Letter to the Editor: What I Know Now

Dear Editors,

Journalists sometimes obtain information they know to be both newsworthy and accurate, but which – if they do their jobs properly – will never be printed. Sometimes the information cannot be printed because it reached the newsroom through improper channels, sometimes because its publication would cause a level of harm not commensurate with the public’s right to be informed, and sometimes because the information should be concluded by the reader rather than written by the journalist. 

In reporting on the events of the 9th, I became aware of three facts that fall into this category. They do not appear in the front page story for reasons I will explain, but here I would like to take the opportunity to describe them. I hope this statement will provide some comfort to the Reedies who still feel the Quest treated its community poorly. 

The first fact is the most critical: it is that the Reedies who marched on November 9 did so with good intentions. They were appalled by Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip and desperate for justice and longed for a return to the peace of the past – imperfect and inadequate as it was. I know this as someone who has had the privilege of sharing a community with those students and holds them in the highest regard. I also know this as a student of history: Reedies are not the first college students to march for justice. We are preceded by thousands of other students who risked their safety to do what they believed was right. Many of them were willing to die for their cause. Many did. 

We share in a proud legacy that stretches continents and millennia and is unconcerned with distinctions of race, religion, and sex but with the basic dignity of every human being. 

This first fact couldn’t make it into the original article because it requires that reporters limit themselves to a very shallow version of reality. In journalism, “knowing” often isn’t good enough. I know the Reedies who marched had good intentions, but to say so in print, I would’ve first needed to find someone who could speak knowledgeably about the feelings of the entire student body. Just because such a thing is impossible to verify doesn’t mean it isn’t true. 

However, this fact raises some awkward questions: Why did those who knew the historical context of the word “intifada” still chant it? Why did those who weren’taware of the context not research it before participating in a rally where it was used? Why did the organizers – who confirmed to the Questthey were aware that the protest shared a date with the anniversary of Kristallnacht – still go through with the march? Why did a man carrying the flag of a terrorist organization feel comfortable marching alongside Reedies? I will not speculate on these answers because these are not my questions: they belong to the protesters, to be asked while they brush their teeth, while they eat at Commons, and in the small silences in conversation with friends. 

The second critical fact I could not publish has to do with the backlash we received in the wake of the story’s publication, its cause, and what effect it had on my colleagues. A small portion of the complaints focused on matters of fact: which sources we used or didn’t use, whether a significant number of protesters left the scene after the assembly was declared unlawful, etc. Another article will address each of these points, but for now, I will just say that I’m satisfied that our piece meets the highest standard of journalistic practice. Rather, I’m mostly concerned with the other, substantially larger portion of complaints. They allege, for example, that the piece was itself antisemitic or Islamophobic, having apparently read some sentences that neither myself nor my co-writer ever committed to the page. Another said the piece should contain racial profiling. A few were upset we didn’t fly a reporter to the Gaza Strip to contribute original reporting on the war. 

I attribute this confusion in part due to the backlash’s medium, online comment sections, email, Discord servers, and text, which have never been repositories of nuance. Largely, though, the real purpose of these complaints was to express an understandable sense of outrage. The protesters were marching for justice, and the Questin their mind,was more concerned with what they surely felt were insignificant incidents cherry-picked from an afternoon of otherwise harmless demonstrations. 

No matter how understandable the sentiment, however, the result is the same: the Quest’s office was graffitied, we’ve received mail calling us predatory and degenerate, and suggesting that we’ve been “stinking it up.” Myself and my colleagues were harassed and bullied, Declan no longer feels comfortable on campus, and I’ve started to carry pepper spray. 

This is the second fact: your sense of betrayal has turned into our fear. 

Soon, the student body will vote to fill two of the Quest’s editorships in an election I suspect will largely be decided by students’ satisfaction with the reporting on the events of November 9. Several candidates – many of whom have never written an article – are running with the explicit purpose of ensuring the Questno longer provides impartial reporting. They are running to ensure positive coverage of their preferred clubs. They are running to turn the Questinto a newspaper of liars. 

Still, I’m not worried. Rather, I’m comforted by this third crucial fact: 

Reed will get the newspaper it deserves.