News outlets should respect grief of students in mourning

10/11/2018

By Duke Staff

Incidents on college campuses that, for whatever reason, reach a wider audience, must be handled with extreme care. At a small university like Duquesne, many students may have a personal connection to the deceased, and will be extremely sensitive to how the occurrence is portrayed in the media.

Even more vital, however, is the fact that rumors spread fast on a small college campus. With the advent of social media especially, the speed at which we speculate about major events happening in our Duquesne community is unprecedented. Facts can be distorted by students long before the police or the press get a chance to set the record straight.

This is why it is dangerous and careless to publish a sloppy article, quoting one anonymous source who only heard parts of the incident from a floor away as one Pittsburgh outlet has. The article was given a headline that suggested a conspiracy or cover-up between the police and the university, despite this not being substantiated by the quotes in the piece.

When a student body is grieving , it is not the time to speculate wildly in a public forum and lend a voice to people who have little authority to comment on the situation. Our university as a whole is struggling with the death of Marquis “JB” Brown, especially those that knew and loved him personally. Having to read news stories that suggest some sort of foul play while we are just beginning to deal with this loss is completely unfair to Duquesne students and faculty.

As journalists ourselves, we understand other Pittsburgh outlets’ need to cover what happens on our campus, as we are also part of the larger Pittsburgh community they serve. However, the aforementioned article was careless and harmful. Respect for Brown, his family and others affected by this tragedy should take precedence over publishing a questionable account of a source that is based on nothing but their own speculation.

Now, more than ever, it is important for media outlets to report well-researched, factual stories. Nationally, we have seen the impact of wanton conspiracy-mongering with coverage of topics like the murder of Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich. His family suffered as national outlets spread rumors and other baseless nonsense. Yet, in the instance of Brown, it is apparent outlets haven’t learned their lesson when approaching the traumatized Duquesne community.

Our job at The Duke is to pursue the truth, not provide room for speculation and rumor. We want to do our readers right, not fish for clicks. And, in addition to being journalists, we are also Duquesne students affected by the events of last week. All we ask is that other outlets respect the grief of our student body by being ethical in their reporting.

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