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On editorial independence

October 22, 2021

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

The Bates Student published an article on October 13 concerning unionization efforts among the college’s staff. Later that day, Mary Pols, Bates’ media relations specialist, requested that the story be taken down due to “misleading statements and reporting inaccuracies.” The Student subsequently took down the article and republished it with significant alterations, including several additional comments from Bates administrators that reflected the college’s position in a more positive light. The changes drew accusations of censorship by the Bates administration from regional and national news outlets.

As senior staff members of the Orient, we want to take this opportunity to reaffirm the right to free press, free speech and the right to organize.

These events provide us with an opportune moment to be transparent about our own editorial practices. Bowdoin administrators regularly contact the Orient in response to stories that we publish, occasionally with critical comments. The opening up of this discourse often leads to productive exchanges—we are grateful that those we hold accountable are willing to do the same for us. If articles contain factual errors, we correct the inaccuracies with an editor’s note. If the comment is based on the slant or angle of the story, we acknowledge the feedback as we continue to report on the matter.

We recognize the challenges that come with reporting at a small college. The scale of our community creates strong bonds, but the size of our campus also means we interact with our sources and subjects on a personal level. They are our friends, our advisors, our deans and our administrators—we have a different relationship with each of them, both in our capacity as journalists and outside of that role. Given these personal relationships, editorial independence is all the more crucial and requires mutual professionalism.

Our primary goal as a newspaper is to serve the interest of the Bowdoin community: students, staff and faculty. Editorial independence is the only way we can continue to accomplish this goal.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Editorial Board, which is comprised of Sebastian de Lasa, Diego Lasarte, Reuben Schafir, Dylan Sloan, Emma Sorkin, Emily Staten and Ayub Tahlil.


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