Newspapers work for readers

Rumors and mistruths have been circulating about recent reporting and editorial stances The Flor-Ala has taken in the past few weeks. I want to clarify things a bit.

The Flor-Ala staff works constantly and around the clock to ensure the coverage of the news in the Shoals and UNA communities is reported correctly and accurately. Sure, we run some clarifications and corrections like all newspapers, but we never lie or make up the facts when we report the news.

Officials and some of our governing bodies on campus, whether it be in a public meeting or online, have sounded off about our editorial stances on SGA, campus safety and more.

First and foremost, for the readers who aren’t well-versed on how newspapers work or what the sections of the paper means, here goes: the news and viewpoints sections are two separate sections. In the news section, we report the facts and let you decide what your opinion should be. We never editorialize topics within the news section. The viewpoints section (where readers see staff editorials and columns from our editorial board) is where we let readers know our thoughts on topics that affect students and community members.

We make these stances and let people know our opinions because we, as reporters, know much more about topics than the average layperson off the street. We spend countless hours researching, reporting and attending meetings members of the community just outright do not attend.

We make stances from the facts. People in the recent weeks have been saying that we are making up stories and misreporting facts, but let’s revisit this: the viewpoints section is all opinion. It’s what we think about things, not what officials and others want us to think about it.

Secondly, I would like to let this be known as well. The Flor-Ala is here for a reason. We are here to look out for students, faculty and staff and their wellbeing at all times. We report the news that they need and we serve those community members because it’s our charge and mission as an institution and it is one of the principles of journalism.

A former leader of The Anniston Star once said newspapers are there to look out for people and be a watchdog on government officials.

“It is the duty of a newspaper to become the attorney for the most defenseless among its subscribers,” said Harry Ayers, the Star’s former publisher.

I couldn’t agree with Ayers more. He was so right when he said that. We are here for readers, and we make sure that their tax and tuition dollars are being spent appropriately. We attend every open meeting on campus in order to do so and oftentimes dig through records to look out for you, our readers.

If someone does not like being editorialized on, reported on or ending up in the newspaper for something that they do, I would suggest that you either don’t work in a public institution or take a job that isn’t in the public eye. When people that I like to call “movers and shakers” do something, it is going to end up in the newspaper. It’s simple news values and simple journalism.

When officials or leaders in our community do something that shouldn’t have been done, it is going to end up on our opinion page in the form of an editorial. Don’t get offended that we write about the things that you are doing. It is just us holding you accountable.

My former editor said it best when she said that it is difficult being a reporter.

“It is difficult for us being student reporters and to find a balance between reporting the truth and not aggravating our peers, instructors and administrators who work at or attend the institution we’re still members of,” said Lucy Berry, former executive editor of The Flor-Ala.

I challenge students, faculty and staff who have questions or just outright disagree with stories or editorial stances we take to simply contact me. Write a letter to the editor if you strongly disagree. It is easy to get on social media and to talk bad about reporters or editors in public, but be constructive about your complaints and concerns.