Ruffling a few feathers is okay

Graphic by Lena Yang

Graphic by Lena Yang

When I started at The Cord in 2011 as a quiet sports writer, the first rule my editors taught me was ingrained in my mind.

Be impartial.

As a student at Wilfrid Laurier University, of course I wanted to support my school in any way I could. But as a journalist, you must be critical and analyze every move of the players and coaches. If they played shitty, you reported that they played shitty. Your job isn’t to spin a positive story, and you sure as hell don’t cheer for the team.

Five years later, after covering far too many regular season games, a few dozen playoff matches and three national championships, I’ve become critical beyond compare, wondering how each move will affect the team. It’s translated into my news reporting, analyzing the administration and Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union’s plans, moves and words to be the best journalist I can.

It’s what we’re taught: a good journalist has a critical eye.

But this doesn’t seem to translate to all members of the journalism community. When I’m in press boxes, fellow student journalists are clapping, cheering on their respective school’s football team as if they’re cheerleaders. There is no analyzing statistics or questioning the play the coach called — rather, it’s mumbling under their breath, “go team go.”

I’m all for being supportive of your school. Of course I’m happy when Laurier’s teams make it far. Not only is it great coverage, but it’s fun and exciting to see such an exhilarating moment impact the culture of a university.

But as a student journalist hoping to make it in this industry, it’s hard to watch other student journalists act as part-time cheerleaders and don’t at least ruffle the feathers of their school’s public relations department.

Good journalism, regardless of  whether it’s at the student or professional level, starts with good, objective coverage. Considering both sides is necessary so that bias doesn’t impact the reader’s experience. Regardless of whether you are writing about sports, news, arts or health, objectivity is the main component of journalism. Don’t be afraid to be critical of what you’re covering. It makes your work stand out and gives you an opportunity to look beyond the “ra ra team” that surrounds you every day.

Besides, no one respects a writer without a spine.

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