Stater is unrepresentative of black students

Justin Peeples

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part guest column about the Stater‘s coverage of minority students. Read the second part in tomorrow’s Forum.

What if I never acknowledged you? What if I knowingly bumped into you and spilled hot coffee on your lap and just acted like I didn’t notice, but watched you get angry out of the corner of my eye as I just kept moving? This would cause me to boil in anger if some (supposed to be mature) person treated me in this manner. It is not a law, but it is common courtesy in polite society, right?

Then why doesn’t the Daily Kent Stater seem to think so, even after being confronted in a polite and honest way about it?

As a member of the Kent State community for more than four years, I have participated in and witnessed a lot of events, and I have read a lot of DKS issues. It has always been plain to see our newspaper has been heavily in favor of tailoring its main topics and quality pictures to certain audiences.

Biloxi trips: Each time, DKS has focused almost totally on the white student volunteers in both pictures and articles, almost making even me believe black students did not go down to the gulf coast, even though I have gone twice now, during consecutive spring breaks. Last year, it ran a week full of articles following spring break, showcasing large, bold pictures of white student volunteers while only showing hands, backs and legs of black students.

I have seen photographers take our pictures in large portions yet somehow DKS deems these pictures of no importance to the front page, and the students unworthy to be highlighted for their efforts as focuses of articles.

Monday, yet again, there were clear white faces and one blurry face of a black student. I then called the DKS office where I was informed that only one Stater photographer was in Biloxi, and could not make it to all of the job sites, including the ones where most of the black students were working.

I explained the concern that some of us had about the bias within the selection of topics and pictures and suggested they use our pictures for the newspaper to fill in this gap. They responded by allowing us to send in pictures that were placed online only, while our main concern for the printed version was not addressed at all.

After discussing this issue with DKS for two days, they actually printed a picture of me which was barely identifiable – a sharp contrast to the three large beautiful pictures of white students that overshadowed the picture in question.

The issue is about this newspaper reporting the facts, and being fair to students of color on this campus. Readers need to know the truth about who participated in this great humanitarian effort on the Gulf Coast. To do otherwise is to engage in poor journalism.

Two more pictures of black students were in this same paper, one with a black student’s face behind a hammer, which was unidentifiable, but the pictures of the white students were of much higher quality and covered the page placing these pictures of black students in the very bottom of the page.

I am writing this piece to show to everyone the blatant disregard that this newspaper has for us people of color. If this journalistic discrimination was not intended, then why wouldn’t the Stater simply respond honestly to my simple request – which is about honest journalism, not just that which highlights and focuses on one segment of the student body.

Justin Peeples is a senior business management major. Contact him at [email protected].