Monday, April 7, 2008

Holding Them Accountable

I'm not going to write about the HellWell story, because Sarah has done a great job covering it.

What I am going to write about is Jake Sherman--the editor-in-chief of The Hatchet--responding to Sarah, who chided The Hatchet for not going deep enough into the story.

It's funny that he opens by calling Sarah's post "horribly off base" considering how absolutely condescending his piece is. Here we have a GW student--and a consumer of The Hatchet--raising legitimate concerns about that paper's reporting practices, and what's the official response? Basically, "you crazy bloggers don't know how hard it is to run a real newspaper."

I don’t need to say that condescending to your readers isn’t a great way to show off your integrity and credibility as a news source.

Despite what Jake says, The Hatchet dropped the ball. Instead of writing a thorough piece investigating the event at HellWell from all angles, instead of searching for and reporting the objective the truth--which is what they teach you to do in journalism class--the reporter talked to just two sources and called it a day.

Jake's excuse that "[e]ssentially 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" is missing the point. First, if a University source isn't willing to talk--or doesn't get a statement into The Hatchet in time--they should at least note in the article that attempts to contact further sources are made. If we can't get thorough investigative journalism from The Hatchet, we should get an assurance that they at least tried to be thorough. And there are plenty of other sources they could have talked to--as Sarah said, this incident didn't involve just two people. Saying something along the lines that "other sources aren't allowed to talk" isn't enough. Did The Hatchet at least try talking to other people? Were they told by potential sources that they couldn't say anything? Or did they just refuse to speak to anyone, assuming that nobody would talk (an assumption that's already been proven false)?

This isn't the first instance of shoddy journalism on the part of The Hatchet this year. Do I even need to bring up the swastika fiasco? In that case--as with the HellWell story--the reporters covering the story failed to dig deep enough, to investigate enough, to get to the truth and report it fairly and honestly. Instead, they took what turned out to be a dubious source at her word without any corroboration. That's what makes the HellWell story so disturbing--it represents the same failure of journalism we've seen so far this year in The Hatchet.

And Sherman's response certainly doesn't help. We're consumers of The Hatchet--we read it, we're part of the circulation that earns them their ad revenue. When we raise concerns about their reporting, we expect an explanation; even if our concerns are completely unfounded--which, in this case, they aren't--we at least expect a respectful explanation, not a condescending tirade.

But all of this just illustrates why GW Blogspot exists. No news outlet is perfect--when they make mistakes, someone needs to hold them accountable. People have to be held responsible for the things they say. And that's exactly what we do here.


Anonymous said...

Who holds you guys accountable for all the BS that flows from this website???

Anonymous said...

Anyone who cares to, that's why we have a comment section. Even you could have challenged our coverage on an intellectual level if you so choose.

GWBlogSpotAdmin said...

Hatchet folks...would be good form to identify yourself when commenting. (And the answer to your accountability question is that commenters play that role -- though transparency in who you are helps your credibility when making a critique.)

Adam Green

Anonymous said...

You may think that I am a "Hatchet folk" since I defend them on this blog (I probably post 90% of the comments on this blog which leads me to believe your readership is minuscule) but I am not associated with the Hatchet i just know some people who worked there in the past and I know a lot about how the University works because of my job. Due to this job i can not use my real name.

I did not post the top two anonymous posts on this thread. To make things more clear i will register a blogger profile and put a name to my posts in the future.

Anonymous said...

I will use this account to comment from now on.

Anonymous said...

I will say again what I have posted previously. This was a minor event it deserved what it got, an expanded crime log entry. They talked to both sides of the incident got the police report and got a story out fast. What you are asking them to do would take much more time than they had. If this case goes to court they can expand on it or write a trend piece about an issue related to the news peg of this case to follow up.

In all probability the OAG will refuse to paper the case meaning it will disappear.

A good story to do would be why so many arrests by UPD the OAG will not paper.

Now, since MPD actually effected the arrest maybe they will paper and then we can have a trial which would be funny and maybe this girl will sue some people which would be cool too.

Anonymous said...

Also, about your point of the Swastika case the Hatchet got burned by a liar just like everyone else in the community. They reported what she said and what the University said which at the time was they were taking it seriously and investigating including calling in outside agencies like MPD and FBI so they thought it was real.

I don't know how the Hatchet could have known she was lying since there were never any witnesses to the crime and she was faking the evidence.

Until they set up surveillance the police were fooled as well.

In these cases the Hatchet normally requires the subject to file a police report before they will do a story. They don't just publish rumors like you seem to like to do.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the disorganization, but one more point.

Unlike all of the anonymous anecdotal comments from supposed sources on this blog, the Hatchet can not just run with innuendo and speculation as fact in the paper.

First, the reporter has to make it clear they are from the Hatchet and what is told to them will run in the paper which causes many people to not want to talk. Second, anonymous sourcing can only occur in certain cases and should be kept to a minimum. Third, things that could be actionable needs to be run past the Hatchet's outside council which takes time, money, and may lead to some things being killed if they are not solid.

Just like this blogs author's should understand writers and publications can be sued for what they write. The Hatchet has libel insurance and significant cash reserves so they are good targets for a suit. Maybe this blog should investigate libel insurance based on the type and style of your content it could come in handy.

Anonymous said...

Can I just say taht GW Blogspot has the worst layout in the world? i get a headache just looking at this website, I can't possibly stare at it long enough to read the mediocre entries. HELP THIS LAYOUT FOR GODSAKE

wayne brady said...

As an avid reader of the "Big Three" GW blogs this year (this one, Patriot, and Colonialist) I have to say that GW Blogspot has the most uninformed stories and worst reporting. Most (like the SJS article for example, and probably every single housing article) are baseless and entirely opinion backed up by nothing. In fact, most of the "reporting" that these blog posts are based off of seem to be Hatchet articles.

Patrick Ford said...

If it is possible to say this without sounding snarky, the Patriot and the Colonialist are the "Big Two." Please don't throw in a shoddy rumor blog run for a university class.

wayne brady said...