Why we chose not to publish a guest column - Purdue Exponent: Columnists

Why we chose not to publish a guest column

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Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 10:00 am

There was a lot of reasoning that went into the decision making process of why we chose not to publish a recent guest column, but first and foremost, the editor-in-chief and I asked ourselves “What is the journalistic purpose?”

The Journal and Courier published a guest column Friday by Aria Halliday, a graduate student, and Bill Mullen, a professor of English and American Studies, which critiqued the student-made YouTube video titled “This is Engineering.” This same column landed in my email inbox, but was not something that we decided to publish because of some factual issues within the content of the piece.

Editor-in-chief Matthew Thomas and I reviewed the piece and determined that the facts and accusations brought up in the column were not accurate, which could be misleading to our readers.

1. “Purdue’s president’s office and the Aviation Technology Department are credited with aiding in the production of ‘This is Engineering,’ a video about engineering at Purdue that has gone viral on YouTube, receiving more than 170,000 hits.”

In reality, the ending of the video gives special thanks to these groups for contributing in whatever way each group did, but Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were also a part of these credits. If they were going to be consistent with their argument in the column about Purdue having knowledge about the content of the video, then their accusations should have also extended to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

2. “Second, the only ‘non-white’ student featured appears to be a South Asian male who cameos as ‘our Asian friend/engineer’ although never rapping, dancing or contributing to any of the predominate scenes in the video; invariably his presence is only important when he is mocked by his peers for studying too much.”

This statement is inaccurate because the non-white student to whom they are referring to does actually have a predominate, what they refer to as “rapping,” part in the video.

3. “Whether Daniels knew of the racist and sexist overtones of the entire video, his presence in this moment cements in the public’s mind his and Purdue’s administrative priorities.”

Stating what Purdue’s administrative priorities are or aren’t, based on a student-produced video, is a false claim that no one should make without valid proof based on an actual action or statement from the administration itself.

4.”We also request that the university disclose the amount of money used in the production of the video and produce a video of equal budget written and directed by women and people of color, which accurately and fairly depicts their contributions to Purdue.”

This statement confirmed that we would not publish this guest column without factual changes on the part of the authors. The University did not make any financial investments in the making of the video to the public’s knowledge, so demanding the amount spent by the University on the video is a misleading statement.

As journalists we had to make the ethical decision of whether or not publishing this guest column in our newspaper would really serve any journalistic purpose. To our knowledge, publishing known inaccurate information would not serve any journalistic purpose.

Because of this, our decision was and will be to refrain from publishing submitted guest columns with false information.

Taylor Carlier is a junior in the College of Liberal Arts and can be reached at opinions@purdueexponent.org.

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