controversy over Zoellick’s honorary degree. While some may have disagreed with his policies or his role at the World Bank, these are cause for discussion, not protest. And the arguments involving his role in the Iraq War were willfully misleading, at best.

Yet, this so-called “controversy” received coverage in The Phoenix. The reasons for this, as explained to me, were that students had posted a Facebook event to further discuss Zoellick’s position at commencement. By the time of the article’s publishing; however, a previous Op-Ed in The Daily Gazette had already made it clear that Zoellick’s reputation was not something worth protesting.

What good did The Phoenix‘s article do, then? Rather than discuss a vocal, but small and extreme movement of student dissenters, it discussed the group of as one balanced side of a debate. By attempting to report on the situation evenhandedly, it instead stirred the pot.  Reporting on this controversy as if it were a real debate legitimated the views of that extreme student minority. Instead of reporting on a controversy, then, The Phoenix helped create and perpetuate it. The goal of avoiding bias actually perpetuated group bias.

This, of course, is not something new. National media sets the example: the mainstream media is notorious for reporting both sides of a debate as legitimate, no matter what those two sides may be. Unfortunately, The Phoenix has followed this model well. Just consider articles this past semester on Greek Life, the referendum, commencement speakers, etc. Controversy sells, and even a free student newspaper resorts to it.

But as the past few weeks have shown, this approach has done nothing but tear this campus apart. I won’t be arrogant enough to claim that The Phoenix deserves full credit for this, but we certainly contributed. And so, any call from the paper for school unity and openness that did not acknowledge our role in the problem would ring hollow. In the aftermath of these events, the sentiment would be nice, but where was it when several editors were pushing their own cause celebré? Or when we published article after article on one controversy after another?

I’m graduating in a few weeks, so I can’t personally change how our student media discusses controversial subjects. But I hope we can learn from this recent embarrassment. News isn’t simply reporting what happens on campus. Contextualizing is also important. The Phoenix‘s efforts to remain evenhanded create and encourage controversy. Going forward, writers need to realize that sometimes objectivity involves taking a stand on issues.

Op-Ed submitted by Daniel Duncan ’13, sports editor of The Phoenix


Did you like this article? Consider joining the DG! Open staff meetings are every Monday at 6:30 p.m. in Kohlberg; or email us at editors@daily.swarthmore.edu.

67 comments

  1. 0
    Alum says:

    As a recent graduate, I have not been reading each and every one of these posts, comments, Facebook statuses, etc. However, I am aware of the so-called discourses and discussions taking place regarding the Zoellick/Greek life issues, and the tone of these exchanges has disappointed and deeply saddened me. This is not a new or revolutionary sentiment; I know that many Swarthmore students have already raised this concern, attempting to remind us all that words have power. The culture of vitriol present on all sides and perspectives of these conversations do not represent the Swarthmore I knew. Granted, my Swarthmore experience was by no means some sort of utopian yesteryear deserving of unmitigated nostalgia. However, when prospective students or curious non-Swatties asked me what I felt set Swarthmore apart from some of our peer schools, I could confidently respond that Swarthmore, despite the “intellectual rigor” (the nice way of referring to stressful nights in McCabe) and academically intense environment, was not a competitive nor a cutthroat place. Students wanted to engage and were willing to engage in respectful conversation (most of the time). Obviously, I’m not on campus now, so I haven’t experienced these events, nor the accompanying frustrations, hurt feelings, and hateful reactions, firsthand. Recently, a prospective student trying to decide between a few excellent liberal arts places asked me to tell them about Swarthmore. I found that I did not know exactly what to say, because I’m not confident that the parts I loved most of my Swat experience are still accurate and applicable characterizations the place and community that I called home not too long ago.

    1. 0
      Let's focus on content says:

      Pointing out grammar mistakes isn’t really a productive avenue for discourse. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes at some point. Plus, this conversation is taking place on an informal internet comment board where people have been known to forgo the niceties of capitalization, grammar, etc.

  2. 0
    Mitch Albom says:

    TO: ________

    RE: Commencement Speech

    Dear ________

    Congratulations! We here at ______ University would like to invite you to be our commencement speaker. This, as you know, is a great honor. You would join the ranks of ______ last year and ______ the year before and also _______, who was going to be our speaker this year, but, unfortunately, had to be dropped due to protest from the student body. Not the entire student body. Certain members. Seven members, to be exact. Seven loud, sign-waving, endlessly blogging members.

    But we here at ______ University think every voice should count.

    Would your voice be available next Sunday?

    Before you commit (well, to be honest, before we commit) we’d like to confirm a few small things. Just standard questions. You understand.

    For example, have you ever owned a gun, fired a gun, asked someone else to fire a gun or taken away a gun? Have you ever told anyone at a cocktail party that guns should be outlawed or that everyone should have at least eight guns in their kitchen, and, if so, what are the chances there was a tape recorder at that cocktail party?

    If you answered “no,” great! The deal’s still on. Please continue. Just a few more.

    Skeletons in the past?
    Are you currently straight, gay, bi or transgender, or have you ever been straight, gay, bi or transgender? If you answered “yes” or “no,” that’s fine. If you answered “Hell, no,” we would like to withdraw our offer.

    Have you ever expressed an opinion on conservative politicians, liberal politicians, the president, the vice president, foreign leaders or foreign secretaries? Have you ever dated your secretary?

    Still “no”? Wonderful. This only confirms what an excellent choice you are for our commencement.

    Just a few more items.

    Have you ever made a comment about race, slavery, immigration, religion, atheism, cannibalism or witchcraft?

    Have you ever e-mailed, tweeted, posted, Facebooked, blogged or Instagrammed any thoughts on pornography? Have you ever posed in any state of undress? Have you ever stuck a camera down your pants and sent that to someone?

    Just standard questions.

    Only a few more.

    The Snooki Factor?
    You understand our concern, of course. With the recent cancellation of commencement speakers at Swarthmore (Robert Zoellick, the former World Bank president) and Johns Hopkins (Ben Carson, the world-renowned neurosurgeon) we can’t be too careful. After all, Zoellick was protested over his previous support of the Iraq war. And Carson withdrew after making comments about gay marriage on the Sean Hannity show.

    No one is safe. There have been protests over President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and Sarah Palin speaking. Even James Franco, the actor, was heavily criticized when speaking at UCLA. And that’s in Los Angeles! They love actors there!

    By the way, have you ever been in a movie — one that we should know about, that is? A small film? Involving nudity of any kind?

    Have you ever been in the cast of “Jersey Shore”? We all remember the fuss when Snooki talked at Rutgers. I’m sure you agree, we don’t want that!

    Because after all, this is about the students, right? All the students. Every one of the students. Every blessed, single, angry, vocal, opinionated, self-indulgent one of the students–

    Sorry. This has been a frustrating process. To be honest, we are only asking you after striking out with ______ and ______ and all nine members of ______ and the entire cast of ______.

    Assuming you have made it this far, please accept our offer of a cap, gown and hood, plus a wonderful spread of coffee and assorted pastries.

    We regret to say there is no speaker’s fee, as too many students protested that we could better use the money on something important, like HBO for their dormitories.

    Looking forward to the wisdom you will impart to our graduates. Kindly remember no cursing, blue humor or compliments of any kind about a person’s looks.

    Oh. And if you exceed 15 minutes, your microphone will be cut off, in fairness to the Short Attention Span Club.

    Remember, inclusive, inclusive, inclusive! It’s what makes our university so exclusive.

    Warm regards,

    ________________

  3. 0
    WTF Phoenix says:

    “He was fired for breaching the confidentiality of editorial board meetings, a policy that he had been reminded of before publishing this Op-Ed. We also offered to publish this piece in The Phoenix, which he declined.”

    So wait, the Phoenix fired him for somehow breaching confidentiality in this op-ed, which they were willing to post in the Phoenix, had Dan not declined?

    Way to put the “MORON” in oxymoron!

    1. 0
      Taylor Hodges '15 says:

      Had Duncan published the article with the Phoenix – a weekly publication – it would have come out the same day as an editorial on Zoellick and his dissenting article therefore would not have preempted the planned, then cancelled staff editorial.

      1. 0
        Dan Duncan '13 says:

        That’s incorrect Taylor–I was told via email that the editorial had been canceled, so I moved the publication date up for my piece. I originally planned to accommodate the Phoenix’s schedule. Several emails between myself, Steven Hazel, and the DG editors will collectively corroborate this. As far as I was told, my decision to write an op-ed did not affect The Phoenix’s editorial.

  4. 0
    Sick of this says:

    Uhm you’d know all about that given that you’re a member of both the editorial board AND SwatVoteYes. Let’s stop playing games. Here are all of the signatories of the DailyGazette Op-Ed “Vote Yes on the Greek Life Referendum”. I’ve added their jobs at The Phoenix to make a point:

    Amanda Epstein ’15 – Phoenix Editor
    Koby Levin ’15 – Managing Editor
    Hope Brinn ’15 – N/A
    Parker Murray ’15 – Managing Editor
    Joyce Wu ’15 – Chief Copy Editor

    This is supposed to be a coincidence? The fact that these people who are, as we’ve seen, so heavily invested in the campaign to remove Greek Life, are all on the editorial board at the Phoenix has no effect on the quality or content of that institution’s journalism? And then Dan Duncan gets fired for disagreeing with their political tactics? Y’all are just drooling to get into politics aren’t you.

    1. 0
      Tired says:

      Let us turn to the population size here at Swarthmore. Do you really think that there isn’t going to be some overlap between student groups? Our school is tiny. Before the über conservative opinions editor left the staff, The Phoenix was publishing on average 3 super conservatively slanted opinions pieces a week. Are we to say that his involvement in Swarthmore Conservatives while simultaneously working for The Phoenix was simply a front to “push” his conservative agenda?

      No, because that was The Phoenix’s opinions section. Where opinions go. And editorials, which reflect the MAJORITY opinion of the editorial board.

      PS. Joyce Wu is The Phoenix’s Chief Copy Editor. Koby, Parker, and Joyce are all on Phoenix staff. A gold star to whoever put two and two together. But wait…the editorial board at The Phoenix is comprised of more than 12 individals. Seems like it may take a little more than Koby, Parker, and Joyce’s vote to win over the entirety of the editorial board. But wait, there’s more: Joyce Wu, as chief copy editor, is not entitled to a vote on editorial board decisions, nor is she or has she ever been an attendee at any of The Phoenix’s editorial board meetings. While one might somehow be able to construct the argument that Joyce artfully moved around commas and corrected spelling so well that the entire editorial (a reflection of the majority of the editorial board’s opinions) ended up a pro-referendum nightmare, I would feel reticent about doing so (at best).

      1. 0
        Huh? Pt 2 says:

        If I were a leader of Swat Yes and writing an editorial on Swat Yes, in part eras I would have had to recuse myself from the decision. Because there would be a conflict of interest, distinctly, as I would not merely be holding an opinion concordant with Swat Yes but actively advocating and politicizing (not meant in a negative sense here) for its goals. There is historical précédent for this in The Phoenix archives.

      2. 0
        ??? Huh? says:

        When I was on the editorial board X many years ago, the chief copy editor was able to attend editorial board meetings and count for consensus/supermajority if desired (though they rarely did if I recall correctly). They also participated in hiring decisions, et cetera. They were an editor. Has this actually changed? I mean, maybe it has.

        Um, and also: if you don’t understand the power and influence differential between the chief editors (i.e., 3/5 of the above) and the remaining editors (nevermind the assistant-level editors) and how decisions flow down from the top, I don’t think you really understand a lot about power. The EIC is the most potent voice in the room. They set the agenda.

  5. 0
    Mark says:

    The author wants to “discuss” World Bank policies, instead of protesting them.

    1. We have been “discussing” those policies for years, decades even, but the World Bank and its sponsors have the power and don’t much care what others think (“others” being such apparently insignificant groups as most of the countries of the world, at summit meetings of the Group of 77, UN speeches, etc.).

    2. The “discussions” at those meetings haven’t even been mentioned in the New York Times and other corporate outlets, which instead devote massive coverage to meetings of the “Group of 7” rich and heavily armed states, sometimes called by its critics the “imperialist den of thieves.”

    3. Among the proposals put forth by most of the world and effectively censored out of the corporate media: indexation of commodity prices, similar to indexation of wages in Brazil and other countries; and debt moratoria.

    4. Even when Latin America effectively rebels, and democratically elected governments make new proposals and form new international organizations free of imperial control, the corporate media still refuses to report on the developments, instead confining coverage to demonization of leaders like Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez, who are vaguely referred to as “anti-US” (although Venezuela provides oil free of charge to needy Americans).

    So bravo to Swarthmore students in taking on a particularly notorious World Bank president. It’s long overdue.

    1. 0
      Alex Imas '10 says:

      Arguments like these are what we go to college to learn to get past– heavy on rhetoric (“imperialist den of thieves”…?) and short on substance. Without getting into the weeds (even the vague allusions here are misleading at best and wrong at worst), the neoliberal development movement has been very heavily debated. Much of that debate has come from inside those institutions (unless Joe Stiglitz, who did a term as the World Bank’s chief economist, is too much of am “imperialist” to fit Swarthmore values).

      Attacks like these on Zoellick are poorly thought out, exceptionally ill-informed, and use the nasty tactic of accusing those who come down on a different side of bad faith. By all means, there’s no need to agree with everything that Zoellick represents– I certainly don’t find many of his positions persuasive– but this silly rhetoric is counterproductive, and it’s something I would hope a Swarthmore education would teach students to avoid.

      Now thing to yourself for a second– if it weren’t Zoellick who was speaking, but Hugo Chavez, would you have the same reaction? Or would you argue that his views are important to hear? I suspect it’s the latter, and that kind of intellectual closure is not a good thing.

  6. 0
    Coming soon...? says:

    “Student Newspaper Criticized by Own Editor for Starting Controversy- Starts Controversy by Firing Said Editor”

    Sweet. God knows we haven’t had anything to discourse over recently….

    -Huzilla ’12

  7. 0
    aksul says:

    i’m not usually one for antagonistic generalizations but it’s incredible how easily many people uncritically accept massively simplistic characterizations of complex issues when those interpretations mesh with emotional preconceptions, in particular, how reflexive phoenix hate apparently leads these people to ignore complexity and nuance.

    how to handle the zoellick issue as a campus newspaper is, i think, a genuinely interesting (and open) question. if the phoenix reports on the issue, they get shit for manufacturing a controversy (incidentally, the idea of the press “manufacturing a controversy” is pretty silly when you think about it [unless a paper straight-up invented an issue…and even that is similar to some forms of advocacy journalism], since controversy is by definition a state of debate/discourse: an issue can’t really even be a controversy without press coverage, so in a sense all controversies are manufactured by editorial decisions. a more nuanced critique would argue that the story inflated the issue beyond it’s prominence, but since this is so much a matter of subtle degree — all journalism “inflates” issues, disseminates information, spreads influence — that’s a much more difficult argument to make).

    if they don’t report on it, though, they ignore what was by then a moderately big (by swarthmore standards) story, which is a journalistic mis-step of a whole other magnitude, and surely invites rounds and rounds of criticism of supposedly ideologically compromised editorial decisions, suppression of legitimate campus voices, etc. etc. it’s a lose-lose situation. so in sum it might be constructive if commenters were more appreciative of the difficulty of the phoenix’s position (and in general the many paradoxes of so-called objective journalism, for instance how in insular, small communities *cough* *cough* with a comparatively centralized media, reporting unavoidably becomes a sort of feedback loop. or fuck insular and small, this is just the reality of living in such a media saturated culture. people manipulating this omnipresent, inescapable echo chamber to complain about echo chambers and how certain people and institutions just make it worse and how everyone should just stop talking for a bit and give me some piece and quiet so i can hear myself think shouldn’t be surprised when they hear their own voices bouncing back and forth and adding to the messy, frustrating [but maybe wonderful?] cacophony.)

  8. 0
    Metacritic says:

    Also, does ANYBODY else feel concerned about this so-called confidential board meeting policy? What the hell are they doing that warrants such confidentiality? It’s not as if the Phoenix is protecting some proprietary secrets. Seems astonishingly hypocritical for the editorial board to take a stance on the lack of transparency in fraternities, only to tout its own confidentiality policy in defending the dismissal of one of its staff.

  9. 0
    Uhm says:

    Given that nearly 1,300 students turned up to vote on the referendum, I’m not really thinking that they covered a ridiculously vocal minority. Furthermore, since one of the questions passed and many received a substantial number of votes (like 36%), I think it’s confirmed again that it’s not a small group of radicals pushing for change.

    And this is Swarthmore. A college with ~1,500 students. You cannot expect that students who work at the campus publications are going to excuse themselves from the rest of campus life.

    The idea that a journalist ever could be “objective” is ridiculous.

    Y’all need to take a class on journalism. Swat offers an excellent one every fall by a real live professional journalist.

      1. 0
        feeeeelliiinngggssss says:

        If you’re referring to my comment I think you might confused as to the point of the comparison. The only reason I made that comparison was to demonstrate how the authors’ mentioning of the # of people at the Zoellick meeting was insufficient in describing the scale of the debate.

  10. 0
    Katie Schultz '13 says:

    I think what Dan is saying here is not that minority opinions should not legitimized, but that that they should be put into proper context. For example, if there is an event at which a controversy is discussed, I think it woud be relevant to note the number of students in attendance. If half the senior class had been in attendance, that’d be one thing, but if only 20 – 30 people were there it would be another. All students’ opinions are legitimate and have the right to be reported — but if the opinion is in the minority, it is important to say so. Failing to make such a statement could be unintentionally misleading and could make certain sentiments seem more widespread than they actually are.

    Our student media is the only barometer of student opinion that alumni, and others off campus have. For example, it is likely that part of the reason Zoellick ultimately decided not to speak at commencement was because he looked to our student media and assumed that our campus was evenly divided in conflict, and that a large number of the senior class had expressed interest in protesting his presence. If I had been off-campus reading the DG comment thread and online Phoenix article, I am not entirely convinced that I would not have felt the same. The article itself states that there was a “divide among seniors” — suggesting a balanced debate.

    Suggesting that writers “take a stand on issues” while reporting is inadvisable, but contextualizing the extremity, severity, and scope of student debate is necessary.

  11. 0
    xl says:

    “This, of course, is not something new. National media sets the example: the mainstream media is notorious for reporting both sides of a debate as legitimate, no matter what those two sides may be. Unfortunately, The Phoenix has followed this model well. Just consider articles this past semester on Greek Life, the referendum, commencement speakers, etc. Controversy sells, and even a free student newspaper resorts to it.”

    a little confused by this. the phoenix was repeatedly criticized during the referendum debate for presenting a supposedly slanted reporting on the issue. i think this criticism was unfounded — based in either confusion about or a deliberate misreading of the difference between staff editorials and news articles — but neither do i understand your apparent claim that the phoenix stirred controversy by presenting a false equivalency on the issue. are you suggesting that a petition for a referendum proposing major structural changes to influential campus institutions didn’t merit “dignification” in the student press?

  12. 0
    Dan Duncan '13 says:

    Update: I have been fired for writing this op-ed. I stand behind every word, and I thank the Daily Gazette for publishing it.

      1. 0
        K says:

        You know him and his editorial board attendance habits, intimately? As a friend. I don’t know what’s worse: a sleazy editorial board member, or a sleazy “friend.”

      2. 0
        K says:

        It’s pretty pathetic if Phoenix editorial board members are anonymously posting ad hominems about some dude they just publicly fired. Never change, you kids~~~

    1. 0
      The Phoenix Responds... says:

      Hi Gazette Readers,

      Obviously, we’re very concerned that one of our editors has such serious accusations about our coverage. We’d like it to be clear that Dan was not fired for his opinions. He was fired for breaching the confidentiality of editorial board meetings, a policy that he had been reminded of before publishing this Op-Ed. We also offered to publish this piece in The Phoenix, which he declined.

      We disagree completely with the premise of this Op-Ed. Before you comment, please take a moment to read the piece that Dan cites, “Choice of Zoellick as Commencement Speaker Sparks Debate.” We believe that it is not “sensational” to cover minority opinions, and that even the opinion of a small minority is worthy of coverage.

      Thank you,
      Steven Hazel, Editor in Chief, Koby Levin, Managing Editor, Parker Murray, Managing Editor

      1. 0
        Mycroft says:

        Out of genuine curiosity, not vitriol, in what way did Daniel’s piece “breach the confidentiality of editorial board meetings”? The only parts of his op-ed that seem like they might have originally been discussed in confidence are, “The reasons for this, as explained to me, were that students had posted a Facebook event to further discuss Zoellick’s position at commencement,” and, “In the aftermath of these events, the sentiment would be nice, but where was it when several editors were pushing their own cause celebré?” Neither of these statements seems particularly incendiary or fire-worthy to me.

      2. 0
        feeeeelliiinngggssss says:

        By taking a dg op-ed/facebook group amongst a not-too-large group of students and putting it on the front page of The Phoenix, you instantly made it a topic of debate across the entire campus. That’s just gonna happen if you do that.

        My gripe with this article is the opposite of Daniel’s. You should be more even-handed and objective when reporting the news, especially with your front page story.

        Your article:

        “When Swarthmore announced that alumnus and former President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick ’75 would be the 2013 commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree, students responded in a multitude of ways. ”

        Right off the bat, you present this debate in terms of “students” in a general sense. Not a group of students restricted to an op-ed and a facebook group. Just “students” in general. You then write how “many” students wonder why Zoellick deserves to speak at commencement. At this point in the article we have no sense of the number of people involved and are under the impression that “many” students out of the general population are opposed to Zoellick speaking.

        Amazingly you fail to acknowledge that on the DG article (which you don’t cite even though you quote it) there were many more “thumbs up” for the side defending Zoellick. Whether or not more readers favored Zoellick because it was an article defending Zoellick is a legitimate concern, but I think if you look at the distribution of likes on this page, you can see that an article’s argument doesn’t necessarily translate into the same argument as the people reading the article. It would have been objectively correct for you to report that amongst this specific group of students, a majority support Zoellick as commencement speaker. You neglect to point out this readily reportable fact, and thus the reader is not given an accurate sense of the debate.

        In fact, you write,

        “Still, Facebook comments by seniors include that Zoellick was a “major architect and strongest proponent of the Iraq war” and that “that the administration is wrong to use honorary degrees as a political tool for future favors to the college/recognition/an act that encourages potential alumni donations.” An equal number of comments defending Zoellick exist online.”

        This leads the reader to think that public sentiment is equal between pro-Zoellick & anti-Zoellick factions. Not to mention it’s an extremely strange/vague comparison between facebook comments and “online” comments which I assume means dg (which you neglect to cite)/facebook commenters.

        For the rest of the article we are still given no sense of scale. All you provide are the thoughts of a few seniors about Zoellick’s selection and the total number of students at the meeting. That number isn’t very helpful because everyone knows that the number of people at meetings isn’t representative of the scale of a debate. Think back to the meetings about the referendum. I doubt ~1200 people were at those meetings, even though 1200 people voted and likely engaged in those debates.

        You don’t “report” about a debate going on on campus. Instead, you present the debate itself and leave the reader to pick a side. You are not reporting a minority opinion, but instead projecting a minority opinion as a majority opinion. “Many” vs.”others”.

      3. 0
        Michael D says:

        “He was fired for breaching the confidentiality of editorial board meetings, a policy that he had been reminded of before publishing this Op-Ed.”

        Oh? Can you clue us in on where this breach occurred here? I can’t find anything in this article that isn’t based on material published in the Phoenix or the author’s opinions on these published pieces, so from my perspective it looks as though the author was fired because someone on the Phoenix lacks basic journalistic integrity.

      4. 0
        Curious says:

        Convenient that the minority opinions you feel are worthy of coverage are the ones that the editorial board have a vested interest in advancing. There’s a fantastic amount of overlap, for example, between the SwatVoteYes campaign on the Greek Life Referendum, and the Phoenix Editorial board.

      5. 0
        Metacritic says:

        The confidentiality of editorial board meetings? Why, that’s a highly problematic statement there. What’s wrong with a little more transparency, Phoenix?

    2. 0
      sam zhang says:

      I think you’re brave for saying all of this, but did you talk to The Phoenix staff about any of this before publishing this? I’m sure many of them feel similarly, and might even have been willing to publish an editorial version of this in The Phoenix.

  13. 0
    Guest says:

    Calling on news writers to take a stand on ideological debates – even if they may be rather lopsided – sets a dangerous precedent. Just because to many eyes there is a clear “answer” to this debate does not mean that discussion that happened on Facebook or in the meeting on campus that drew 25-30 people was any less real or legitimate. I would imagine that clamping down on those voices by writing an opinionated piece in the news section would cause even more controversy. The Phoenix article never inflated the influence of those not in favor of the choice of Zoellick. It was honest reporting on events that occurred and involved a significant number of people in the college community.

    If anything, this ordeal reflects an institutional failure on the part of the whole newspaper as to what should be considered newsworthy. To suggest, though, that blame rests with the article is incorrect.

  14. 0
    Op-Ed needs an overhaul says:

    Dan, great article. It got me thinking a little bit tangentially though. I think the Op-Eds need a bit of an overhaul (absolutely nothing to do with your op-ed…which I thought was great).

    I think everyone has seen that there are clear errors in op-eds posted to the gazette and the phoenix.

    Many of us are also science students. We are used to peer-reviewed journal articles.

    If Swat’s news teams are taking any articles as an op-ed, anyone can stir controversy based on wrong facts, and can also submit things that make the gazette/phoenix look bad. It also lowers the overall quality of op-ed reports overall and decreases the usefulness of them.

    I think there should be a peer-review over op-eds at this school where people on the phoenix/gazette actually review each op-ed before it goes to print and messes with people’s conceptions too much. The process should give the author of the article a chance to review it based on unsubstantiated pieces/grammatical mistakes and resubmit it for publication.

    If there is already such a process in place, I don’t think it is doing a great job.

    While I am ranting, I also think the moderation feature needs a bit of an overhaul. Anything said by a swarthmore.edu email address should be instantly accepted. Ads and such should be removed after they go up to maintain real time discussions.

    1. 0
      Max Nesterak ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      The Daily Gazette does review each Op-Ed before it goes to press. Our policy is, everyone is entitled to his/her/their own opinions, but not his/her/their own facts. We look over each article for grammatical and factual mistakes. Naturally, we can’t catch them all, all the time, but we do have a procedure in place.

      In regards to this sentence: “I think there should be a peer-review over op-eds at this school where people on the phoenix/gazette actually review each op-ed before it goes to print and messes with people’s conceptions too much.” Can you help me understand what you mean in the second part of that sentence?

      If you have specific concerns about factual errors made in Op-Eds or articles published by The Daily Gazette’s staff, please email editors@daily.swarthmore.edu.

      Thank you,

      Max Nesterak ’13
      Co-Editor in Chief

      1. 0
        Op-Ed needs an overhaul says:

        Max, I hate to respond to this but, I get that the op-eds are peer reviewed.

        However, the open letter (which this is not the place to discuss) should not have been printed in the format it was printed. There are many items which needed to be more substantiated before they made many claims (” At the first meeting, representatives of the Greek organizations did not propose any meaningful policies to address the problems raised. The second meeting was nearly scuttled when Greek organization leadership refused to have the meeting moderated by a dean trained in mediation. Still, we relented and allowed the meeting to proceed with the Student Council co-presidents moderating in place of the dean. At this meeting, members of the Greek organizations once again proposed no substantive policies and rejected all structural changes posed by unaffiliated students.” I believe the use of “meaningful” is highly subjective and therefore unsubstantiated).

        These claims, as per the second part of my pretty poorly worded statement, messes with people’s conceptions about people in fraternities, which, can cause a ton of disagreement when there is no factual basis for it.

        Otherwise, I am sorry for speaking without knowing the policies.

        1. 0
          Max Nesterak ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          Hi Op-Ed needs an overhaul,

          I would point out that the Op-Ed’s are reviewed by editors but they aren’t peer reviewed in the way that academic articles are. I understand what you’re saying, but those two terms do denote different kinds of editing.

          As far as your concern of the word “meaningful.” You’re absolutely correct. It is subjective and cannot be substantiated one way or the other. But this is an Op-Ed, which is an opinions piece submitted to us by people who are not affiliated with The Daily Gazette (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Op-ed). They are inherently subjective pieces, which is why they are in the Opinions section. There was no factual error, and it does not reflect the views of The Daily Gazette. The Daily Gazette also reached out to the heads of Phi Psi, Delta Upsilon, and Kappa Alpha Theta to remind them that we would welcome Op-Eds from them. They decided not to write Op-Eds but did take the time to meet with our one of our assistant news editors for interviews. http://daily.swarthmore.edu/2013/04/11/greek-life-question-2-passes-both-sides-wait-to-hear-from-the-administration/

          In regards to your last concern, Op-Eds are meant to be persuasive. You’ll find every Op-Ed printed in The Daily Gazette will try to convince you of something. Again, the reason we put these articles in the Opinions section is so readers know it is subjective.

          I hope this answers your questions/concerns. You can always email me (mnester1@swarthmore.edu) or continue commenting since others may have the same questions as you.

          Thank you,

          Max Nesterak ’13
          Co-Editor in Chief

    2. 0
      Op-Ed needs an overhaul says:

      Also, while ranting on the comments section, another alternative could be to let us get accounts at the gazette and, if anyone marks a post as offensive, it should be removed and the user account blocked. It should also be able to anonymize the name each time. Something like that can also help with gazette user engagement etc.

  15. 0
    YES says:

    Our publications are an embarrassment to our school. I guess the people who write there though so too, and didn’t take anything they were doing seriously because no one else does…As a swat student who once worked on the phoenix ed board, I can confidently say that almost no one who works for either paper has and fucking clue what they’re doing…consistently get the facts wrong, publish incredibly incendiary articles without thinking about the fact that they’re on the internet and can be picked up by anyone, etc. Hope this inspires them to take a long, hard look in the mirror….

  16. 0
    Question says:

    So the way to promote unity and not tear campus apart is to suggest that some students hold views that do not deserve to be “legitimated” ?

    Intriguing tactic.

    Hopefully it’s legitimate when the realities of you/your family are steeped in the conversation.

  17. 0
    Jay Clayton '16 ( User Karma: -4 ) says:

    The Phoenix article makes quite clear that this was a group of 20-30 students with concerns, and does not appear to take any side in the issue.

    I understand your concerns, but the Phoenix article outlines the facts overlooked by the dissenters, and does not suggest that their number is representative of the campus as a whole. Campus was divided on this issue, and they report this.

    You and I may disagree with their concerns, but that is a sizeable opposition. I think the entire campus community would agree that the opinions of Swat Conservatives on certain issues are important, even if there are only 20-30 students formally in said group (as of some time last semester; it may have increased by now). If the Phoenix ran an article about how liberals and conservatives at Swarthmore felt about an issue, would that be false equivalence? Of course not.

    It’s one thing for the national media to give equal attention to the sane and the insane, but this is a much smaller community, and to compare the two is to brand those with legitimate, if poorly researched, grievances as “crazies.” When CNN says, “and now we’ll hear from those who say global warming is a myth,” that’s a problem. When the Phoenix says, “there is a group of Swarthmore students who oppose Zoellick speaking at graduation,” that is not. Correct or not (not, just to be clear), their concerns weren’t manufactured out of whole cloth, and there is no shame in reporting on formidable opposition.

    1. 0
      Joan says:

      The Phoenix quoted two FRESHMEN speakers. They had absolutely NO CLUE about the Zoellick controversy:

      Kathleen Baryenbruch ’16, believes that the school would benefit most from choosing activists and educators as opposed to business types. “I think the school should pick people whose work is connected to the roots of a liberal arts education, not corporate heads and big time businessmen.”

      Some however, believe that Zoellick might not be the best choice for a commencement speaker. Tyler Welsh ’16 expressed some reservations and echoed sentiments similar to those of Baryenbruch.
      “I know he’s a graduate of the college, and I recognize that he’s done a lot of good,” he said, “But I’m not sure he fits the values that a liberal arts institute emphasizes.”

      What?! These quotes (through no fault of the speakers) disrespected the concerns of parties on /both/ sides. There were absolute no mentions of legitimate concerns that certain individuals in the senior class had — and as the Zoellick controversy affected them most of all, you would think that good reporting would require just a little bit of research.

      “The other two candidates, however, carry with them a bit more controversy. Whether or not CEOs, businessmen, and Wall Street types are appropriate role models and commencement speakers for the college is a topic of debate.” Wrong. That was never debated. Debated was his role in Iraq (which was a poor choice given his lack of connection) and his neoliberal trade ideology.

      1. 0
        Jay Clayton '16 ( User Karma: -4 ) says:

        Poorly researched or articulated arguments on the side of those in opposition do not mean no concerns exist. How you or I feel about the legitimacy of complaints does not justify denying discussion.

        My personal view is that the arguments of many conservatives on campus about taxation, regulation, etc. have no basis in reality and that the slightest research would prove them wrong. Furthermore, these conservatives are a tiny minority on campus. If I worked at the Phoenix, would I be justified in refusing to give “air time” (so to speak) to these views? Would it be false equivalency for me to present their opinions as a significant voice on campus? Of course not.

        You don’t get to censor an opinion because it is incorrect or presented by a first year. No, that doesn’t mean it deserves equal space in the news. But the Phoenix made it very clear that some of the criticisms were incorrect. False equivalence, in the national media, has two components. First, the argument must be so ridiculous that is completely illegitimate. Second, the news must fail to explain that one side is wrong about certain things. The Pheonix does this for many of the points raised (role in Iraq War, in particular).

        You and I do not get to determine what arguments are legitimate. Disagree with their arguments, but this deserved attention in the press.

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          Joan says:

          See, the thing is that I’m highly doubting these students were “in the opposition” at all. I’ll tell you that they weren’t involved on the facebook event, did not come to the meeting, and actually I don’t know them at all! (And I have been very, very, very involved so if they had been tangentially related, I would have known.)

          What’s happening here is that underclassmen reporters are asking their friends or one or two random kids their opinion of events. Not because they’re involved. Not because they care very much. But simply because of some strange journalistic standards that demands these quotes + lazy reporting.

          It would be as if the NYT asked some stranger they met in central park their opinion on tax reform and then quoted their opinion not only as if it were relevant, but as though it actually represented the opinion of the “conservatives” without bothering to go to the Conservative think tank and check out the accuracy of the statement.

    1. 0
      xl says:

      i think this issue is a little more complex than a simplistic punchline. what constitutes news on a college campus? sometimes it seems to be online comments as much as anything. they’re the most lively and openly accessible barometers of student opinion around. and if you approach it historically, reading years-old DG comments threads can be a really fascinating experience. provided you read the medium carefully (i.e. be aware of inherent distortions) you can get a pretty nuanced sense of the dimensions of some old controversy, and the student culture surrounding it, by looking through comments on old articles.

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