Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Walk the Line

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You’ve crossed the line young lady. I’ve heard that phrase so many times and with each iteration, the line changes. The line between polite and rude. The line between educated and not educated. The line between rich and poor. Some of these lines have specific names. Some don’t. Yet, regardless of their label, many of the lines in our lives have a set position, generally determined by social norms, academics, or the government.

Then, there is line that we, at The Carletonian, deal with every day. The line between journalistically moral and amoral. Similar to the examples above, there are markers and guidelines for this dichotomy. Don’t steal documents. Don’t take photos in private spaces without permission. Don’t coerce people into interviews. However, while this line may seem simplistic, it becomes significantly fuzzier when applied to a small campus. Some things acceptable by the massive 500-page Associated Press rule book are not justified at a school like ours. This makes our jobs as editors and writers exponentially more difficult.

We are continuously discovering the intricacies of this boundary and trying to understand where our line deviates from that of traditional, professional journalism. Being students ourselves further complicates this matter. We are members of the community. Unlike the real world, every story involves a friend, a friend of a friend, a boss, or a favorite professor. Everything we write hits close to home literally and physically, as the stories often occur between Scoville and Goodhue. Then, how do we balance these connections and the effects these stories will have on our peers with completing our duty of delivering facts and publishing student voices?

Here’s the truth. We cannot tell you the answer. Everyone we talk to has an opinion. Write about everything, some say, people need to know multiple sides to the events everyone is talking about or the things we should be talking about but aren’t. Don’t write anything controversial, others say, it’s too small of a campus and you will just make people upset. Everyone has an opinion and everyone believes they know exactly where the line needs to be.

So, if we cannot agree, then what is the role of a journalist in such a tight-knit community? I think it is to be honest and straightforward. To deliver the news. To provide alumni, parents, and students with information. Most importantly, this paper is for us to learn. We are not perfect journalists. That’s why it is a student newspaper, not because it covers only student events but because we are students of the newspaper business. We do it to learn and to grow as reporters, photographers, designers, and editors. You may think we have crossed the line on several occasions, and I respect that. We have made mistakes and we are far from perfect, but that’s the challenge of this job. With all the pre-created lines in our lives, we get to create one of our own.

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