I recently read an ‘open letter’ response (“An Open Letter to David Archuleta fans,” Oct, 15) to negative feedback involving an album review written by one of your staff members — the infamous “David Archuleta incident.” As a professor of media studies and journalist myself, I am always intrigued by student journalism. I read many student newspapers from around the country looking for good and bad examples to use in my own undergraduate courses; unfortunately, this falls into the latter.
First, let me comment by saying that I agree with most of the points raised in the column. It is true that the majority of the public is uninformed about the operations of a newspaper and the distinction between a news article and an editorial or review piece. Incidentally, I wondered why the author chose to review a David Archuleta album in the first place — is this the music most salient to Wisconsin students? — but nonetheless it was a fairly well-written review not deserving of the comments made. Moreover, the personal attacks on the staff member by readers were outright childish.
However, I wonder why Cailley Hammel chose to respond at all to the baseless and ignorant comments made by anonymous readers of your newspaper. In your newspaper’s policy, it is noted that “unsigned letters (to the editor) will not be published.” I assume this policy is in place to filter out many of the more inflammatory comments people are wont to make under the guise of anonymity. So I wonder, why legitimize these comments by running them in your column? I believe the point of the column was to highlight the outright lunacy of some of the comments made about the staff member; a virtuous and righteous point that should be made but ultimately is lost by an ill-informed closing salvo.
I understand the anger and frustration with many of these comments. I read them myself and was disgusted. But journalists have chosen a profession (at least for now) that places them constantly in the public eye, and will have to learn how to disregard such tomfoolery. Unless there was some sort of actual or implied threat made against the staff or newspaper, there is no reason to escalate the situation. In fact, when Hammel challenges those “fuckers” to bring it on, is she not simply asking them to, at the very least, write more inflammatory responses? As of the writing of this letter, I see 220 responses to the challenge. What has been accomplished here?
For my students, I plan on using this example as a teachable moment of what not to do in response to harsh public criticism. I am not sure what ethical principles were invoked when writing this column, but Hammel should realize that every section of the newspaper is bound by the same code of ethics and professional standards. When one of us violates these standards, it speaks poorly on all of us. I appreciate the passion and vigor to defend staff, but passion can never trump sound judgment and reason.
Nicholas David Bowman
Assistant professor, media studies
Young Harris College