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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Letter to the editor: In response to “Publications hit and miss”

Published: September 21, 2007
Section: Opinions

Dear Editor,

Shortly after The Hoot was created during my first year at Brandeis, I wrote to the editor after an article insulted the arts reviews in the Justice. I believed then, and continue to believe, that critiquing a newspaper in the pages of its “rival” is completely and utterly unprofessional and unethical.

If a publication sees errors in its competitor, it should simply strive to not commit those errors – you don't see The New York Times critiquing the coverage of the New York Post, regardless of obvious disagreements between the two over what is and how to cover news. Over the past few years I have been disappointed to see this practice continue, and my disappointment has deepened after reading Justin Sulsky's column “Publications hit and miss” in the September 7 edition of The Hoot. In this column, Sulsky both explicitly attacks an article in the Justice as being “heavily biased”, and announces his intention to continue to “advise, commend, and … challenge our campus' journalists” (i.e. the Justice and The Hoot) on a weekly basis. Beyond the fact that Sulsky offers no evidence to back up his extraordinarily inflammatory charge of heavy bias – the charge of bias implies that the Justice has something against Union Treasurer Choon Woo Ha, the subject of the article in question, and Sulsky does not address this whatsoever in his column – he apparently did not even attempt to get a comment from the author of the article or an editor of the Justice, a complete breach of basic journalistic practices. Even opinion columns must rely on quality reporting.

Now, I have no affiliation with the Justice (although, full disclosure, I did write an article about my experiences abroad for the Justice last spring), and in fact agree with both Sulsky and Justice Ombudsman Maura Farrelly that there are and have been problems with the Justice's coverage of various campus issues. However, there is a great tradition in journalism that the public has the right to respond to the content of a newspaper through a letter to the editor, and both campus newspapers have traditionally been excellent in publishing criticism of their own work evidenced by the publication of my letter. Had Sulsky chosen to submit a letter to the Justice regarding the issues he had with its coverage, or lack thereof, of certain important campus issues, I have no doubt that his letter would have been published and his criticism taken to heart. Instead, he chooses to damn the Justice within the protected walls of his own column in The Hoot, the equivalent of journalistic passive-aggressiveness. I sincerely hope that Sulsky and the editors of The Hoot will reconsider their plans for devoting a column to critiquing other elements of campus media, and will instead address any issues they may have with their competitors in a more professional manner.
– Matt Rogers '08