The Duke: Not a “nattering nabob of negativism”

By Raymond Arke | News Editor


A new year is always a good time for reflection. As I enter my second semester as the news editor, I have always kept an ear open for talk on campus, and one of the things I — and most of the staff — have often heard from some students and organizations is that The Duke is too negative. This is a criticism that has grown recently as the American president has set an example by attacking media outlets that conflict with his worldview.

Since my freshman year, the News section has been met with accusations of being purposefully dour, something I have always felt was mistaken. With attacks on journalism increasing globally throughout the past year, I wanted to be transparent and present our view. In spirit of the new year, I took a look back at our paper to see how these claims hold up and found that they clearly do not.

My survey included News, Opinions, Features and Arts & Entertainment. Stories that addressed national or state issues were excluded.

The search through the past semester found that the paper published 59 positive articles celebrating Duquesne, its faculty, alumni and students. This positivity could be found on front pages such as Oct. 5, which had three headlines that read “DU plans for an important review,” “Career Closet opens on campus” and “DU grad student joins 100 mile veteran march.” They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but heck, that’s a pretty pleasant cover. That issue is just one example of the vast majority of positive coverage.

There were five stories that were negative by virtue during the last fall semester. These were all in the News section and covered important public safety events such as the bomb threat, the accusation of rape perpetrated by a former Duquesne basketball player, the visit of the accused killer of a Pitt student on Duquesne’s campus before the attack and the issues regarding a Student Union ATM. The fifth story covered the guilty plea of a Duquesne professor.

Some may be surprised to see that we only found five stories that we deemed as potentially being seen as truly “negative.” There were two articles in the News section — “SGA sought to block Duke story” and “Towers residents placed in temporary rooms.” Opinions had two: an op-ed by a former Duke Editor-in-Chief about the SGA controversy and an op-ed on the prices of textbooks. Features had one article that some could call negative about the prices of Campus Market items.

These couple of negative stories addressed important issues which exposed some unpleasantries on campus. That is the nature of journalism. Our job as an independent, student-run organization is not to act as a mouthpiece for anyone or anything. That means that the stories could be uncomfortable or unpleasant for some, and that is how it should be. If something is newsworthy, it will be covered whether it is about someone celebrating a great achievement or someone at their lowest point.

We want to see Duquesne and its students succeed as much as anyone else, but it our duty to show how life really is, warts and all.

We are not a negative paper, and it’s worrying that we are perceived that way. Our staff and writers work hard to produce high-quality, informative, fair and interesting pieces every week. That means that we don’t stray away from topics that may be uncomfortable; in fact, those types of stories are the most important to cover. If we don’t report on these issues, then who will?

In an era where the American president threatens to hold a “Most Dishonest & Corrupt Media Awards of the Year” ceremony, it is important to understand that news outlets at any level — from college to global — are crucial in keeping you informed everyday.

Quality journalism builds quality democracy, especially on college campuses. So, let’s start 2018 off on the right foot and with better understanding that the long-standing misnomer that The Duke is some kind of evil plotter is unsubstantiated and disconcerting.