Since taking over as executive editor at the East Tennessean this school year, I have been responsible for monitoring and often responding to comments on our social media pages. While most responses are likes and shares, one particular type of comment shows up, and it’s the “fake” or “liberal” news criticism.
In a time when the president of our country is outspoken against the media, I expect, as a journalist and this paper’s editor, for the public to occasionally be critical of our work at the East Tennessean. However, some comments online go beyond what should be considered polite or appropriate.
More recently, our paper was accused in a comment of being biased, a “liberal trash heap” and “guided by communist and socialist professors.” In the same comment, an almost threatening message was made.
If this is the type of response a college newspaper receives, imagine all the hateful, threatening messages larger entities get. This type of response makes me nervous about the current rhetoric surrounding the media.
However, my response to this is simple: The East Tennessean is not purposefully “liberal” or biased. When we hire writers, we do not ask about their personal beliefs. We only look for writers.
Even in our editorial section, I have only ever asked potential writers if they keep up with current events and have opinions and ideas about them. I would never seek out students with cookie-cutter views to write opinions in our paper. That would be hypocritical of a journalist as well as dull to read.
Even non-reporters can participate in our paper. We encourage people to write letters to the editor, but we do require that they are sent from ETSU email accounts and are appropriate for a college newspaper. In fact, while we have been accused of being “liberal,” we actually ran a letter to the editor last semester sent by a student in the ETSU Conservative Coalition.
Sadly, we have very little student participation in our paper. On a campus as large as ETSU, the East Tennessean should receive at least one letter a week. I have probably received no more than seven since August. Please participate with us if you have ideas or opposing views to our stories and editorials.
Our mission states that the East Tennessean “serves ETSU by covering the campus with fairness and objectivity,” and as executive editor, I continually strive to maintain that mission.