Mission Statement: Spring 2013

In its 131st year as Swarthmore college’s campus newspaper, the Phoenix has published millions of words examining campus life and politics, but only a few explaining why it was doing so. The first issue, published in December 1881, said only that the Phoenix was to be “a paper devoted to the best interests of our college of our fellow students and an advocate of truth and independence,” and no more detailed statement of purpose solidified in the subsequent century and a third. We, the editorial board, wish to take a shot at it. To lay out our own understanding of what the Phoenix can and should be and to explain how we will work to that end this semester.Our highest calling as a newspaper has not changed since that first issue: it is to promote the truth. This means, first, a strict commitment to accuracy. Writers for the Phoenix must use three sources minimum for full-length news pieces, making sure that these present the perspectives of all effective parties. Moreover, all pieces, regardless of length or type, are held to the basic standard of reflexivity: all fact and opinions that they report should reflect the truth, undistorted. Truth cannot, of course, be limited to accuracy. We must endeavor to report the “whole truth” which means going beyond accurately representing what we are told to investigate that which goes unsaid.

Our news section is charged with these investigative duties.  It aspires to document the voices and happenings of campus in all of their diverse forms.  Last semester, our News writers investigated the fallout from the sexual assault scandal at Amherst and looking to Swarthmore’s own campus to document the experiences of students here with sexual assault.  We believe that the article that was run on the issue and the campus’ feedback was constructive for all parties.

Where news seeks to publish things unsaid, our Living and Arts section brings to light the aspects of campus life that may occasionally go unnoticed.  This semester will see the debut of a mental health column who will dig into the uncomfortable aspects of life here, while features like Dorm Dive and Swat Style Snapshot continue to splash the brighter colors of life on campus.  The thrills and trials of life on campus cannot, however, diminish the value of the arts at Swarthmore.  The section will both promote the arts, alerting the campus to exhibitions and performances, and engage the arts intellectually in student reviews, which will be valued as much for their appreciation of the art as for their critical eye.

Many of us on the staff have been asked why the Phoenix still has a print edition when the future of publications supposedly lies in the digital realm.  The answer is manifold – a print format not only provides a unique aesthetic feel but also weaves the paper into the fabric of our campus.  The internet has its conveniences, but it can never have place, can never be in itself a repository of human memory and emotion.  We print to be part of a place, our campus.  And, coincidentally, we believe that in doing so we are putting the globe’s resources to good use.  No newspaper is litter waiting to happen.  The environment will be salvaged by curbing human appetites, not by reducing our means of understanding the world and each other.

Our predecessors did well to place independence next to truth in their statement of purpose.  We wish to remind the campus that we will not allow interviewees to check their quotes or modify them after the fact, and, moreover, that coverage in the paper does not imply any sort of endorsement.  The Phoenix only takes sides on current issues in editorials like this one which, starting this semester, represent the views of a majority of our editorial board.

For this semester and beyond, we hope the Phoenix will continue to serve the campus as a channel of accurate reporting and a forum for debate.  We hope, also, that 133 years from now – or sooner! – no stubborn Phoenix originalist will attempt to put off the pressing realities of their time by invoking this piece.  The criticisms of our staff present and future and, crucially, the general readership, keep the Phoenix vital and relevant; they will ensure that the Phoenix continues to serve Swarthmore for as long as it is a part of this campus.

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