Staff Editorial

Ohio State’s Student Journalists Set Example for Professional Media

Photo courtesy of Mashhawk3

Media outlets flocked to The Ohio State University (OSU) on Nov. 28, after reports surfaced that there was an attacker on campus. CNN ran banners across the bottom of its screen, ABC aired live press conferences on Facebook and reporters from local and national media organizations converged on OSU’s campus.

But for one news outlet, the story was closer to home: OSU’s student newspaper, The Lantern.

While the staff of The Phoenix was getting back to campus after Thanksgiving break and struggling to find stories to fill these pages, the student journalists at The Lantern sprung into action to cover the developing news.

You might even say they did it better than some of their professional counterparts.

When OSU issued the first emergency alert just before 10 a.m., telling students to take shelter, be observant and take action as needed, The Lantern posted the message out on its Twitter account. But that was only the beginning.

The university soon sent another alert, telling the community that an active shooter — which the attacker was first believed to be — was near Watts Hall.

Before long, still in the midst of a shelter-in-place alert, a journalist from The Lantern arrived at the scene. You could call it reckless or unsafe, but we’ll call them a dedicated and brave journalist doing their job.

But while The Lantern was quick to react, it wasn’t careless in its reporting. Although today’s relentless news cycle pushes journalists to publish immediately, The Lantern waited to confirm the facts.

That afternoon, while national media outlets speculated about the details of the incident, The Lantern published a simple article listing everything the student journalists knew about the attack, and everything they didn’t. Among the items was the attacker’s name, which The Lantern said other outlets, including CNN, had reported, but the student newspaper noted its staff had not yet confirmed that fact.

While the rest of the country was quick to speculate about the attacker’s motive based on his nationality and religion, The Lantern made it clear that law enforcement had not made any conclusions. The paper also consulted its own expert, a law professor and counter-terrorism expert, about the dangers of quickly associating one individual with a terrorist group.

Other news outlets interviewed sources with similar opinions on the matter, but disregarded what the experts said and moved forward with their own coverage from the angle that this was a religion-based terrorist attack.

The Lantern’s coverage avoided that guesswork and reported only what the newspaper staff knew.

In a time when journalists’ faults are condemned much louder than their accomplishments are praised, The Phoenix applauds the staff of The Lantern for its work, dedication, restraint and news judgment.

You have undoubtedly shown that you are Buckeye strong.

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