November 6, 2003

Ethics in campus journalism

Late last month, The Justice, the Brandeis University student newspaper, printed an inflammatory column in which a student referred to Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker using a racial slur. Numerous student protests led to the resignation of two editors and the author of the article.

We at the Maroon empathize with the editors of The Justice. We know very well how easily controversial comments can slip through the cracks and past several editors on busy nights. Yet part of the job of editor is being held accountable for editorial content and assuming responsibility when a staff member errs. That said, we feel the dismissals of the writer and editors of The Justice were warranted.

The reaction on campus was certainly predictable considering the severity of the issue, but the question must be asked whether it was productive and conducted in the appropriate manner. In the past, the Maroon has been presented with a similar, albeit less severe circumstance. We found that a response in a more sophisticated and controlled manner achieved the same changes as street protests, but also opened a discussion about the situation and its causes. Had the Brandeis students not jumped to march on the newspaper office, but had instead engaged the editors and the university community in a discussion about the very presence of racism on campus, they might have been able to accomplish more than just the editors' resignations.