Weighing ethics and audience, choosing integrity

Christine Rushton Evergreen Editor-in-Chief

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It stares you in the face as you walk by the distribution box, by the coffee counter and by the front of the bus. Filled with headlines, photos and stories, the front page of The Daily Evergreen invites readers into the news of our community.

On yesterday’s front, the centerpiece photo with the story “One step at a time” contained shirts with profane words on them. Putting these photos and offensive phrases on the front page of the paper offended some readers, and as editor-in-chief, I would like to clarify why we as a staff at The Daily Evergreen chose to print the image.

The photo shows the shirts hung out on the Mall this week as a part of the Week Without Violence. Written on the fabric are the words of victims and people affected by violence. For them, inscribing their anger, despair or pain regarding a violent memory in their life offers a chance to share their experiences publicly, while still keeping anonymity.

Having taken several photos of the shirts to accompany the article, which previewed the Take Back the Night walk to support violence prevention, we reviewed them to determine which image illustrated the integrity of the Week Without Violence’s message. Many contained profane words and offensive statements.

We discussed the options of running photos or censoring the offensive material. On one hand, we weighed the potential of alienating and losing the opportunity to share the Take Back the Night event with you, our readership. On the other hand, we considered that censoring would diminish the power of the messages those shirts convey, shirts already displayed and supported publicly at the university’s campus center.

It became clear to us in the newsroom that in order to accurately tell the story, the photos should reflect the images as they exist in real life for the community on the Mall.

The decision was made. The photos ran. And while my staff and I understand the ethical concerns behind subjecting our readers to offensive imagery, we support our choice to not sacrifice the integrity of the story.

Yesterday, readers reached out to me via email and phone to express their concerns regarding the content of the photo. Now, I ask that if you too have opinions and concerns, please share them. As editor-in-chief, I value the learning opportunities we share every day at your student newspaper, The Daily Evergreen.

-Christine Rushton is a senior communication major from Covington. She can be contacted at 335-3194 or by [email protected]