One of my first assignments for Pipe Dream was to photograph a joint meeting between the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Latin American Student Union (LASU). I walked into the BSU lounge and asked an executive board member when would be a good time to take photos for the article about their event. The discussion was on a sensitive topic, so I figured it’d be smart to ask. She responded in shock, stating that neither BSU nor LASU were notified that an article would be written and that she was unsure how everyone would feel about it. I chose not to take any photos and returned to the newsroom with an empty memory card.
As journalists, there is as much importance in what we cover as there is in what we exclude. In Pipe Dream’s content over the past week, the trust the student body has for the publication has dreadfully eroded due to what it has omitted. This especially rings true for the communities of color at Binghamton University, which have decried the narratives formed and the information absent by Pipe Dream’s coverage of two protests.
The truth is, Pipe Dream has always had a rocky, at best, relationship with students of color. This isn’t to question the quality of the journalists here, which has generally been good and, to which I know personally, there are many exceptionally talented people working in the newsroom. More so, this has been an issue with who isn’t in the newsroom — students of color. PRISM was made to strengthen coverage on the multicultural community, and yet there seems to have been no space afforded for its editors or contributors in the consideration of the past week. The failure to acknowledge any of this in Monday’s editorial speaks volumes.
On the question of narrative, this omission of crucial information is eerily similar to the situation at Northwestern University. Students objected to how both The Daily Northwestern and Pipe Dream chose to cover protests mainly for the harassment many protesters, mainly black and brown women, faced both in person and online. Not once in last Thursday’s coverage, nor in Monday’s coverage, is the subject of right-wing harassment against students of color even mentioned. This is a colossal omission which indicates a lack of critical understanding why there was backlash to begin with.
Civil rights advocates such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, as well as conservative groups such as Young America’s Foundation, have found Turning Point USA (TPUSA) to be a national organization that openly courts racist, anti-Semitic white nationalists to join its ranks. TPUSA is infamous for its McCarthyist watch list of professors deemed to “advance leftist propaganda” and the large-scale harassment campaigns that many of its followers participate in against activists on the left — particularly those who are women and are of color.
As of now, there are videos and articles of both protests circulating with hundreds of thousands of views — many of them littered with violent threats against students, organizations and the school itself. The protesters most visible in the actions have directly received threats against their own lives. Pipe Dream’s coverage and the narrative constructed have directly contributed to the violent harassment of fellow students. Why should students have any trust in an institution that has not shown any cognizance of that?
As such, many students have called for the content to be taken down. I don’t care much for this personally, as it is a standard journalistic ethic to not remove content. However, what is more paramount is not of ethics, but rather the question of Pipe Dream’s institutional morality. What do we believe is good journalism? Therein lies the difference between simply stating the facts we are given and speaking truth to power. The fact of the matter is that if there were students of color on the News staff, which currently has none, I am certain none of this would have even happened. Again, this isn’t to question the individual quality of any journalist, but the conscientiousness the situation deserved was absent — as were people of communities most proximate to the issues at hand in the production of Pipe Dream’s coverage. That is not a coincidence.
It’s of no surprise that the past two years this publication has had relatively positive relationships with the multicultural community, as the primary editors of PRISM already held large editorial roles in other sections. From how journalists choose to reach people for comment, to giving appropriate notice of coverage, to how we respond when we fail — these are all crucial elements of how any journalistic institution builds trust and respect of the people it chooses to cover. As of right now, students of color have no trust in Pipe Dream as it lacks the morality to properly consider the lives and struggles students of color have at BU. This will not change until changes are made within.
Kojo Senoo, ‘19, is a former staff photographer for Pipe Dream and PRISM.
Editor’s note: Senoo’s submission is co-signed by Sarah Molano, ‘19, a former opinions editor at Pipe Dream and a former PRISM editor, Kevin Paredes, ‘18, a former photography editor for Pipe Dream and PRISM, Grace Palumbo, ‘18, a former assistant sports editor for Pipe Dream, Steven Gonzalez, ‘19, a former video editor at Pipe Dream and former contributor for PRISM, Rebecca Kiss, ‘19, a former photography editor for Pipe Dream, Khaled Pendleton, ‘19, a former assistant designer for Pipe Dream and Evan Cole, ‘19, a former assistant sports editor for Pipe Dream.