This arrangement makes for a balanced treatment of a controversial subject. It does not, however, allow for readers to assume the allegations amount to the whole truth.
So the question becomes, why did we think it was OK to print a story with essentially only one source — the complaint itself?
Indeed, not every accusation would be appropriate for the front page. Friday’s news fit the bill for a few reasons.
First, there is a lot at stake for the public in this story. One of the expectations applied to the public officials who lead this University is that they comply with federal law.
More importantly, the possibility that the University would underreport its own crime statistics should make anyone with a UNC connection, especially those who live on or near campus, take note.
But again, not every allegation, despite how seemingly newsworthy, would be right to report. What made this one an exception was some evidence of credibility.
The complaint in question was signed not only by four current or former students, but by Manning, who worked with the University’s sexual assault reporting system in an intimate capacity for several years. Her perspective, an insider’s view, helps make the story newsworthy.
It is not just Manning’s involvement that suggests the complaint should be taken seriously. Those making the allegations have taken the trouble to formalize them in a 34-page document sent both to the Department of Education and to the department’s Office for Civil Rights.
In addition, the allegations are levied against a system that has been the subject of reform, at UNC and on a national level.
Again, this is not to say the complaint should be taken as fact. But its contents should be reported, should be considered and should be answered by the appropriate parties.
This is a developing story, and it calls for much more reporting — hopefully illuminating UNC’s side — and many more front pages.