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The Blue & Gray Press | May 24, 2018

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Staff editorial: Response to University’s concerns of Bullet’s ethics

In the past week, the Bullet has come under fire for a variety of events that have led some in the University of Mary Washington community to question this publication’s ethics, professionalism and practices. The Bullet staff would like to take this opportunity to, as the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics states, “clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.”

We at the Bullet want to maintain integrity and transparency, and the actions of the former editor-in-chief violated the trust of our readers. As an editor or writer of the Bullet, posting under a pseudonym is not ethical and we do not agree with this practice.

In addition, many in the UMW community are aware of an anonymous twitter account that parodies this publication. We on the Bullet staff are not associated with any Twitter accounts aside from @UMWBullet, @UMWBullet_news, @UMWBulletstyle and @Bulletsports.

The Bullet strives to emulate the aforementioned Code of Ethics, which states, “journalists should show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.” Many of the comments made by the parody Twitter account have been in blatant violation of this value, and we at the Bullet do not condone the disrespectful and inappropriate comments made by the account.

The Bullet takes the concerns of the University very seriously. We, as student journalists, have been working throughout the year to define policies and standards for reporting sensitive issues and events in our publication. This is a continuing effort, and we will work to establish a concrete, written policy in order to guarantee our readers consistency and fairness in our coverage.

A recent article published by the Bullet has caused some to believe the coverage was influenced by discriminatory or malicious intent. While this is not true, we hear and understand the concerns presented. The purpose of the Bullet is to serve as a student newspaper, and not as an extension of public relations for the university. We do not act as judges; we are merely reporters. We cover the news, good or bad, objectively for our readers.

The initial newsworthy aspect of the article was the suspensions of two students from the basketball team. Athletes are prominent members of the UMW community because they represent our school in the public eye. It is for this reason that the story in question ran on the front page. As our reporter researched the story, information about the arrests of the students arose. We saw the story as standard, breaking news that contained only facts available to the public. We reported these facts believing students have the right to know what is going on in their community.

The Bullet aims to meet the standard set by the journalism Code of Ethics, values its place in the UMW community and strives to earn the respect and trust of our readers. We would like to assure our readers that any undue harm that has been inflicted on anyone as a result of the work of this publication was unintentional and without malice.

We, at the Bullet, respect the concerns and opinions of the UMW community. As we move forward, we will continue to provide the university with impartial and ethical coverage while standing for the principles of journalism.

Comments

  1. dbrowne

    Redact the article.

  2. Jeremy S. Thompson

    The editorial states that the point of the article is to speak to the suspensions of two players, not the arrests. However, 1) The article says two players were suspended from the team, with no evidence that the individuals who were suspended were the same individuals who were charged with crimes. 2) The staff editorial says athletes are under much more scrutiny. This would mean that throughout the entire year, no other athletes have committed crimes or have been suspended because none of these stories have appeared on the cover. We all know that this is clearly not the case, making this reported story by The Bullet anything but, “Standard Breaking News.”

  3. dbrowne

    Agreed. This statement does not address many of the concerns stated in the petition.

  4. I agree. I had hoped that this controversy would in the end prompt an open, honest dialogue about journalistic ethics, students’ rights, and of course the racism elephant in the room.

    This staff editorial is troubling because, instead of acknowledging even the mere possibility that there was impropriety in the selection and reporting of crimes in the Bullet, it focuses on the idea that those who drafted the petition and have been speaking out about the Bullet’s actions and Bowman’s conduct have been simply *wrong.* Which, sadly, is not the case.