Letter to the Editor: Coverage of accident wasn’t fair to those involved

To whom it may concern:
My name is Julia Kirk, and I am a former writer and employee of The Rider News. Up until this point, I have had nothing but respect and support for this organization, and I considered myself proud to be involved in such a student-supporting and hard-working organization.
However, after last week’s paper, I can no longer say this about The Rider News. As you already know, on Oct. 13 there was an accident that took place on campus. A Rider University student had driven into Fine Arts. There are no details as to why this happened, but she and the passenger thankfully had no injuries. She was not charged with anything, these were only allegations.
Two days later, I was revolted and ashamed by what I saw on the front page of The Rider News. Not only was there an article written about this student, but they had also used her picture on the front page, and the article was made a feature story with the headline “Breaking Through the Fourth Wall.”
I understand that this is an on-campus news organization designed to inform students about what is going on within the campus. And I understand that this story has a strong, newsworthy element to it that people want to read about. I understand that, as a news organization, there is an obligation to publish things that people need to be informed about. And after the accident, I understood that an article would probably be written and published in the paper.
But what I fail to understand is the distasteful and exploitative way in which this article was published. In reading the article, I felt as if this student was singled out and exiled in a manner that completely destroys the idea of community that The Rider News and Rider University should have towards the hard-working students who attend this institution. This student did not deserve to have her picture on the front page of the paper. This student did not deserve to have the words “charged with” published anywhere in this paper. Again, she was not charged with anything. And lastly, as a Rider University student, she did not deserve to have this article published on the front page of the paper.
When I chose to attend Rider University, I did so because I felt as if there was a strong community within the walls of this institution. I felt as if there was a unity between the students and the faculty. I felt as if this was a place that I could call a second home.
I don’t feel this way anymore. In fact, I feel a bit ashamed to be a student here. Universities are supposed to be unified. The definition of unity means that a body of people should be united as a whole, not singled out or labeled. This article promotes the exact opposite of unity. It promotes the labeling and exiling of a student, who is still a part of this “community.” It promotes publishing information detrimental to a student in order to gain readership. And lastly, it promotes disrespect to all Rider University students.
I understand that this paper has already been published, and that everyone has already read it. I know that by writing this letter, I am accomplishing virtually nothing. But, as a student here, I feel as if my voice should be heard, and even though it took me a lot of courage to write this, I am glad I did. I hope that whoever is reading this is realizing the mistake that has been made, and I hope that everyone involved with the publishing of this article feels ashamed.
This mistake can be made right, however. An apology can, and should, be issued to the student and her family. I hope that in the future, if there is an incident with a student on campus, that there will be a sense of respect and dignity when it comes to publishing information about said incident. As for me, I will not be reading anything published by The Rider News. That is a personal and moral decision that I am making, and I mean no disrespect to this organization. I wish everyone involved with The Rider News all the best.

-Julia Kirk
Junior journalism major

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Editor’s Note: Law enforcement officers verified that the student involved in the motor vehicle accident was charged on the day of the incident. The Rider News has a policy of naming those involved in significant events on campus when those names are made available by local law enforcement officers. The Rider News does not publish the names of those facing campus charges because they are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

 

Printed in the 10/22/14 issue.

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