Letter from the editor: Clarifying comments on our reporting
This letter responds to comments made in a letter to the editor that critiqued McPhie’s comments on a recent episode of Editor’s Note, the Student Life podcast.
I appreciate Mr. Bertelsman’s devoted readership and important critiques of Student Life, and I apologize for any confusion resulting from my comments inthe recent Editor’s Note podcast. However, I believe that Mr. Bertelsman takes my words out of context. The sentence prior to the remark that he quotes is important for clarification: “Though the news section has continuously reported on the state of COVID-19 cases and vaccine efforts in St. Louis and on campus, McPhie clarified that the section was only reporting facts, and not attempting to take any particular stance on ethics.” My statement should be understood within the context of the conversation preceding it—the podcast was discussing how some students have falsely claimed eligibility for the vaccine; while Student Life will report on the fact that this is occurring, we are not responsible for telling students that they should or should not do so.
This is not to say that Student Life does not report on the vaccination process. While the majority of students residing in St. Louis were not yet eligible to be vaccinated at the time of the podcast interview (March 30), as soon as information was released on how students could get vaccinated through Washington University, Student Life reported on it. Back in January, Student Life reported about the vaccination process in Missouri, including the recommendation for not-yet-eligible students to pre-register for a vaccine with BJC HealthCare. Up until April 9, pre-registration was the only step that the majority of students could take. In the interim, Student Life continued to cover equity issues in vaccine distribution as well as write about receiving vaccines due to underlying health conditions or by signing up to receive extra doses.
I do not wish to take away from Mr. Bertelsman’s larger call to action, much of which I wholeheartedly agree with. There are always more questions that we should be asking, more issues that we should be investigating and more perspectives that we should be including—I am continually thinking about how we have fallen short and how we can improve. At the same time, I don’t think it’s accurate to claim that I and the Student Life news section are simply “content to be the mouthpiece of the powerful.” I believe that the reporting I conducted over my tenure as a news editor quite clearly demonstrates the opposite, while still leaving plenty of room for improvement. I have nothing but confidence in this coming year’s excellent news team, and I’m excited to see how they push Student Life’s reporting to be more thorough than ever. I extend a warm invitation to all who are devoted to, in the words of Mr. Bertelsman, “fair, tough and thorough reporting” to come join Student Life and help us in our continued efforts to do better.
Read Editor-in-Chief Matthew Friedman’s response to Mr. Bertlesman’s letter to the editor.