October 18, 2015

FROM THE EDITORS: Responsibility and Reporting on Crime

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Last week, The Sun published a news story titled “Consecutive Trespasses Reported Thursday,” that raised a number of questions among the campus community regarding the inclusion of a picture from a police investigation. While The Sun strives to provide the most balanced and thoughtful journalism on the Hill, we failed our readers through the poor editorial decisions that led to the publication of this picture and apologize for the consequences of its latent racism.

The story primarily regarded two crime alerts sent out prior to Fall Break. The piece also included information about an Ithaca Police Department investigation, which was seeking information about a picture of a man regarding “suspicious activity” in Collegetown that took place within a similar time frame as the crime alerts. Many in the community have questioned the decision to include the two items together, especially considering that the suspect involved in the crime alerts was described as a white male and the photo, of a black man, clearly did not fit the description provided.

The issue was exacerbated when a version of the story posted to Facebook inappropriately juxtaposed the headline of the story with the picture provided by the IPD of the man without any additional information. The lack of context between these two items together provided a misleading image of events that was, although inadvertent, markedly racist.

Studies show that portrayal of black men and women in the media influences how the general population perceives black individuals. In recognition of this, on Thursday we removed the social media post, issued an editor’s note regarding the inclusion of the picture and increased the context surrounding the article. However, soon after we decided this decision was insufficient, and removed the information regarding the IPD investigation from the story because of the racism implied through the inclusion of both news pieces together in the same story. Today, we recognize our failure to address the implications of our decision fully and immediately.

As a national dialogue continues to unfold regarding racism in the United States, we at The Sun have disappointed our readers, who expect more from us. The editorial decisions leading to the publication of Wednesday’s story are regrettable and have sparked an internal discussion on how to prevent incidents such as these from occurring again in the future. For one, stories involving allegations of crime in the future will be reviewed by additional editors before publication to ensure facts are portrayed fairly, accurately and within full context. We encourage any interested individuals to reach out to us with any concerns about our reporting at editor@cornellsun.com.

Tyler Alicea ’16, editor in chief

Annie Bui ’16, managing editor


3 thoughts on “FROM THE EDITORS: Responsibility and Reporting on Crime

  1. I am confused. If you are so concerned about racial bias, why do you continue to publish the person of interest as “white”? You are certainly aware that Obama’s Justice Dept reports how the majority of violent crimes are committed by blacks.

  2. I think your decision to remove the photo makes some sense, as it was perhaps misleading (photo caption notwithstanding) to have a photo for a “suspicious activity” incident in an article mostly about the two trespasses. But now the Sun decides to save the campus activists some trouble, and label themselves as “racist” for including the only photo available from IPD in an article about recent crime. If the Sun had included the photo BECAUSE the pictured man was Black, that would be racist. For example, if the admissions office accidentally misplaced the application of a Black applicant through some random carelessness, that would not be racist. Intentionally losing it based on the applicant’s skin color would be racist.

    What the Sun did was slightly sloppy, but certainly not racist.

  3. For obvious reasons, the Sun likes to include a photo or image with most articles, especially on Facebook. For the two trespasses, the Ithaca Police did not release photos, but they did release a photo for another incident discussed in the article. The Sun likely would have preferred to use a photo of the trespasser, but with none available, they used the photo for the lesser incident.

    What the Sun did was slightly sloppy, but certainly not racist. They didn’t go “oh look here’s an article about crime, how bout we put in a photo of a random black guy?”

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