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Editorial | Media must be critical of public, public must be critical of media

By Staff
On April 1, 2014

Even though the editorial section of The Miami Student didn't try to trick you into thinking President Hodge was actually drawing the cartoons for the student under a pen name, or City Council passed an ordinance to ban liquor in Oxford, we hope you at least got a few laughs from our front page's play on April Fools' Day.

The Miami Student Editorial Board is dedicated to providing factual, relevant and interesting stories 365 days out of the year (yes, even on school breaks), but a little fun is always needed - especially on April Fools' Day where some students may be dealing with post-spring-break exams and social anxiety from horrific sun burns.

The editorial board hopes readers understood the satire and playfulness of the stories, and didn't take them as being true (and if you did, we are sorry, but there won't be aliens taking over Oxford and school won't be canceled this week.) However, April Fools' Day brings up an important part of journalism and the overall duty of newspapers.

Publications like The Miami Student and others have a duty to remain as the "fourth estate." This is a role that holds legislatures, businesses and all parties accountable and in check so the public is able to form opinions and make informed decisions in a democratic society.

In the student's case, we try to hold Associated Student Government, the administration and parties involved in making decisions that affect our every day lives as students in check.

Newspapers were certainly not put in society to dupe readers - but "April Fools' Day" happens more than once a year for some publications and biased writers who only tell one side of a story and are interested in swaying public opinion.

Because of the competitive media industry today, many journalists and editors are blinded by their need to find the "scoop," and have their byline slapped beneath the front-page headline to remain relevant in an over-saturated market. Because of this, the real intention of what journalism is intended to do for the public may be blurred, and this is when the public needs to keep journalists and organizations in check.

The editorial board encourages the public to read between the lines of media they consume - including this student-run paper. We encourage readers to be critical, to form varying opinions and to challenge the status quo of how media operates. Research news organizations to make sure they are credible, compare breaking news stories with multiple outlets and verify facts and quotes using sites like The Fact Checker by The Washington Post or PolitiFact for U.S. politics.

Even though our stories on the front page were clearly not 100 percent accurate, it isn't always that easy to detect when it comes to bigger outlets. A biased or slanted story, or one with factual errors, can slip below the radar and go by thousands, if not millions, of people without being detected.

Social media has also made catching errors harder. For example, over spring break a fake CNN account tweeted a picture with a photo of an airplane submerged in water with a headline stating, "BREAKING: Malaysian plane found in bay." It had numerous retweets and even followers, despite it being a fake account. Spreading around false news now only takes the click of a mouse.

Newspapers are meant to also serve as gatekeepers, deciding what is critical to print and what the public should know about. At The Miami Student, we as a news organization, have tried our best to treat our sources as people, break news that is even critical of our own university and it's culture and shed light on national and world issues.

However, we can only get better and serve our readers in the best possible way if we are made aware of our errors.

The editorial board believes this paper should at all times keep organizations and the university in check, but the board also believes readers should keep the paper in check. This should go for any news outlet and organization, even ones you trust and admire.

Journalists and editors are still humans at the end of the day, and even though most have the public's best interest at heart, it is the public's job to weed out the ones who don't, and to keep news organizations on their toes.

By Staff

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