Thursday, December 04, 2003

No, it doesn't 

"Free speech requires responsibility", says the title of a column in the University Chronicle.
As a writer and reader, I generated and witnessed what later turned out to be debatable headlines, amateur or uninformed writing, poor staff decisions and errors of fact and grammar that often sparked controversy. These are unfortunate side-affects of all newspapers.

But over the years the different editors and section editors I have worked with have proved to be the most dependable, dedicated people I have met in college. ...

I never met anyone on the staff with a blatant disregard for the standards and ethics of journalism. I never met anyone malicious or purposefully biased.

Letters to the editor and constructive feedback help the staff grow. But misdirected anger, and name-calling - although proven the least effective forms of reasoning - remain the most frequent means of communication.

I implore readers, whether students, professors, alumni or community members, to help the staff to grow, but not into bitter and defensive journalists. I implore writers and editors to continue the pursuit of those ideals we learned in class, to strive for accuracy, and remember our First Amendment right isn't just a privilege - it's a responsibility. (Emphasis added.)

While I agree with Ms. Kubisiak that we should help student writers grow, I wonder if she understands who has the responsibility. You as a writer have a responsibility to not print false and inflammatory statements like that you had to retract. You have to learn to accept your mistakes and the abuse that people heap when they are pilloried in a public forum without their own forum to respond from. And to accept that there are some who have a forum and will respond.

Universities have a responsibility to be bastions of free and open debate, and public universities, in particular, have a First Amendment obligation to respect freedom of expression.
We do not have to be civil. And we do not have to treat you with kid gloves because you think the Chronicle is a newspaper on training wheels. If a little criticism now will have you grow "into bitter and defensive journalists", I shudder to think what will happen to you when a mayor calls you in after your first investigative piece on city hall politics.

Toughen up, buttercup.