There’s No Excuse for Bad Journalism

Dear Editors,

I want to preface this with a statement of my skill level: novice. I have never been published in the paper, never written a letter to the editor, and certainly never expressed my opinions in public writing before. Yet the recent pieces published by Lake Views leave me very little moral choice. I simply cannot remain silent any longer. I remember last year, when the issues of the blue versus white graduation gowns were weighed with proper consideration of the pros and cons. I remember a factually written piece on the nature of the “Opt Out” campaign. While it was under the “Opinion” section, it was still fairly reported and weighed evenly. When the Title 9 lawsuit was prevalent, the reporters of Lake Views considered it, studied it, and followed it both carefully and factually, reporting what truly mattered to the student body in an accurate way.

Unfortunately, the paper I once knew and respected has drifted far astray. I take no issue with the front page articles and the other assorted factual pieces throughout the publication (I actually quite enjoyed the balanced coverage of the school’s changing start time). Rather, I take issue with the increasingly radical and decreasingly factual opinion pieces, which are further dividing the already polarized political groups here at LOHS.

In the interest of honesty, it was a specific piece that galvanized me into writing today. While I would not have voted for Trump, instead spending my time volunteering for Bernie and and participating in numerous peaceful protests for legitimate policy issues post-election, I cannot allow my school’s paper to become what so many have derided as the fall of modern media – clickbait. Hence, I protest the editorial allowance and acceptance of such a factually inaccurate and blatantly clickbait-ish title and article, The Trump Genocide Begins, by Daniel Nsengimana (for the online edition, I’ve included a link. I highly recommend comparing my remarks to the content itself). I understand, as any rational member of the journalist community should, the decision of Yeo v. Town of Lexington, where the Supreme Court decided that the staff of the school district could not legally censor or alter the content of a school newspaper. However, the decision still states that the student editors of a paper can exercise absolute editorial review and reject content with or without reason.

To criticize and recommend the removal of an illogical and factually inaccurate article without making any direct attacks on the article or proving my own arguments would be to succumb to the same level of reporting which now passes for an opinion piece. Thus, my arguments are as follows.

Firstly, the title of the article blatantly contradicts with its contents, supporting both a false narrative and attempting to grab attention through near slander. While I agree that the immigration ban, while debatably constitutional, was morally wrong, to claim that Trump has begun a genocide is utterly ridiculous. His actions are not on par with the beginnings of the tragedies in Bosnia, Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda, or even Holodomor. While his rhetoric is inflammatory, international and federal law would prevent any such atrocity from occurring. To claim otherwise is to minimize the suffering of those who were legitimately killed en masse due to an immutable characteristic central to their identity. Aristotle lists “false equivalency” as a logical fallacy of the highest order; to equate some arguable discrimination with killing people in large numbers is simply wrong.

Secondly, the final line of the opening paragraph states that this is not a normal political move and therefore cannot be discussed in the format of pro vs. con; rather, it must be categorically dismissed. I reject this unsubstantiated claim. Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 states: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.” While you may agree or disagree with either the constitutionality or the morality of this law, it has been used before. Ignoring the obvious April 2012 and July 2011 Obama executive orders (these have been sufficiently covered by large media networks), George W. Bush used this power 6 times during his tenure as president, barring members of Zimbabwe and the Lukashenka government in Belarus. Ronald Reagan used this to bar Cubans from entering the US during the Cold War, and even Jimmy Carter, arguably the most philanthropic and morally just president for quite some time, used this to unequivocally invalidate “all visas issued to Iranian Citizens for future entry into the United States”, including those of legal permanent residents and refugees. The notion that this is not a “normal political action” is absurd, as is the notion that because you find this terrible or corruptive to our values as a society, a pro vs. con comparison is off the table. Weighing the costs and benefits of any governmental action is a moral duty of anyone who supports or opposes it, and skirting a duty with such gravity solely because you find it abhorrent on face value is a clear abandonment of your civic duty (Hobbes, anyone?).

 

In the interest of keeping this letter publishable and short, I’ll leave those two points to stand alone. To conclude, I offer the following.

 

The student editors of the school paper have the ability to reject any piece submitted either by the student body or by their journalists. Therefore, they have a moral responsibility to ensure that their publication does not descend to the level of clickbait. The fact is, the dismissal of a large portion of America’s political views is never justified without a fair and balanced pro vs. con, cost vs. benefit, or other logical comparison. I take issue with the deliberate misdirection, I take issue with the factual inaccuracies, and I take issue with the willingness to suspend logical thought and honest political discourse because “Trump is going to cause a genocide.” The nature of editing is to create a better final publication; what’s the purpose of having such a power if, even in the face of an outright assault on the integrity of journalism, it is never used?

 

Author’s Update: Given recent events, most notably the signing of an executive order that very closely mirrors that which this article was based upon, I am aware and understand that this letter may be inflammatory to some. To them, I posit this: an argument, no matter its source, journey, or medium, is an argument. It can be supported or critiqued, but it must be weighed fairly, no matter the circumstance. I am prepared to defend anything I’ve written thus far; are you?

 

Awaiting your response,

Jackson Dyal

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