Dear Greek community: Please quit your whining.
It’s a tale as old as time. Frat boy does something he shouldn’t, news reporter writes about it and the whole Greek community gets up in arms, wondering, “Why would they put this story on the front page?”
As much as I would love to trash The Badger Herald’s coverage of the Monday suspension of Alpha Epsilon Pi, I really don’t have much to complain about.
The two news stories by News Content Editor Signe Brewster were clean, well-founded and reasonable — including the front-page placement on Feb. 8 and Feb. 16.
Overture Center officials complained about an event at their facility, and the fraternity was suspended.
The stories were newsworthy because the Greek community is a significant portion of the University of Wisconsin campus, and it represents the student body, just as much as any other student organization.
The fact that these were mere allegations was no reason for Herald news to not report on that story. Take, for example, the “real” newspapers out there. When someone is charged with a crime, the story gets covered — despite the fact that a charge is merely an accusation that must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
End of story.
But since my job isn’t to pat Herald editors’ backs, let’s move on to the second-most-asked question on Herald comment boards: “Why doesn’t the Herald cover the awesome stuff my frat does?”
I will agree with you there. The Herald could do better to highlight positive events sponsored by the Greek community.
This semester, there were only two positive stories about the Greek community. There was the Undie run on Feb. 15, co-sponsored by Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the Jan. 26 coverage of a FIJI event that raised more than $3,200 for Haiti.
That’s not enough.
The Badger Herald should cover more of the great things fraternities and sororities do on campus. I was never interested in joining a fraternity while at UW, but I was usually impressed by the distinguished men and women on fraternities and sororities who worked hard to positively affect this campus.
So here’s a challenge: Next time your fraternity or sorority holds an event, no matter how big or small, send Campus Editor Carolyn Briggs an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and also send me a copy at email@example.com.
Briggs assured me she would, by the end of this week, e-mail every fraternity and sorority on the UW campus with information about how to get in contact with her and how to get your awesome event in an upcoming Badger Herald.
Sure, it is the Herald’s job to gather information and figure out what events are going on around campus. But to expect the news staff to know everything about Greek events that aren’t highly publicized outside of the Greek world is preposterous. After all, its members have a full-time class load, too.
Jeff Herscott, president of UW’s AEPi chapter, declined comment when contacted by this public editor Wednesday evening.
Comment policy change a good step that should be taken with caution
After the Herald published its coverage of the incident with AEPi, a Jewish fraternity , the newspaper’s online comment board was flooded with undesirable comments.
“Anti-Semitism started creeping in,” Managing Editor Michael Bleach said.
Some of the comments were the poorest depiction of the UW community after the AEPi Overture incident (read above), and the Herald’s decision to change its online commenting policies was well-warranted.
Bleach said the Herald will now pre-screen its online comments, leaving off the web comments that add nothing to the discussion or contain personal attacks.
The move brings the newspaper back to its origins when all comments first needed to be approved by a moderator. Bleach said the newspaper’s fall 2009 decision to allow all comments to be published without screening was an effort to allow intelligent discourse to flow in an efficient manner.
“[The staff] is in classes during the day, and we don’t have the time to approve all comments as they come in,” he said, adding some comments would take too long to be approved, and that would hamper ongoing debates.
Since that didn’t happen as planned, the newspaper will go back to pre-approving comments. The screening will be approved by sections heads, Bleach and Editor in Chief Jason Smathers.
I will carefully watch to ensure the commenting policies are working well. If you think your comment was deleted for no reason, please shoot me an e-mail.
This week’s kudos go to The Badger Herald staff. The newspaper received five awards from the Associated Collegiate Press and six first place awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, from column writing to news and sports reporting.
Pedro Oliveira Jr. is a former news editor of The Badger Herald. He is currently a news reporter at The Janesville Gazette. Please send complaints and comments on Herald coverage to firstname.lastname@example.org. All complaints will be investigated by the public editor.