Letter from the Editor: The Beacon’s shortcomings and how we will improve

By Lucia Thorne, Editor-in-Chief

It’s been a year and a half since The Beacon began a process that had been long overdue: reckoning with the racism within our organization. As our new editor-in-chief, I’m writing to update you on the progress of that reckoning—what we’ve already changed within the institution to address these issues, and, with the dawn of a new semester, what steps come next. 

This semester, our main goal is transparency—within our organization and with the Emerson community.  

In September 2020, The Beacon saw a mass resignation of over a dozen staffers due to a story published about a white student losing her father’s financial aid after supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. We centered a white ally and her experience rather than focusing the conversation where it should have been: on Black lives and BIPOC voices. 

I––and nearly all our staff this semester––joined The Beacon in the aftermath of this incident. Yet while I was not around for this decision, my understanding of the full impact of the incident is inherently limited. 

Based on everything I have learned, heard, and observed during my time at Emerson, the repeated hurt our organization has caused marginalized communities is unequivocally evident. I, like my predecessors, extend my deepest apologies to every person—former staffers and community members alike—that The Beacon has hurt. 

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However, I understand that this apology, like so many others, may not feel sincere without the evidence of the changes we’ve been working toward.  

Respect is something that is earned. And as a publication, we have only ourselves to blame for criticism and loss of respect from the entire Emerson community. 

What we aim to do now is more fully represent the community we serve and prevent causing the harm it has in the past. This work cannot be completed in a single semester––it is a continuous effort, as we should constantly stride towards the betterment of ourselves as an organization. As long as The Beacon, and Emerson, is a predominantly white institution, this work will always be necessary. 

It is not the responsibility of Emersonians of color to teach us what we’ve done wrong. Had we listened to our staff and students of color in the first place, we could have done the right thing from the beginning without hurting people along the way

As EIC, I hope to continue the work of my predecessors––Diti Kohli, Katie Redefer, and Charlie McKenna––in repairing our organizational culture, and to start new work of my own. 

Over the past year and a half, we have implemented mandatory bias training for all staff and contributors each semester, ethics training reviewing our past mistakes, and created an advisory board composed of journalists of color. Yet, in completing an audit of our past and present coverage for racial bias and shortcomings, we have fallen short. 

While we had promised to release the audit’s findings several times prior, we failed to do so until now. The auditing process completed by our staff took much longer than expected, and I must regretfully admit, was set aside as our organization struggled to keep the pace we’d set for ourselves at the beginning of this endeavor.    

Today, The Beacon will finally release the audit’s findings along with the publication of this letter. 

Additionally, since the audit of our 2019-20 coverage was compiled using older data, we will be conducting another audit of our more recent coverage––a few weeks from the Fall 2021 semester, and a few weeks from this one. We plan to release these new findings after spring break. This audit will help us examine new data to share our progress and determine what improvements are still needed. 

We believe it is vital that we share more recent data with the Emerson community, to most accurately reflect where The Beacon stands today. 

Moving forward, we plan to conduct a more in-depth audit of coverage each semester to ensure that an audit of our coverage will be released in a timely manner. We will also continue with our mandatory bias training and will continue to rely on our advisory board this semester.

Beyond these previous measures, we hope to foster a more inclusive and open work environment, one where Emersonians––both involved with The Beacon and students, faculty, and staff across campus––can feel heard and know that their input matters. 

To start this work, The Beacon has created an open Google form for community members to air their grievances with our content, reporting, and conduct as an organization for those who feel comfortable with interacting. No one has any obligation to do so; however, we want to keep an option open for those who may decide they want to. 

In addition, we will be holding monthly check-ins with staff members and contributors to maintain healthy communication within our organization. 

Healing takes time, and I truly hope that anyone hurt by The Beacon is healing well and doing better. Mistakes have been made, unforgivable mistakes. We are continuing to learn from these mistakes, and will keep putting in the work to change ourselves until we become the student newspaper Emerson deserves.  

If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns regarding our content and/or the conduct of our staff, please email contact@berkeleybeacon.com or use our Google form, which will be available on our Facebook and Twitter. We will be adding the form to our Instagram and website as soon as possible.