The Orient is introducing Jim Reidy '13 as public editor to act as a liaison between the paper and its readers. He will solicit reader concerns and write a monthly column on the Orient’s standards and execution.  Jim knows the Orient well from his two years on staff, but is now independent from the paper and has been given complete editorial freedom. We hope you find him to be a fair judge and strong advocate for your comments and concerns.

The Orient plays an important role on Bowdoin’s campus.  Since 1871, it has served to create a historical record of important events and student sentiment, and it is in a unique position to hold both students and administrators accountable for their actions.  However, it is important to consistently review the Orient’s standards and execution of its policy, especially as it has expanded its role on the Internet in recent years.

Appointing a public editor marks a decisive step to increase the Orient’s transparency and responsiveness to reader concerns, and over the course of this year, I will be filling that position.

While this article marks my first as public editor, it is hardly my first for the Orient.  I spent my freshman and sophomore year working as sports editor before stepping away from the paper in my junior year.  As a result, I am in a somewhat unique position on this small campus of understanding the Orient’s policy while also having enough distance to critique the Orient and its policies impartially. 

The way I see it, my primary role is as an intermediary between the readers and the editors, and I look forward to hearing from you.  This column will serve as a forum for readers to voice their criticisms of the Orient, and my job will be to respond to those concerns and provide an unbiased assessment of the newspaper’s performance.

A role such as this has become increasingly important for the Orient as its audience has expanded well beyond its print version.  With an expanded website, a relatively new blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account, the Orient’s policies regarding reporting standards have become increasingly complicated, and I hope to delve into that subject in future installations of this column.   

To the editors’ knowledge, the Orient has never had a public editor before, and it is a courageous step to take.  The editor-in-chief, Linda Kinstler ’13, is giving me complete independence in what I write, and these columns will not be edited for content by any member of the Orient staff.  I am not paid by the Orient, and unless I violate its Ethics Policy, they cannot fire me.

However, while the Orient has no control over what I write, the editorial staff also has no obligation to take any of my advice.  I will write pieces that reflect the concerns of the readers and my own concerns, but it is then up to the reporters and editors of the Orient to choose what to do with the information. 

As my primary purpose is to respond to reader feedback, I will spend the rest of this column discussing the most common criticism of the Orient that I hear around campus: that the Orient frequently misquotes its sources.

An important aspect of this complaint stems from the Orient’s policy that unless writers have obtained express consent from their editor, all interviews must be conducted in person.  No interviews via email are allowed.

Assuming that writers adhere to this policy and that the editors are not overly liberal with their permission for email interviews, I think this is the ideal policy for any newspaper.  In fact, the Princeton University newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, took steps to follow such a guideline earlier this fall, officially terminating the newspaper’s policy of allowing writers to interview sources over email.

A September 18 letter from the editor-in-chief said, “one integral part of what the ‘Prince’ does has no place in email—interviewing. Interviews are meant to be genuine, spontaneous conversations that allow a reporter to gain a greater understanding of a source’s perspective.”  He later added that email interviews had “resulted in stories filled with stilted, manicured quotes that often hide any real meaning and make it extremely difficult for reporters to ask follow-up questions or build relationships with sources.”

The Daily Princetonian is absolutely correct that interviews are far better when conducted in person, but there is one distinct advantage to email interviews—there is never a question about who said what. 

To remedy this ambiguity, the Orient must take the necessary steps to make sure that people are quoted properly.  The most important step—recording all sit-down interviews—was officially taken by last year’s editors-in-chief, Nick Daniels ’12 and Zoe Lescaze ’12, and that policy has been continued this year by Kinstler.

There are a few notable exceptions to this policy.  Kinstler said, “We encourage all interviews to be recorded if possible, but if an event is breaking in front of you, you may not have time to whip out a recording device in time to get quotes.  In that event, we expect reporters to take notes manually.”

If a person does feel that they have been misquoted, they can email the Orient at and request that the editors refer back to the recording.  In these circumstances, Kinstler said, “If they are misquoted, we will change the article online and remove the false quotation and run a correction in the next print edition.”

However, she added that much of the time, sources “think that they have been misquoted, but in reality they just don’t remember part of what they said.”  In either case, having the recording leaves no room for ambiguity.

While the Orient has taken this important step to reducing misquotations, many people around campus simply don’t know about the change.  However, it does seem that the general consensus on campus is shifting.  While I still hear complaints about misquoting, they mostly come from juniors, seniors, and faculty members who remember instances of alleged misquotation before the new policy was instituted that became a matter of “he said, she said.”

As long as the Orient’s editors and reporters are faithful to the new policy, the ambiguity surrounding quotes should become increasingly rare.  As it does, and as more people who have negative memories of the old policy graduate, such criticisms will hopefully become a much smaller issue.

You can reach Jim by leaving a comment online or by emailing him at