Welcome back to Letters From The Editors. Normally, toward the end of the quarter, we write about our latest special project. However, something happened last night that we want to share about.
A few days ago, after hearing that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz would hold rallies in the area, we decided to reach out to their campaigns to see if we could cover the events. As high school journalists, we are often last on the list of people who get press credentials at large events, and we need these credentials to bring cameras and get to the media area for the events. The Cruz campaign didn’t get back with us about their Wednesday rally, but the Sanders campaign did, so we sent a reporter and two photographers to Lawrence to tweet, take photos and get interviews for a story.
As J-Curt tweeted quotes and videos from the rally, we began to see some tweets to @millvalleynews that said the account was biased for covering a Democratic candidate. At first, we didn’t know how to respond, but Jena eventually replied to one to say that we had reached out to Cruz with no response, and that we would be covering a Marco Rubio rally in Overland Park the next day (yesterday), as we had recently been granted credentials to that rally after it was announced midday Thursday. However, that didn’t stop people from saying we were biased, so we stayed out of the situation from there and continued to tweet the rally.
We didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to cover what’s literally a once-in-a-lifetime a event, considering Kansas isn’t too important in the grand scheme of national politics. The rally Sanders held in Kansas City was the only event any presidential candidate held around here before this week, but we couldn’t go since it was the same day as our journalism regionals competition. We would have loved to cover the Cruz rally as well, and we were equally as excited to cover the Rubio rally. No matter what the event is, we don’t want to not take a cool opportunity.
Since our publication serves mainly high school students, as well as the Mill Valley community in general, we focus on covering topics and events that directly impact our readers. We thought it would be an awesome opportunity to cover a few rallies, especially since some are happening so close to home and some students are attending them.
As journalists, we hold all our work to the standards of accuracy, credibility and objectivity. It’s our policy to only tweet facts, just how we only put facts into news stories. Whenever we cover something controversial, we try as much as we can to show all available viewpoints on the subject. We’re also not covering Sanders because we support his campaign — J-Curt put the same amount of effort and care into tweeting the Rubio rally, and the same goes for the photographers who took photos.
Some people did use this as an opportunity to say that Mill Valley News is biased in a larger sense — mainly, through our opinion section. We do understand that most of what we publish in our opinion section is more liberal than conservative, and this experience is making us rethink how we can improve our balance of online opinions. If you have a conservative viewpoint that you don’t see reflected online, and you want to write a letter to the editor or submit a column for us to publish, we would love for you to. (This invitation is always open — regardless of political leanings, we want to know what you have to say.)
Even though some tweets criticized our publication, we are still thankful to those who openly shared their opinions. It’s really awesome for us as editors to receive feedback, whether it’s positive or negative. Another awesome part of the experience was that we received a lot of what Jena calls “love tweets” throughout the night, which we also appreciate. And, as always, if you disagree with something on our site, feel free to comment — we love when you interact with our content.
That’s all … for now.
Check it out: Like we said earlier, there’s another special project up on Mill Valley News. The yearbook staff put together their second project — this time, a collection of profiles of past students and staff called “Where Are They Now?”. This was a different sort of project for the staff to take on, as it meant we had to track down every person to cover, since none of them go to the school anymore. The staff put together some interesting profiles and got some cool photos that really show how well the school prepares people to do awesome things in the future. So, you should totally check it out.
Lessons of the week:
J-Curt: I mentioned it earlier in this blog and on my Twitter account a few times, but I think it’s so cool that high school journalism has afforded me such cool opportunities. I would’ve never thought I’d be in the same room as a current candidate for president, let alone do it all over again the next day, or get to interview the governor of Kansas. I’m so glad high school journalism has allowed me to cover so many interesting events, people and ideas, and especially that it’s let me report next to professional journalists who work in fields that I may pursue one day as well.
Jena: I’ve been in several situations this week where I’ve found myself wanting to speak out and quite honestly, take control and lead. There’s a time to speak up and a time to keep quiet, and as hard as it can be for an extrovert like myself to keep quiet, it’s something I need to do more often. I’ve found that letting someone else take the reigns can be a really beneficial leadership experience.
Seniors Justin “J-Curt” Curto and Jena Smith are the editors-in-chief of Mill Valley News online. They appreciate captioned photos, categorized and tagged stories, staff members who don’t text about web assignments at 11 p.m., teachers and students who talk about things they read on Mill Valley News and all things multimedia.