The Daily Tar Heel entered a public record lawsuit in the fall semester of 2016 with hopes to better inform the public and to hold UNC accountable. Last Tuesday, I watched the lawyers from each side of the suit present oral arguments in the appeal process.
I am hopeful for the outcome of our appeal, but regardless of that, getting to watch our lawyers present to a panel of judges why these documents matter was an experience I won’t forget.
I had to miss class to attend (sorry, professor), but I saw that investigative reporting takes time, inertia, disagreements and judgments. It underscored for me why we must be judicious in deciding what to print.
In the same way an editor has to decide the ethics of publishing, judges have to decide what is legally allowed to be published. And when media consumers decide to share an article or write a Facebook post, we have a choice to make too. Spreading information is more difficult than it sounds, especially when the examples of it going poorly are seared into public memory.
My definition of good journalism is divided into two parts: first, to write stories that inform an audience and hold people accountable. Second, to express good editorial review, or spending the extra time to ensure something is communicated properly.
As the editor of a newspaper, I may need to use my journalistic judgment more than others, but taking time to think about what you’re reading is an important skill for anyone who wants to be a curator and conveyor of ideas.
It's tempting to sacrifice the editorial review process for efficiency and speed. While there's always a race to be first, there's also just being tired. Trust me, after a long day in class and at work, it's so easy to not go that extra few feet and double check that a name is spelled right. Similarly, it's easy to just retweet an article after a few paragraphs instead of making sure I understand every point. And I'm sure I'm not alone.
Sitting in that courtroom reminded me why we, not just journalists, cannot be lazy or allow competition to cause us to sacrifice our good judgements. Information has impacts, and with social media, we’re all gatekeepers of information to sizable audiences.
Never forget your responsibility to do editorial review. Think about what you’re writing, and challenge your perceptions before clicking "Publish" or "Share."
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