SPRING EDITORIAL BOARD 2017
In view of some of the complaints levied toward The Plainsman, some concerning what we ought to cover as journalists and some concerning whether we should voice our opinions, we believe it’s important to express what constitutes our duty as journalists.
First and foremost, it’s our duty to report the happenings on Auburn’s campus and the surrounding community in an unbiased manner — to report the facts in their fullness, as they happen.
If those facts cast Auburn University, any organization or person in a good or bad light, so be it.
Our job isn’t to be mindless supporters of all things Auburn; our job is to function as a spotlight to the things people ought to see, good and bad.
The fact we are students of Auburn University doesn’t mean we shouldn’t criticize our University. In fact, it demands the opposite.
We must constantly work to better our University by providing a natural check on its activities.
We do this through reporting and by broadcasting our opinion when we believe the University errs.
In doing this, we serve the student body and faculty.
Organizations, such as universities, naturally tend to look out for themselves.
That isn’t to say they never look out for those they serve, but it is to say they keep an eye out for themselves sometimes to the point where it’s unhelpful to those they ostensibly aim to serve.
Sometimes it’s easier to sweep things under the rug purely for PR purposes.
With this fact in mind, we are committed to pulling such things to the surface — a process that sometimes makes people uncomfortable.
We are able to put pressure on entities, which leads to better performance from those entities.
This pressure can take the form of showcasing facts that may be perceived as negative, but it’s important for people to fully appreciate that their perceiving of something negative doesn’t necessarily mean it was written in a biased manner. It may only mean the reader has a certain disposition about the facts.
While reading our news, it’s important to consider a bias most humans deal with: negativity bias.
Negativity bias is a psychological phenomenon that causes negative events or information to create stronger impressions within people’s minds than positive events or information.
This bias leads people to falsely believe we only or mostly cover negative events.
And it’s evident in the fact that our coverage of negative things gets much more attention than our coverage of positive things.
Keeping this bias in mind will lend a more objective outlook as to the nature of our reporting.
Another complaint that commonly surfaces is that The Plainsman shouldn’t post opinion pieces.
Some argue we shouldn’t post opinion pieces at all, and others arbitrarily draw the line at topics like politics.
In many cases, these complaints rise out of an ignorance of the common structure of a newspaper — that is, how there are specific sections for unbiased reporting and a section clearly designated to broadcast opinions.
Yet time and time again, an opinion piece will be published and along come people who disagree with the piece’s stance and attempt to disparage The Plainsman for straying away from unbiased reporting.
The opinion section is supposed to broadcast opinions, which, by definition, makes it not subject to some of the constraints other sections face.
Many, especially in the face of opinion pieces they feel deeply uncomfortable with, would rather the section be done away with so as to protect their bubble of beliefs.
In vain attempts to construct a persuasive argument for that dissolution, people argue the opinions represented in The Plainsman don’t always reflect the majority of opinions held on campus — as though that’s an inherently negative thing — and therefore, those opinions should not be published.
Occasionally, the views expressed in our opinion section don’t completely align with some readers’ opinions. That is completely OK; it helps further disucssion and challenges people’s thinking.
Our history is marked by us publishing sometimes unpopular opinions, like pro-integration and pro-LGBTQ editorials.
It’s healthy to regularly read opinions that strike at your most central beliefs.
We welcome opinions that contradict our own, and we aim to use them to craft more tenable beliefs.
We are committed to providing opinions in their designated section, despite the cognitive dissonance they may erupt in our readers, as well as responsible, unbiased reporting.