Don’t shoot the messenger: The Phoenix responds to SBC article allegations

It has been alleged that in our article “How a controversial SBC chair was chosen,” published in today’s paper, the Phoenix implicitly supports (or even endorses) the position taken by one of the individuals quoted saying that within SBC, “Hillel gets special privileges,” and that Toby Levy’s hire as SBC chair is related to his Judaism. We typically decline to respond to controversy pertaining to our coverage. But given the seriousness of the allegation, we feel compelled to do so.

First, we should note that it was our decision — not the decision of the story’s reporter — to include this quotation. And the Phoenix’s three Jewish editors did not publish the quotation because we endorse the position that the hire was part of some “Jewish conspiracy.” We published it because of what it says about the person who said it: readers have a right to know that a potential candidate to run SBC would say such a thing on the record. When the New York Times publishes quotations from politicians or other figures that are discriminatory, it is not endorsing a discriminatory position, nor would anyone claim it is.

Some have faulted us for not making it apparent that we saw these views as absurd. But if the campus’ reaction to the quotation proves anything, it is that such disclaimers are unnecessary. The quotation speaks for itself.

Anna Gonzales, Daniel Block, Izzy Kornblatt

Editors-in-Chief and Publisher

11 Responses to "Don’t shoot the messenger: The Phoenix responds to SBC article allegations"

  1. NWO  April 17, 2014 at 5:58 PM

    Word

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  2. Take Some Responsibility  April 17, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    You claim to try to be a reputable news source and repeatedly publish absolute garbage. Have some standards beyond standing on some abstract pedestal of "journalistic integrity." The whole article is straight out of a tabloid and the fact that those are the best quotes you can get says just much about you and the Phoenix as those who harbor these views. Pathetic.

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  3. Jason Hua  April 17, 2014 at 7:09 PM

    A large problem with the article was that there was absolutely no follow up to the comment. The article just went on as if nothing happened. It's fine to include a controversial and offensive quote like Jason's in an article. But part of The Phoenix's responsibility, as an organization possessing a fair bit of journalistic power on campus, is to provide fair and balanced reporting. In order to claim your neutrality, you must also do your due diligence to investigate all sides of the matter. Why wasn't there any follow up? Why was there no attempt to verify those claims? You can't just use a controversial quotation like that, especially from one person with a pretty apparent conflict of interest, without either backing it up or refuting it with at the very least one more source. That's the norm. That is why I am shooting the messenger.

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  4. Meiri Anto  April 17, 2014 at 7:29 PM

    Knowing Jason Mendoza, I will defend him and say I am highly suspicious that his quotes were represented accurately and not misconstrued, taken out of context, or edited by the Phoenix to appear more controversial than how they were really said.

    Also I may be wrong here, but don't journalists have an obligation, or at least the common practice of courtesy, to run an article by their sources before publication? If they did I'm sure that David and Jason would have raised objections to how their quotes were used and clarified their intentions.

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  5. Ari Efron  April 17, 2014 at 8:10 PM

    @Take Some Responsibility
    That's a pretty funny name for an anonymous comment.

    @Jason
    What other side are you taking about? What follow up are you implying should have happened? Verify what claims? They aren't agreeing with the quote at all how is that not clear?

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  6. Also,  April 17, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    This quote was not contextualized. The interviewer did not follow-up with Jason, consider whether or not this was representative of his viewpoints, or think about the backlash for publishing this.

    The only context I receive is:

    "Mendoza, whose application for SBC chair had been endorsed by the BCC, echoed this sentiment."

    A member of my community (Swarthmore) is caught in a high-profile article saying something that people can easily run with. I do not know Jason Mendoza. I do not know his viewpoints, but that is the point! I DO NOT know his views! The quote leaves ambiguity that the interviewer did not try and resolve. This article does not lend itself to accurately reflecting what he thinks! This article does not try to ascertain that.

    Both articles throw him under this bus! "We published it because of what it says about the person who said it: readers have a right to know that a potential candidate to run SBC would say such a thing on the record. "

    I would translate that, as follows: "Yes we knew this was controversial! Yes we knew it would make for a 'good story,' but do not try and turn around and hold us accountable!"

    I hope people will recognize that this singular quote gives them little substance to form an opinion about Jason. I hope people will forgive and forget what he said. If you want to know his personal views on this or any other issue, ask him.

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  7. Jason Hua  April 18, 2014 at 12:21 AM

    Ari --
    The other side refers to Jacob or Toby or Hillel. I'm referring to the claims that Jason made, not the Phoenix. The Phoenix should have followed up after hearing that quote by asking Jacob and/or Toby to comment on it. Or Hillel. Or a few other SBC council members.
    I don't think we're arguing the same point. I don't believe the Phoenix is anti-semitic. I don't think most people at the school do. However, through sloppy journalism, The Phoenix has allowed this bold claim in a single quote to reach press without giving the parties involved a voice to defend themselves. It doesn't matter what the Phoenix thinks of the quote -- this isn't an opinions piece. The Phoenix's duty in writing a news piece like this is to probe the truth as best it can while remaining objective. Without following up to either verify OR discredit a quote that's sort of "out there" like the one in question, it's useless to the piece on its own. Dig a little deeper, and you can either verify the quote's content via other sources and you have a scandal on your hands, or find some sources who can tell you the allegations are bullshit and just throw it out.

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  8. Uh  April 18, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    @Jason I feel like by not following up on a ridiculous, anti-semitic quote, The Phoenix did the right thing...to follow up on it and come to SBC and Hillel with accusations of a Jewish conspiracy would be to give that straight-up racist comment more credence than it deserves and to take it seriously...is it really The Phoenix's "duty" to "probe the truth" to "verify OR discredit" the claims of a Jewish conspiracy between the SBC Chair and Hillel, aka investigate a clearly untrue and racist accusation, to be a good newspaper? Didn't know you were a journalist though...seems like you have a really clear idea of how articles should be written. Maybe you should write for The Phoenix?

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  9. Uh, again  April 18, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    Furthermore -- how does reconstructing what WAS a controversial hiring process and publishing VERY RELEVANT information and quoting some people who think the hiring had to do w race, who were involved in the process, make the Phoenix an anti-semitic tabloid? Seriously??

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  10. Jason Hua  April 18, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    My point is that the quote on its own serves absolutely no function for the article. I think the quote is ridiculous too. And if it is indeed bullshit, which I'm 99.999% sure it is, then literally talking to a couple more people would confirm that, and that would be that. Then it's up to you whether you want to just exclude the quote, or use it and make clear that it's not true in the article with other sources. You can't just assume things, especially when dealing with controversial content.
    Look, I'm not claiming to know everything about journalism. But for what it's worth, I took the journalism workshop last semester, and this is some basic shit.

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  11. Xavier Lee  April 22, 2014 at 1:59 AM

    Honestly, I think this is a pretty irresponsible article... even as a member of the Phoenix team, I think it's embarrassing to drop the foolish blame that the Phoenix incurred in the aftermath of this horrible and egregious article on the very people who the Phoenix staff has misinterpreted and vilified. You haven't accomplished anything but further the ruination of people who you have already singlehandedly destroyed, all in the name of protecting your own backs and representing "good journalism."

    This is actually incredibly shameful.

    Also, this is not the New York Times. You should not aspire to live up to such a standard, knowing you are doomed from the start. This is the college newspaper of a small liberal arts college.

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