Letter from the Editor: On covering diversity

Matthew Merchant

As a fellow student and as a member of a student group on campus, I wanted to clarify some of the details presented in the Our View, “Change the stereotype, change the conversation” published Feb. 19.

The intention of the Our View section of The Kent Stater is to provide the editorial staff with a space to express its voice and opinion. As a staff, we discuss current events and how we cover them to add our campus’ perspective. We also debate how best to cover stories and in what manner and tone. As journalists, we seek to tell stories. We understand that the voices of Muslim students, as well as other minority student population groups on campus, often go unspoken and therefore unheard.

The intention of the editorials was not to minimize the deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, the three Muslim students killed in Tuesday, Feb. 10’s shooting at Chapel Hill University in North Carolina. Nor was our intention to minimize the crime the shooter, Craig Hicks, committed. And it was certainly not the intention to minimize the daily struggles of Muslim students on campus, whose stories often go untold.

Much of the media coverage with events like this relates to the emotional effect on the family and community. Those opinions and beliefs should be expressed but not by the journalists reporting them. Being factually accurate is a cornerstone of journalism and the top of our ethical standards.

The Kent Stater is a media organization; we are not a law enforcement agency nor are we judges of the law. We understand that much of the current media debate surrounding the events relates to whether or not the shooting of three Muslims was a hate crime.

While we must acknowledge the multiple possibilities for Hicks’ motive, we, as the media, cannot choose one. This is why we did not name the shooting a hate crime. While we carry a heavy heart when reporting on shooting and death, we do not determine the motive. The court proceedings and documents released do. We will report on the court findings of motive when they are released.

We are also students, and student media is a learning environment. In the process of reporting and telling stories on and off campus, we also seek to understand more about the subjects we cover. Each semester the Stater and KentWired look to create a staff that is diverse in both skills and backgrounds. We always encourage students to apply, and we always welcome students to write and submit opinion columns.

In order to better report and tell stories, we must first seek to understand by doing research and talking with sources relevant to the story. Understanding the cultures and beliefs of those different than us leads to deeper understanding and appreciation of others as human beings. It also leads to better reporting and therefore better published content.

We want the stories published in The Kent Stater and on KentWired to reflect the Kent State community. In order to do that, we want to reach out to the students and community and encourage the anyone to reach out to us with a story idea, concern or comment about our content. With your help, the Stater can better reflect the experiences of the campus community as a whole.

Contact Matthew Merchant at [email protected].