Note from the Editor: We take responsibility

Note+from+the+Editor%3A+We+take+responsibility

A journalist’s commitment is to truth, to fairness, to balance. And this is The Beacon’s truth.

We, as an institution with a longstanding history at Emerson, have repeatedly produced content and enabled a newsroom culture that has ostracized the marginalized communities we vow to give a voice to. We have devalued and silenced community members with good intentions to make our paper produce better journalism. And we have passively watched while days, weeks, and years have passed where we could have made The Beacon a more accepting and inviting organization.

This week, our staff had enough. 

If you too believe that print isn’t dead, you may have realized our physical paper is four pages—instead of eight—this week. That’s because The Beacon is operating on a bare-bones staff, who are working diligently to provide essential coverage about the pandemic, the college’s reopening, and Title IX policy. But a majority of our writers, columnists, photographers, and editors have not contributed recently. In fact, many may not have a byline in The Beacon for quite some time, or ever again. Almost 20 staff members have effectively sent their resignations, and many are mulling over leaves of absence until structural improvements are made to Emerson’s only newspaper. They want change, and they deserve it.

To the outside viewer, it may seem like the organization’s unrest is the direct result of a story published last week that centered around a white student, her support for Black Lives Matter, and the consequent loss of her tuition. That article is admittedly rife with flaws and has since been removed from The Beacon’s primary distribution platforms with a note from the editor.

We choose information accessibility

News and the truth are under constant attack in our current moment, just when they are needed the most. The Beacon’s quality, fact-based accounting of historic events has never mattered more, and our editorial independence is of paramount importance. We believe journalism is a public good that should be available to all regardless of one’s ability to pay for it. But we can not continue to do this without you. Every little bit, whether big or small, helps fund our vital work — now and in the future.

Still, the problem with The Beacon is far-reaching and goes well beyond a singular decision to press “publish” when we shouldn’t have. We are a primarily white organization that has held up journalistic values rooted in inequity. Those who belong to marginalized communities and pass through our ranks have often felt unheard by editor after editor. They speak up—and too often, they get shut down. And while I, as Editor-in-Chief, tried to better this environment when my tenure began, I fell short. I take responsibility for hurting the staff members—and anyone else—who were upset by coverage and conversations that happened under my watch. 

And I apologize for the ways the paper has blundered in recent years, like last semester when The Beacon published a COVID-centric article with a masked Asian student in the photo at the start of the pandemic; when we released an editorial that belittled multicultural organizations’ efforts for justice and equity; and when we wrote a story, and an editorial to match, that was steeped in ableist language. This list goes on.

After hours of conversation with staff members this week, The Beacon is doing something that we should have done a long time ago. 

The paper is entirely reassessing the way we report, produce, and operate. It is time for The Beacon to push back against the racist, sexist, and ableist tropes that have plagued mainstream newsrooms built by and for white men. A long list of necessary changes is already being workshopped by our editors, our staff, and a growing advisory board of professors and journalists—many of whom are people of color. 

Among those improvements is an overhaul of our constitution, the addition of bias training, the creation of a consulting board, and a reinvention of our editor-in-chief election process. Once these amendments are fully workshopped with deadlines attached, they will be shared publicly on The Beacon website for the sake of accountability. 

Yet I admit, The Beacon can never achieve its goals for betterment without the trust of the communities we are supposed to serve. Rebuilding these relationships will rightfully be a gradual process that is dependent on the way we approach future sources and the nuance with which we write the stories we must. 

Until The Beacon is more aware of its biases and making clear, substantive change, you can still expect a paper on the racks by lunchtime Thursday. It’s our job to report on the college; to hold administration accountable during this time of great need; to keep track of the accomplishments and oddities in our community; to be the place for public opinion; and to serve as a clear and accurate reflection of campus life. We will continue doing that. Though with our smaller staff, it’ll be on a reduced scale. 

That said, I take responsibility. We take responsibility. And we know that now, more than ever, is the time to listen, time to understand, and the time to face the systemic flaws of our organization. We are committed to a brighter, equitable future, and we hope you will join us in this effort. 

A news organization is nothing without its staff. And a newspaper is nothing more than litter without its readers.