A college newspaper at Vassar has retracted an article because it contained too many quotations from whites, and then went further to condemn the “white-centric, often elitist” field of all journalism.
The Miscellany News at Vassar explained that it is retracting its article, “Jeh Charles Johnson withdraws as 2022 commencement speaker,” weeks after it was published in February.
It’s because, the paper explained, the article originally was to report on reaction to Johnson’s selection as speaker, but then shortly before deadline, he withdrew.
“We drastically changed the article from focusing solely on student responses to the announcement of him as speaker into an article describing his withdrawal and the reaction from the student body. In this article, we attempted to include a variety of quotes from students describing why there was protest to the announcement of him as speaker in the first place, and the students’ reaction to his withdrawal,” the paper said.
“We made misguided and insensitive oversights with whom we were representing in the article and failed to provide in-depth reporting of the issue at large. The majority of our quotations came from white students and therefore we reduced the positions of students of color to a singular, tokenized perspective,” the paper said.
However, its “harm” to communities it “misrepresented” is only a part of the problem, it charged.
“Journalism, including college journalism, has historically been a white-centric, often elitist field, and The Miscellany News is not immune to the consequences of these structures,” the paper wrote. “The publication of the article and its subsequent removal reminds us of the systemic issues our members are implicated in, as well as the privilege and lack of diversity that we have allowed to persist for generations across our boards. None of our explanations for the failures of an individual article can mitigate the problem of past coverage on issues related to people of color, nor address in full depth the issue of representation within our board.”
It promised “immediately and gradual steps,” such as creating a review board to examined quotes in the newspaper, “to ensure both their veracity and the integrity of their representation.”
The Washington Examiner explained Johnson’s speech had been controversial because of his part in the Barack Obama administration’s action on deportation of illegal aliens.
The paper’s editorial board said, “As a college newspaper, we want to emphasize that though we are committed to covering news of the Vassar community and campus, our main priority will always be to report all student voices to the best of our ability.”
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