In Response to ‘Spectrum Has Lost Focus’

To the former section editors:

Thank you for your letter. The Spectrum strives to serve the North Dakota State community as best as it can, including coverage of current events, special publications and your personal diatribe against my staff and me.

I published your letter because the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics calls on reporters with integrity to “(s)upport the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.”

Your letter is the most repugnant piece I have personally seen in my four years at this newspaper. 

Allow me to answer your posed questions — questions I know that you already know the answers to. Our readers may not know, though, about the publication process, and, unlike you, I support and stand with The Spectrum.

This student-run newspaper still prints twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Those papers still don’t magically appear online and on newsstands. A standard edition still easily exceeds 100 collective hours of planning, selling ads, interviewing, writing, taking photos, crafting graphics, editing content and laboring through pre-publishing.

A special issue, like our sex and romance edition, takes even longer. We determined last semester, as a staff, that this expansive topic was worthy of coverage. My staff and I worked diligently these last two weeks to create that paper, putting all of our resources toward it.

Yes, special editions are a deviation from our standard coverage of campus happenings. But if you continue reading our initial goal that you quit quoting before it contradicted your point, “The Spectrum was to also provide a forum for student opinion and its own editorials.” We’re more than a record book; we’re a reflection of the campus zeitgeist.

Here’s some transparency, another tenet of ethical writing: My head news editor alerted me Sunday about the accident. I was in The Spectrum office with my managing and design editors, sending the special edition to the printers. He began working on the story, which we published online Monday afternoon and on the front page today.

Apparently, as you suggest, I should have located the incident report at 3 a.m., scrapped the entire special edition and published “regular, complete coverage of NDSU news” in the nine hours I had before deadline.

Your modest proposal is asinine, and you know that.

I never considered placing a hastily written article regarding the tragedy in the sex and romance special edition just for the sake of coverage. The content did not fit the nearly finished edition, and, most importantly, it would have been a disservice to the victims’ families to find your recommended “briefing” within those pages.

As journalism graduates, I would hope that you both know the first and second tenets of the SPJ Code: seeking truth and reporting it and minimizing harm. Journalists should “(r)emember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.” We must also “show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage.” We took our time, and we were careful with our work. There’s no shame in that.

Yes, I could have posted about the accident on social media after sending the paper off. I could have done a write-up, as I did soon after the death of freshman Brooke Schroeder last month.

Instead, I sent the paper off, left the office and cried in my car.

I was friends with Danie Thomssen; we were saxophonists together in the Gold Star Marching Band.

I wish I could be the perfect journalist: objective, removed and indifferent. My apologies for grieving.

How dare you use this tragedy as a justification to shame my staff’s alleged lack of “focus and commitment.” How dare you use this medium, as alleged professional journalists, to cause further harm and pain. How dare you belittle stories in the special edition, including a survivor’s story regarding her lifetime of sexual violence and another’s project to fight rape culture.

For the former story, I spent more than 12 hours interviewing, transcribing and writing nearly 2,000 words.

For the latter story, I am volunteering in the project because I, too, have personally experienced sexual violence.

Don’t tell me these conversations aren’t important.

I’m open to constructive criticism; I’m not open to your blatant personal, and public, animosity.

What good were you attempting to accomplish with this.

I’ll be the first to admit The Spectrum messes up. It’s as if it’s run by full-time students who are overstretched and underpaid. We have every excuse in the books to explain our mistakes, but we won’t use them unless unfairly provoked.

Your inexcusable letter is unfair to my staff, myself and those featured in our special edition.

Perhaps next time you have an issue with this newspaper, call, text or message me. My phone number and social media accounts haven’t changed since you left.

Instead of acting professionally, you wished to see your names in print, spitting at the staff and newspaper that helped you get to where you are today.

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  • NDSU Senior
    February 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Is this article a joke? Special edition or not there could have been room for a quick briefing about the incident. I don’t read the spectrum for students opinions (not to belittle the Monday’s articles content). I read it for news about the student body. TWO STUDENTS DIED. Why am I just finding out about this now? Almost a week after the incident.

    It would not have been a disservice to their memory to have it in that article and I think it was by omission.

    • Proud GSMB member
      February 16, 2017 at 9:28 pm

      Having known Danie for many years, I appreciate that the news of her death was not hastily thrown in to a special edition on sex and romance. Ben also talks about his personal connection to Danie in this article and I think it is not only rude but extremely callous of you to suggest that he purposely omitted news of the crash. He did what he thought was best in a tough, if not impossible, situation. The GSMB is a family, maybe you should try some empathy.

  • Riley Conlin
    February 16, 2017 at 11:10 pm

    This piece is hypocritical and an embarrassment to the NDSU community. You list off tenets of ethical journalism but break one in the process: “Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.” You are talking down to people who hold concerns about the content and coverage of this newspaper and they made their points in a civil manner. You fling words left and right and you argue from a moral high ground you don’t hold. The legitimacy of their concerns are irrelevant in this matter.

    But what’s worse is claiming to be the zeitgeist of NDSU and representing us in this way. You are yelling down dissent while dodging arguments and burning straw men before you’ve even built them. You use this platform to slander people you accuse of using this platform to cause harm and pain. The only animosity I see here is the person using “alleged” to describe the criticizers’ credentials. I see a person dismissing criticism as rage. This is disgraceful to the NDSU community.

    Don’t pretend to care about journalistic ethics when articles like this get published.

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