Journalism has a problem.

It’s not the lack of money (though that does definitely exist). It’s not that technology is changing media (though, again, this is also true). It’s that in general, nobody understands what we do,  not even us at times.

Some more cynical people’s understanding of journalism involves sneaky reporters interviewing good, honest, hardworking folks and then unabashedly misquoting and misinterpreting their words to suit our own agenda.

This year alone, Mustang Daily has been told it is anti-conservative, anti-liberal, too risque, too boring, insensitive, too sensitive, prejudiced against greeks, ignoring greeks, stupid students, fake journalists and my personal favorite, without morals or shame. We’ve even been renamed the “Fuckstang Faily” by one commenter. Even though it’s difficult to maintain these contradictory stances, if the comments on our website are to be believed, we’ve been excellent at being all of them.

Yes, we make mistakes. But we own up to them. I’ve swallowed my pride and written countless editor’s notes alerting you to our errors, your comments appear in the paper and we ask for letters to the editor informing us of how we are doing. We want your input, and aren’t looking to stop that.

But we first have to clear up some misconceptions. The easiest way to do this is to bring up the latest example of the tumultuous relationship between Mustang Daily and some individuals in greek life.

One of our news reporters, Sean McMinn, recently wrote an article about the cease and desist order issued to Delta Sigma Phi following an alleged party which might or might not have drawn 300 attendees and did end in four citations by the San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD).

In this article, McMinn directly quotes Student Life and Leadership Director Stephen Lamb, greek life director Diego Silva and SLOPD Captain Chris Staley. He also obtained matching “no comments” from the presidents of both Delta Sigma Phi and Phi Sigma Kappa (the investigation of which has since been dropped). Yet, the majority of the 35 comments on this article say it is biased, and Mustang Daily doesn’t include facts in its articles. According to these anonymous commenters, we are “biased” because the sources included had negative things to say about the issue, even though these not only are the top people a reporter is expected to contact for anything related to greek life but are also admittedly expected to be the most in favor of greek life. Who else would they like for us to talk to?

Mustang Daily isn’t out to get the greek system. I have absolutely no problem with it, except for this annoying habit that as soon as we report anything bad, we’re told we hate greek life and never cover anything good about them. If that’s true, then how do we get stories such as these: “LGBT making allys“, “Sorority grants wishes with annual casino night,” “Rush week concludes with big numbers” and “Record-breaking rush wraps up recruitment.”

The above headlines were all stories written this year that cast greek life in a favorable way. (By the way, all of these were front page above the fold articles as well.) But guess what? None of those articles have near as many comments as the articles on cease and desist orders or hazing. And the majority of comments on those “exciting” stories aren’t by people who “hate the greeks.” The majority of the comments are by people, you guessed it, saying the Mustang Daily is biased against fraternities and sororities.

It’s a horrible circle, that quite honestly, I’m not sure how to remedy. All I can say is Mustang Daily does everything it can to cover greek life in the most equal and unbiased way possible. We have reporters whose specific beats are to cover greek events. We’ve made attempts to team up with SLL and create a monthly greek life update. And we accept press releases from everyone, so please don’t hesitate to send us one. We don’t rate greek life events any less important than an event by the Pride Center, Safer or the MultiCultural Center, all of which recieve a lot of coverage in the paper.

An even worse phenomenon though, is the blatant attack against the reporter of such articles. In McMinn’s article, 10 of the 35 comments directly state that McMinn is either a jealous shut-in who doesn’t get invited to parties, or a stupid reporter who just likes to write negative stories about stuff.

I will vouch for McMinn in this instance and say that he is neither. When he began this story, he didn’t call up the editors and say, “Haha, greek life screwed itself again, and I’m going to expose that.” He, as well as other members on staff such as our managing editor Karlee Prazak and news reporter Victoria Billings — who by the way, is also listed as a contributor to the article, spent the day carefully checking every bit of information they received. When the story got to copy editing, we carefully read it to make sure there was absolutely no opinion in it, and it was just the bare facts — we even had the police report as reference. We literally did everything we could to make sure the story was without bias, and we still received crap for it.

So here’s the deal.

Nobody at the Mustang Daily enjoys the animosity that pops up in these situations. None of us want to have ongoing drama with any campus groups, and we’ve found that the best way to cut off these problems is to let you in on our process. So now on our website, we’ve included a new page on your rights as a source and what you can expect when being interviewed, as well as updating our comments and anonymous sources policy.

We’re also creating a brand new “About Us” page where readers can go to find out about our entire staff, and hopefully, realize we’re actual, real people, not nameless evil. We want to be open with you, and we want you to be open with us.

In the coming weeks, we will feature a survey that allows readers to rate how they think we cover campus issues. I encourage everyone to fill it out and turn it in to our newsroom (you get a free T-shirt as well), so we can start to fix our respective misconceptions. Maybe then, we’ll start getting more comments on an article about a sorority philanthropy event than a fraternity party.

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7 Comments

  1. This letter was an absolute waste of my time. I feel terrible you even had to write it. For you to be offended by such ignorant comments obviously written by those who only picked up the paper because their frat was on it is ridiculous. Any decent minded person knows that article was absolutely fair and unbiased in reporting the events of that party, so please don’t feel the need to apologize every time a frat dude says something stupid. Sack up mustang daily

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