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How the Orient reports

April 26, 2019

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

This week, like many other weeks this semester, we’ve encountered questions about the Orient’s editorial decisions. We are always learning and striving to do journalism better, and we welcome feedback. We want to take a moment to answer some of the questions that we come across, in the hopes that transparency on our part can build trust with you, our readers, and foster a stronger dialogue.

As a paper, we always strive to report about Bowdoin in a manner that is factually correct, intellectually honest and fair to both the readers and subjects of our stories. Broadly speaking, we might choose to report a story if the following three conditions are met: 1) it is striking, unusual, important or otherwise meaningful to the Bowdoin community, 2) we believe that we know the relevant facts, and 3) we can provide additional information or clarity that a large portion of our readers would not otherwise have.

How do we confirm facts? Sometimes we have reporters who were there. Sometimes we don’t—our staff isn’t large enough to send someone to every potentially relevant event. So if we can’t see it with our own eyes, we talk with several eyewitnesses. We check social media and look for photos, audio or video. All these mechanisms help us learn and verify the truth.

Beyond establishing the facts, how does the Orient seek our perspectives? If a story is about a particular group, we always reach out to the group leaders; if it’s about an exhibit, we reach out to the curator; if it’s about a team, we reach out to the coach and captains. None of these people are ever obliged to talk with us. We may still run the story without their comment if it meets the three conditions.

And what happens after we run a story? If additional perspectives or context emerge, we run a follow-up article. If more people want to talk, we talk with them. If we learn new information, we share it with readers.

Last week, for example, we received word of a comedian that had offended students in a talk which had taken place earlier Thursday night. We felt that this event was both striking and unusual—naturally we felt an obligation to our readers to report, despite tight time parameters. This week, after receiving more information about the event, we ran a follow-up article which clarified and added additional perspectives.

The Orient isn’t perfect, but we’re trying. We are your peers, your teammates and your classmates, and we want to do reporting that matters to you. The Orient is not meant to exclude or selectively represent certain voices on campus—in fact, this is the antithesis of our mission. As editors, we believe the Orient works best when we maintain an open conversation with students, faculty and other members of the community. If you see something you don’t like, we want to know: send us op-eds, letters to the editors or give us pointers on our anonymous tip line.

We appreciate your readership, and we hope you continue to engage with us.


This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Nell Fitzgerald, Dakota Griffin, Calder McHugh and Jessica Piper. 


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