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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Opinion: In Support Of CWU’s The Observer

By The Western Front editorial staff

In response to recent events transpiring at Central Washington University, the editorial team at Western would like to share the following comment:

In the last year, the campus communications staff at Central announced a ban on fair-game interview questioning when pertaining to stories involving university staff, faculty and student employees. This meant that student journalists would need to send in interview questions before engaging with a source of this nature. 

The policy introduces a number of ethical dilemmas. It is the duty of journalists to serve as watchdogs for their community, fulfilling a checks and balances role when it comes to authority figures or powerful groups. Instituting policies that vet questions prohibits a layer of authenticity. By sending in questions ahead of time, sources can be briefed and plan for what to say strategically, generating canned responses rather than candid responses. 

Student journalists are taught from day one that it is important to be face to face with a source, as it offers a more candid and genuine answer that is not tampered with by outside parties. They are also taught to not be afraid to ask more questions for context as their interviews go along, in order to write a more holistic and accurate story. 

Staying true to journalistic instincts and standards, the student staff of Central’s student newspaper The Observer, are currently fighting against this policy. Their struggle has gained the attention of professional and student journalists, and inspired an outcry to free student media. 

The Western Front stands in support of The Observer’s efforts to create a space for student journalists to report in an ethical, professional and fair way. Though The Western Front has not experienced something of this magnitude, any risk to student journalistic freedom across the country is a risk to us.

1 COMMENT

  1. I don’t believe it’s that unjust to offer interviewee’s the chance to receive questions ahead of time. Yes, candid responses may seem representative of a person’s true self, but they can also be inaccurate and full of emotion. Especially if these questions are regarding a sensitive topic, it is not unreasonable for people such as university staff. Speaking as a WWU student employee, some questions may cover topics that I have limited information about, and it would be inappropriate and poor journalism to take any comments made from me before I have a chance to ask for clarification from a supervisor. While I understand the sincerity and integrity behind this piece, I also urge that the staff at the Western Front consider all sides of an argument, and not to immediately jump to the belief that people are lying or otherwise being untruthful in interviews.

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