Last week, the Orient made the decision to print the name of a student arrested on allegations of physically assaulting a nurse who was providing him with care after he had been drinking.
Following our decision, students have questioned our motives and scolded us for being irresponsible journalists. Though we are not surprised that emotions are running high, we would like to use this space to explain our ethical practices policy and the journalistic integrity of our decision.
Although there are evidently different opinions on our choice to print the student's name, our decision does not involve concerns of protecting "one of our own." While we understand that printing a student's name attached to an offense has ramifications within the Bowdoin community, we believe that the actions of students speak louder than our words.
We recognize that incidents involving alcohol and students are relevant news to the Bowdoin community, particularly when behavior results in the breach of the social code. The social code states that conduct that "is unbecoming of a Bowdoin student," whether on or off campus, includes "lewd or indecent behavior (or sponsorship thereof); physical or verbal abuse or assault; threats; intimidation; harassment; coercion; and other conduct that threatens, instills fear, or infringes upon the rights, dignity, and integrity of any person." It is the function of the social code to signal what types of behavior are acceptable or not.
Our role, however, is to report on the College without passing judgment on individual behavior. We are dedicated to being fair, responsible journalists. Doing so requires that we decide what is newsworthy and maintain consistency when reporting a particular type of misdemeanor or crime. We do not conceal information when we have a right and reason to print it. We are not under an obligation to protect individuals, nor are we under an obligation to persecute—our only obligation is to fairness. We're out to report the facts.
By our judgment, a case of assault following the break-up of a College House party is an issue of concern to our campus community. We choose not to run names associated with most OUIs or cases of underage drinking, even though their potential for harm is no less serious. Though these instances also constitute breaches of the social code, their frequency puts the Orient in a complicated position. It is difficult to guarantee that we follow up with every drinking allegation, as fairness mandates. Further, follow-up stories on OUIs, which would be required in order to report the guilt or innocence of previously named individuals, are not necessarily newsworthy for the Bowdoin community to read on a regular basis. Based on these concerns, we have chosen to omit the name of the student charged with an OUI in this week's story, "BPD grant to combat underage drinking."
Ultimately, the decision to print a name is a judgment call, but one that is heavily informed by our commitment to fair journalism. We do our best to adhere to ethical practices when printing content and names. All stories are entitled to conscientious reporting, careful judgment when writing and printing, and follow-up details if necessary. Careful consideration was given when creating our ethical practices policy. Equally careful consideration is applied in each instance that we need to consult it.