Editorial: Student newspapers and consenting to learn in public

By Rana Schenke, Editor-in-Chief

When I started at the Daily Egyptian in spring 2018, I didn’t know what I was doing. All I had was a semester of high school journalism and a desire to become a better writer.

Since starting at the DE, I’ve met coworkers who applied for various reasons and from various backgrounds. Some were from the School of journalism students looking to gain experience for their resumes; others were creative writing, animal science or psychology majors looking for a unique, flexible or on-campus job. 

No matter their goals or skills, for students who make up the DE staff, the job is a learning experience.

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The learning that takes place at the DE, however, has one major difference from classroom learning: public exposure. 

Sharing work online and in print can be a very rewarding experience. A student’s work at the DE can shine a light on stories and topics the public may be otherwise unaware of. 

The downside of this is when students share their work, it’s out there for everyone to see and it’s hard to predict how people will react to it. If they don’t like the topic or the opinion of the piece, a writer may see negative comments on social media or the website.

If a mistake has been made, there are many who, rightfully so, are quick to call attention to it.

A mistake can be as small as a misspelled word or as detrimental as poor judgment on editing or topic of choice. Although it’s helpful for mistakes to be pointed out so they can be addressed, it can be very disheartening for someone to receive overtly negative or insulting comments on the content of their work.

Working for the Daily Egyptian involves a concept known as “consenting to learn in public.” 

I first came across this term while reading writer, scholar and activist Adrienne Keene’s blog, Native Appropriations. Keene wrote a post in 2018 talking about the concept of consenting to learn in public. 

She said in writing and sharing her opinions, she experienced both growth and mistakes, but through these, she learned how to admit when she was wrong, how to apologize in the right way and move forward.

These skills are very important, both in journalism and in life, and working for a student newspaper is learning these skills while on a public platform.

The Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper at Northwestern University, came under fire last November for both its coverage of a protest on campus and its subsequent apology for the way it handled the coverage. 

Many people criticized the student journalists for their actions; however, despite opinions on the matter, at the end of the day, these students will learn from these moments and grow as journalists.

That’s what it means to consent to learn in public.

No matter the public opinion on a journalist’s work, be it positive, negative or indifferent, each piece published is a learning experience and will help that journalist grow. 

The Daily Egyptian is primarily a place of learning. As such, we have policies in place to ensure this mission is fulfilled. One of these policies is our policy on article removal; we keep articles on our website in perpetuity and do not remove published content. 

This allows readers to look back on past content and staff to look back on their previous work as well as the work of others to learn from it.

Avid readers on the DE website or social pages may have noticed our updated social media and comment policy. As the policy states, the DE welcomes comments which make their point politely without the use of profanity, obscenity or personal attacks.

(You can read the full policy here)

We’ve chosen to update this policy to clarify expectations for conduct on our site and social media platforms. The policy is modeled after similar policies used by national news organizations.

Hateful comments don’t help student journalists learn. Pointing out an error and calling names are two different things. 

What can readers do to help support the student journalists at the DE? 

Tell us when we’ve made an error. We welcome constructive critiques that can help us improve our content.

On the flip side and equally important, if you think we’ve done a good job with a story, photo or graphic, please let us know! Positive feedback helps guide us when producing new content.

We have a lot of new and exciting things planned for spring 2020. We’re launching a feature to showcase students’ creative projects, we have a new video series on the way and we’re busy working on interesting and exciting content.

To keep up to date on what’s happening at SIU and in the southern Illinois region, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @dailyegyptian.

Editor-in-Chief Rana Schenke can be reached at [email protected]

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