Response to Oct. 6, 2017 Letter to the Editor
Thank you for reading the Arrow and taking the time to express your concerns regarding the incident report. We started running the report this year to emphasize to students what is going on around campus, and we pull the report directly from the public crime log found at the Department of Public Safety building and website.
Last week, after we first ran the crime log that included a suicide report, our team sat down and held a discussion surrounding the ethics of what we then called the “Crime Log” and the inclusion of a suicide attempt within it. After the conversation, we decided to change the name of the crime log to incident report, but keep the information included the same. We felt that using the title “Crime Log” inaccurately described all items listed on the log. We also agreed that labeling a suicide attempt, or several other non-criminal incidents that are listed, as a crime is innately false. We made the decision to change the title to “Incident Report” to more accurately report those items listed.
The not-so-great part of being a journalist is having to report on things you don’t necessarily want to, or that you may not agree with. But we stand by a code of ethics that requires complete objectivity and transparency. If we were to alter the log in any way, it would be a blatant violation of our responsibility to fully inform our readers on things involving our Department of Public Safety and issues of public concern. Removing a suicide attempt or any other item from the log would require us to draw a line regarding what to include and what to delete from the log based on what we feel may dishearten those involved. It’s a line we believe is not ethically sound to draw. If we remove a suicide attempt, we also have to consider taking out other items that may negatively impact the person or persons involved, and it is not our place as a media organization to edit public record to that magnitude. We solely report information that is already made public, and it is our policy not to include the names of crime victims or others involved in non-violent incidents.
On a personal level, our heart weighs heavy on the fact that one of our fellow classmates has been battling a struggle with whatever caused their action. Events like these are not anything we enjoy reporting on. However, as a newspaper, I also feel it irresponsible to act like it never happened. Like I said, our reason for introducing the incident report in general was to keep students in-the-know about what goes on around their campus. Excluding a suicide attempt removes the reality that it happens on this campus, and students are struggling with it every single day. I hope that the inclusion raises awareness to the student body on the relevance and reality of suicide on campus, and that people use that information as inspiration to begin doing something about it.
Again, thank you so much for your thoughtful email. I and the rest of the staff truly appreciate your engagement with the paper and willingness to take the opportunity to express your opinion on a very hard topic. If you have any more questions or concerns, please feel free to send them my way.
*Editors note: The following response to the Arrow's letter was received on Oct. 9, 2017.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response! I feel much more enlightened regarding this decision now. As a student who struggles with mental health myself, it is meaningful to me to see something with the viewing audience of the entire campus stepping up to raise awareness about suicide. I'm also glad to hear too that your team was already aware of the ethical questions around the subject and making informed decisions about it. You are more than welcome to publish my letter and your response, should you choose to do so. Have an excellent week!