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Newspaper, referendum bias addressed

On March 28, 2012

  • James McGee vacuums oil in Barataria Bay on the coast of Louisiana on June 20. Associated Press

The Nicholls Worth is often accused of being biased or taking sides on an issue.

To say we do not have opinions would be a lie. Of course we do. The staff members of The Nicholls Worth are students just like our readers. But we do the best we can to maintain objectivity in our news articles.

When we are presented with news that we feel strongly about, such as tuition and fee increases, we spend days reading and re-reading interviews, fact sheets and drafts to make sure our personal opinions do not appear in the stories or we misinterpret the facts.

We fact check in a complicated process that involves multiple people on staff as well as the administration at Nicholls to make sure our information is as complete as possible and that we understand it correctly.

Last week, our front-page article was about a fee increase that students voted on this week. While conducting interviews and after the story was published, staff members were harassed by members of some of the organizations involved. The Nicholls Worth staff members were followed to their cars, talked down to and publicly embarrassed.

Certain members of some of the organizations involved in the fee increase felt that the information was incorrect or clouded. They felt, and we quote, that The Nicholls Worth "has something up its sleeve."

Our only possible response to this is that fact is fact. We presented the facts in a way that we knew was needed.

We knew that very few students were going to crunch the numbers of what a 4 percent fee increase would include and total. It took us many hours and many phone calls to make sure our information was correct. It exhausted us, which only assured us that it needed to be done for students to be able to make the most informed decision as possible when voting.

The truth is, we did not enjoy writing the article. We felt that the article would, because it pointed out how much the increase actually was, cause students to vote "no" on the referendum. Certain organization members feel that is exactly what we wanted.

Voting on the referendum was a much more difficult choice than it needed to be. Students had to choose between giving deserving organizations much-needed money or keeping funds away from organizations that just seem greedy.

We believe the organizations should have approached fee increases as individuals rather than as a group. The students should have been able to vote on each organization separately and not as a whole.

In fact, we have information that certain organization members involved with the 4 percent referendum said that the reason they objected to our article and why the referendum was not campaigned about was because they wanted it to fly under the radar. They wanted the majority of the students who voted on it to be members of the involved organizations so that it would pass.

Our staff members were also asked directly by certain organization members to make last week's news article "pretty" or biased in favor of the fee increase.

We refused to be biased in our article. This editorial section is the only place we can freely state our opinion. We do not have the luxury that other organization officials apparently have.

Our facts were checked, and if we make a mistake, we will gladly and quickly correct it. If you believe we have erred, point to our numbers and tell us where we are wrong. Our job is to present the facts as objectively and plainly as possible. To do otherwise could cost us our jobs.

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