First, I appreciate that good journalism is hard. I was on the staff of my high school newspaper and was an editor my senior year, and that was tough; I'm sure it's way more difficult to run a paper in college. I give the Hatchet a lot of credit for the product they put out. And I'm sure Sherman is right about the story that started all this in the first place, that "[there] are certainly questions that could be asked but many people who have the answers are not permitted to answer questions. Essentially there is one person who can speak for the University so answers often take hours, days and more time than we have to turn a story around."
Except, wait: the University only has one spokesperson? The entire university? And we put up with that? It's a wonder the Hatchet staff can print any articles at all, if they're constantly waiting for one person to get back to them. I talked about the HellWell arrest at dinner with some friends last night, and got a completely different version of the circumstances than the one I read on Thursday. Were my friends telling the truth? I don't know, because all I have to go on is the story in the Hatchet. (Was no one on HellWell staff willing to talk to the Hatchet? Even off-the-record?) I recognize that some sources are worth more than others, but even an unofficial account of the scene from a staffer speaking anonymously is better than the printed version of the story. If the Hatchet didn't pursue any other interviews -- and from Sherman's post, it's not apparent that they did -- then they're missing a big piece of the story.
Additionally, if a reporter is waiting on answers from a source, I as a reader appreciate it if I know he or she tried to get other input than what appears on the page. A simple "Requests for information went unanswered" makes me feel like you're trying to get at the story, rather than just going with what you're told. The Hatchet story only quotes two sources -- the arrested student and a UPD officer. Again, there were obviously more people involved in this story -- HellWell staff at the very least. Presumably, other students were at HellWell during this time -- no one saw a girl being arrested?
These questions stuck in my mind. They stuck so much, in fact, that I interviewed a staffer at HellWell, who told me that the arrest was a hot topic of conversation at work. Important note: she was not speaking to me officially in her capacity as a HellWell staffer during our conversation. The original version of this post contained her name, which I've removed to avoid any confusion that might have occurred through her comments in this post. She talked to several coworkers about it, including the manager who was on duty at the time of the arrest. He didn't know about the Hatchet article until she told him.
The staffer also said that according to her manager, HellWell staff tried to get Jennifer Sales (the arrested student) to leave without involving the authorities. "We're told you can call UPD if you need to ... [but] who's really gonna cause trouble at the gym?" she said. "They [HellWell staff] repeatedly told her that she couldn't come in." Once inside, Sales apparently ignored the UPD officer staff eventually called. "It was her making an issue. She was adamant about going to work out," said the staffer.
An escalating struggle? Ignoring a uniformed officer? Sounds pretty dramatic -- and newsworthy. But apparently the Hatchet still disagrees.
Finally, a quick point on ads. I brought up the point that last week's Hatchet was really front-loaded with ads. Here's Sherman's response:
On Friday and Tuesday, the business office gives me a sheet that has the amount of pages of advertisements. So if there were no stories in last issue, the ads would have fit on seven pages. Because we care so much about the news and keeping the paper financially viable, we typically strive for a 50/50 ad to news ratio. So we printed 14 pages. We didn’t cave to our advertisers. Ads must be laid out a certain way based on our contracts with advertisers.If I'm reading this right, some advertisers pay more money to get their ads put in the beginning of the paper. That's perfectly fair; more people read those pages, and so they should be more expensive. And it's fine that the Hatchet runs ads there; that makes economic sense, and is useful to both readers and advertisers.
However, I'll say it again: ads should not outweigh content. If you've sold ads for more than half of page 3, you're saying that the advertising value of that page is greater than the news value of that page. And if you do the same thing for other pages earlier in the paper, and save most of your news content for the back, you're saying it's more important that your readers see ads than it is that they see news. Again, I'm glad that so many advertisers buy space in the Hatchet. But the editors need to realize that by consistently prioritizing ads over news, they're not serving their audience. When I see a page that's mostly ads and little news, I'm likely to turn the page -- depriving the advertisers of the reason they're paying a premium for ad space early in the paper. Unless I'm scanning the classifieds, a page with more ads than news doesn't interest me. And the Hatchet already has a classifieds section.