The editorial board of a student newspaper at a New York-based liberal arts college recently issued a retraction for an article originally published in February, saying the article contained too many quotes from white students.
The editorial board of Miscellaneous News, the student newspaper at Vassar College, published the retraction on Wednesday, over a story centered on the removal of former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson from giving a commencement address this year. Johnson reportedly decided not to speak after receiving a backlash from campus over its border deportation policies.
The editorial board said in its apology that it originally published the article with the aim of documenting student responses to Johnson’s nomination, but during the process of editing the student newspaper, they received the statement. Johnson’s withdrawal and changed the subject of the February 17 article to talking about his withdrawal with some reaction from the student body.
“In this article, we have attempted to include a variety of quotes from students describing why there were protests over the announcement of his appointment as speaker in the first place, and the reaction of students to his withdrawal,” they wrote. they wrote.
It was in this process that the editorial board said it prioritized “urgency over rigor”, and said it made “misguided and insensitive oversights with who we were representing in the article and did not provide an in-depth report on the problem as a whole”.
“The majority of our quotes were from white students and so we reduced the positions of students of color to a singular, symbolic perspective. After this was brought to our attention, the journal decided to remove the article online. in an attempt to prevent further damage among the communities we have distorted,” they wrote.
They went on to state that “misrepresentation” was not the only problem with the article, and “to say so would be a serious oversimplification”.
“Our article illustrates many of the institutional flaws and structural problems of our newspaper. Journalism, including academic journalism, has always been a white-centric, often elitist, and Miscellaneous News is not immune to the consequences of these structures,” they said.
“The publication of the article and its subsequent deletion remind us of the systemic issues in which our members are embroiled, as well as the privilege and lack of diversity that we have allowed to persist for generations on our boards. None of our explanations for individual story failures can alleviate the issue of past coverage of issues related to people of color, nor address in depth the issue of representation on our board of directors,” they added.
The board said “consistent action” must be taken to address “systemic issues” in its article, and that one of those steps includes their current process of establishing a review committee “which aims to review citations and sources to ensure both their veracity and the integrity of their representation in the article.”
The council went on to note why their statement took over a month to come out. “Finally, we would like to acknowledge the delay in publishing this editorial; we wanted to address the issue with the diligence it demands, rather than issuing a quick but reactionary apology that fails to address the seriousness or complexity of the situation” , said the editors said.
“As a college newspaper, we would like to emphasize that while we are committed to covering news from the Vassar community and campus, our top priority will always be to report all student voices to the best of our abilities. We encourage students, including Miscellaneous News Editorial Board, to participate in the dialogue on current issues, as well as future articles, topics or disputes on campus. We continue to push toward our goal of delivering all the most important news on campus while elevating a wide range of voices,” they concluded.