Letter-to-the-editor: Mislabeled reporting

To the editor,

I’m writing in regard to December’s news article entitled “Students protest for peace and equity.” Initially, I thought the “sit-in” the article addresses was actually an anti-Trump protest, because the article and advertising of the event led me to believe that the protest was partisan in nature. However, based on further investigation, my initial assumptions were false.

I first wanted to write a response to this article because it seemed to overstate the amount of support for an anti-Trump protest. However, I came to understand that the event was actually intended to unify people and be accepting of all, regardless of political perspective. The article gave a very regrettable impression, since I believe a large amount of students would support a group dedicated to unification.

The initial announcement for the event on Aces Nation introduced the sit-in as an event being held in light of anger and fear due to the election results, the purpose of which was partly “to fight injustices peacefully through love and unity.” The combination of the timing of the sit-in—right after the election—and its message of fighting hate aroused my suspicions. However, I later learned from Alexandra Gordon ’17, a leader of Students 4 Peace and an organizer of the sit-in, that while the election may have “sparked our especial need for unity” because “people felt marginalized and unsafe after the election in particular,” the sit-in itself was nonpartisan.

After speaking with Gordon, I learned the sit-in was a purely a “peaceful display…for solidarity and peace” and was truly open to anyone. Despite this, one did not gain this understanding from Molly Gonzales’s ’17 article. Gonzales described an actual protest that was started partly due to a realization that “high school students could not change election results.” Students created posters 
“in response to the election,” and this protest was supportive of “all students regardless of their socio-economic background, skin color, gender identity, or sexuality” (not explicitly regardless of political beliefs). Thus, Gonzales led readers, including myself, to infer that the protest was not as accepting as it needed to have been to achieve its goal. When I questioned Gonzales about her apparent misunderstanding, she said, “it wasn’t my intention for there to be a political intention” and acknowledged, “the purpose for the [sit-in] was acceptance.” While Students 4 Peace, the organization coordinating the sit-in, did not do the best job in clarifying that the display would be nonpartisan in advertising for it, Gonzales’s article furthered my belief that the sit-in was partisan in nature. This turned out to be a false belief; I only understood the true purpose of the sit-in after my conversations with Gordon and Gonzales.

Gonzales’s article further raised suspicions of the sit-in being partisan, obscuring Students 4 Peace’s message of acceptance and unification. The display was nonpartisan, as intended by Students 4 Peace. But Students 4 Peace’s advertising combined with Gonzales’s article unfortunately didn’t convey that clearly. Gonzales’s article proves that we as journalists always need to be aware of how we present a story, or it may have an unintended and false message.

- Bradley Kaplan ’17

Published

Feb. 22, 2017

Author

Bradley Kaplan ’17