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How to heal a papercut

February 7, 2020

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

Most college public relations departments don’t undermine college journalism by actively censoring publications or by restricting access to information or people. They undermine college journalism by raising minor but constant complaints about our choice of words, our interpretations of facts or our presentation of information. Their strategy is death by a thousand papercuts: to slowly but gradually raise doubts about our credibility so that eventually we, too, come to doubt even our own credibility, to make us write with their stock objections always in the back of our minds. The frightening thing is that this strategy begins to work.

But, thanks to shows of support like Associate Professor of English Ann Kibbie’s op-ed in this week’s Orient, it never fully succeeds. On behalf of the Bowdoin chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Kibbie submitted a statement reaffirming the value of what we set out to do every week—to report on news and issues that matter to the Bowdoin community and to empower students to make their voices heard.

Do we get things wrong? Of course. Do we make mistakes? Yes. But as Kibbie notes in her piece, college journalism fulfills its highest potential when colleges and universities support its efforts rather than highlight its imperfections.

Support from professors is an integral part of this effort. Their encouragement counteracts the constant nagging from PR departments and administrators; they assure us that we aren’t, in fact, crazy and that we are, somehow, on the right track.

For this, we extend our sincerest thanks to the faculty members who have supported our newspaper. Through your contributions—your op-eds, your letters to the editor, your willingness to help us in our reporting—you have made our job possible. Through your personal expressions of support—in classes and in office hours—you have even made our jobs rewarding.

Thank you.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Emily Cohen, Maia Coleman, Roither Gonzales, Julia Jennings, Sabrina Lin, Alyce McFadden and Ian Ward.

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