Asked & Answered with Mark Finney

To the Students: What is your Favorite Dr. Seuss story and why?

John Keller, PoliSci: green eggs and ham because green is my favorite color.

Matt Lutz, creative communications: Cat in the hat it’s a rainy day and they make the most of it.

Joseph Johnson, undeclared: The Lorax because he delivers a important message about the environment!

Gabby Gregory, publishing: green eggs and ham because the idea of green eggs and ham.

Delyn Bull Mass Communications: Oh the places you go: inspiration and motivation; I like Sneetches


To Finney: Why doesn’t Whitetopper cover international points of view? 

First, I’ll take issue with the question. I think that Whitetopper does cover international points of view. I’d argue that the coverage of INCITES and diversity issues in the last year has included international points of view. Whitetopper also covered the Day of Silence protest last month about President Trump’s immigration Executive Order, which also related to an international point of view

But in doing some quick research in response to this question, I have to agree that there are relatively few stories about topics that are based outside the country or which are explicitly international in perspective. When there are international points of view, they tend to be those represented by people on this campus.

I think there are three reasons for this, two of which are good things about Whitetopper and a third, which I think plagues journalism.

First, Whitetopper is a newspaper that is focused on the campus and the community. The Whitetopper’s audience is local – E&H students and surrounding community – and as such, its breadth of coverage tends to be narrowly focused on those issues and concerns that face the community.

I think this is a positive point about Whitetopper. There’s no such thing as a news source that can be all things to all people and, if anything, recent trends towards merging news organizations and conglomerating (putting seemingly separate companies under a single corporate umbrella) news into giant corporations has resulted in poorer news outcomes. Instead, we audiences ought to be consulting multiple news sources and we ought to not expect that a single source can do it all.

To this end (point #2), Whitetopper does not have the resources to report or cover international issues all that well. There’s no Whitetopper Moscow bureau, London beat, or even a Washington correspondent. Whitetopper just doesn’t have the resources to send students to these important cities where news happens.

Could Whitetopper cover stories in these places? Well, sort of. Whitetopper could pay the Associated Press, for instance, for their coverage of stories from these places. Whitetopper could spend thousands on phone bills so that student reporters can call senators, prime ministers and ambassadors. Whitetopper could devote its limited resources to the coverage of these places.

But what Whitetopper should not do is aggregate the production of stories that have been produced by others.

Aggregation is a process (think Huffington Post) wherein instead of covering news – i.e., going out and interviewing sources, making direct observations and conducting original research – a source will summarize or rewrite the work of others. In Academia we call this paraphrasing (when done carefully) and plagiarism (when done poorly). In news it is unethical.

Consider this: you’re a reporter, you research the schmaltz out of a topic, work your tail off to get an interview with an important and/or controversial source, discover some fact or series of facts that are really important…and the next day you see that someone (or many) has aggregated your story, applied their own byline (authorship), and linked you in the comments section. That doesn’t feel good, and Whitetopper shouldn’t do it.

Finally, there’s the issue where I think Whitetopper and journalism should do better. There’s an international angle to just about every story. What I mean by this is that we are a diverse community, we have international students on this campus, and as such they are an important constituency to anything that happens here.

Journalists and news organizations tend to overlook non-white sources, except when stories are about non-white topics. Just like the rest of the world of journalism, Whitetopper should be more attentive to the diversity in this community and representing that diversity on its pages.

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