critical thinking? J-school students and industry vets tackle the tough questions.


Q: Several newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer have written editorials calling for the impeachment of President Trump. Should journalists take part in political movements?

A: One of the foundational tenets of journalism is to report objectively, which is often conflated with reporting apolitically. But when it is also journalists' role to be the first witnesses to history, the line between covering political movements and participating in them is blurry.

When papers across the country issued edicts telling their reporters to not participate in the Women's March in 2017, I viewed this as an affront to journalists' rights as American citizens. Media outlets should adopt a more appropriate policy so that journalists may participate in political movements, but they cannot be the one to report on them. To absolutely bar journalists from expressing their concern and passion for issues that affect them personally erases their individuality and identities, which should be valued in the newsroom.

The current political climate, which goads outright hostility toward the media on, does nothing to help journalists navigate the situation. One particularly contentious media tool is the editorial. Editorials are intended to represent the views of the paper. But oftentimes it only represents the views of the editorial board. Organizations including the Los Angeles Times and New York Times published editorials supporting the impeachment of President Trump. Even as New York Times prompted the editorial with the careful disclaimer: "It is separate from the newsroom," it can be hard for readers to separate the opinion of the paper and the facts it reports. This only encourages cynicism for legitimate reporting by those looking for a reason to distrust reputable sources.

Editorials are tools that should be wielded more carefully than they are now. An editorial defending the paper's journalistic practices in the face of baseless criticism is an entirely appropriate use of this power. Calling for impeachment is less salient, especially for papers whose locations are far from DC.

Journalists should be allowed to participate in political movements, especially ones that affect them personally. But media organizations should take a closer look at the message their editorial pages are sending to readers about their coverage.

Anna Zarra Aldrich, 22 senior, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn.

Zarra Aldrich is the editor-in-chief of...

To continue reading