Sunday, February 22, 2009
The Daily Cal's Editorial Policies
I've had a few chats in the past few days about The Daily Cal and how it handles its opinion page. Yaman Salahi, a recognizable SJPer, tells me that when he was writing an op-ed for The Daily Cal on Nov. 18 and when Dalia Marina wrote an op-ed last Friday, The Daily Cal specifically asked them not to provide a narrative or specifics of what happened at the Eshleman brawl.
I asked The Daily Cal, but Editor-in-Chief Bryan Thomas declined to discuss the specific case, citing a "standard procedure not to comment on the specific procedures for each piece in the paper, but instead outline our general policies." No explanation for why this is the standard procedure was included, which I'm aware is also standard procedure for most organizations, though I think folks ought to be able to articulate the reasons for their procedures.
While a vague description of their op-ed policy was mentioned, nothing in it really explains why such a narrative was prohibited. ("There is often a back-and-forth between the writer and the opinion page editor about the content of the writing. The intent is not to change or shape the opinion in any way, but to make sure the content abides by our editorial standards and fits within our guidelines.") What those standards and guidelines are, or how they fit in to this case, is left as an exercise to the reader, I guess.
It's clear that making accusatory factual statements is not prohibited. John Moghtader's op-ed accused Oscar Mairena of having what I assume would be called a bigoted status message during a Senate meeting. Mairena denied this, and The Daily Cal has issued a correction to the op-ed piece on the topic.
It's also clear that The Daily Cal does not universally fact-check their pieces. ("All content presented as fact in the Daily Cal goes through a fact-checking process. When verification of assertions of fact are made impossible by circumstance, the statements will be clearly attributed. This holds true in both news articles and opinion pieces.") It took me about 30 seconds to write an e-mail asking Mairena about Moghtader's claim, and I got a response in 10 minutes. This particular claim seems to be on the easy end of the fact-checking spectrum, but wasn't checked.
Given the Daily Cal's position, I don't really have much choice but to accept Salahi's version of events. We're left speculating why they won't allow this particular set of factual claims to be made in an op-ed. Salahi's view is:
I believe the Daily Cal is worried about a lawsuit and is thus abridging students' abilities to comment on what happened that night. I can understand why that would apply to me, because I only have second-hand information, but I don't understand why that would apply to Dalia, who was on the scene.It's no secret that Moghtader has been threatening lawsuits left and right, but Thomas points out that The Daily Cal gets lawsuit threats weekly, so they ought to be prepared to deal with such things.
This is an excellent time to remind folks of my biggest concern with The Daily Cal, which is that they appear disinclined to rock the boat. They seem to be the last people to uncover anything that could be considered close to a scandal, and do very little to pursue such issues. It feels like they simply allow themselves to be used as a mouthpiece for various folks. It's this kind of low-impact journalism which makes me wonder just how willing they are to take on well-connected, powerful interests. That's why Salahi's claims seem to fit very well within the pattern they've defined themselves by in recent years.
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