Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fair, balanced and willing to hear your side of the story

Many a media organization -- The Cavalier Daily included -- has been criticized by some readers for printing stories deemed one-sided and tendentious. Before any non-editorial article is published, however, it is vetted for accuracy and fairness. If an opinion -- no matter how serious -- about an organization or person is included in an article, that organization or person must have a chance to respond to those allegations or offer an opposing/different view. Because this is the case, writers are specifically instructed early in their college journalism careers to contact "all sides," for the sake of crafting the most balanced story possible. And after a writer turns in his or her story, the article is subject to a thorough and comprehensive review by a section editor, a copy editor, an assistant managing editor, the managing editor and the editor-in-chief. The lengthy process is meant to ensure quality and consistency in terms of writing, style, reporting veracity and -- you guessed it -- bias (which is to say, of course, a lack of bias).
That being said, when The Cavalier Daily makes a dutiful effort to contact a source and/or offers an adequate response time, and that source either declines to comment or proves unavailable to comment, it falls to the discretion of the editor-in-chief and the paper's current managing board to make a decision whether to print the story as is -- without inclusion of that source's unvoiced opinions. If a story is deemed relevant or conducive to the paper's goals and mission, the article may be published and the lack of comment disclosed.
Still, just because we COULD publish a slightly imbalanced article does not mean we SHOULD. Obviously, there are times when it becomes necessary to take this approach, but such an option should be the last and least desired one. Know, then, that if a member of The Cavalier Daily contacts you about a story, chances are that it is not because he or she wants to subject you to intense questioning or unfair scrutiny -- it is that he or she simply desires for you to tell your side of the story and provide a different perspective about it, so that we can continue producing high-quality content that is both insightful and fair to all parties involved.

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