As a news organization, The Statesman often faces difficult journalistic judgments about what to include and what to exclude in our reporting. Sometimes, it is worthwhile to reflect on our decisions and share our decision making process with our readers.
This week, The Statesman received a Letter to the Editor about its coverage of the drunk driving incident in H Quad on Oct. 25, 2013. In the letter, the student compared our reporting of the incident to our coverage of an accident last semester when a campus police officer ran over Stony Brook student Brianna Bifone. The writer asked why we would include the name of the drunk driver in the H Quad incident, but not disclose the name of the police officer.
The answer is that at the time of the accident last semester, the police officer’s name was not made available to The Statesman or any other media outlet by campus media relations, or the University Police Department.
Reporters and editors made every effort to fully report the accident, but this was one of the questions that remained unanswered. It was not our choice not to report the police officer’s name. The information was simply not released.
However, in the case of the drunk driving accident, reporters were able to get the driver’s name and reported it accordingly.
The author of the Letter to the Editor wrote that she found our “willingness to tarnish the name of a fellow student offensive and appalling.” When we posted the article to our Facebook page, a Stony Brook University student commented on the post saying, “No issue throwing one of your own under the bus there huh,” referring to the fact that the driver is a photographer for The Statesman.
There are many expectations of a news organization when reporting the news. The first is to report the truth. Another is to be transparent—not only about our news gathering process, but as an organization.
We reported the driver’s name and included his affiliation with The Statesman because it is a fact and because we are a transparent organization. If another outlet had reported that Christopher Pimentel works for The Statesman, we would have to explain why we left out that fact.
As a news organization, we will always report the news regardless of whether one of our staff writers, photographers or editors is involved. Unless it puts someone in danger, we will also always report the information we have. The public has the right to know.