November 29, 2012

Building on Progress

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Overall, The Sun has had a good semester. The paper continues to strengthen its  multimedia presence. The paper’s news coverage is extensive and their opinion section frequently provokes discussion and debate (a positive thing). The editors are responsive to reader concerns, receptive to outside input and transparent about the steps they are taking to continually improve the quality of their journalism. I hope they build on this progress with a stronger focus on investigative journalism.

The Sun does a great job reporting on the day to day happenings in Ithaca. The Sun did a particularly good job keeping us all informed with early morning updates on the shooting of an Ithaca police officer (and the resulting manhunt) earlier this semester. A reader who regularly picks up The Sun will be kept well abreast of University announcements, new restaurants and bars on and near campus, changes in Ithaca, sports, arts and more. It is a good daily student paper, but The Sun could be more.

What I often find missing from The Sun is more sophisticated investigative journalism. I find myself yearning for more in terms of in-depth, detailed and thorough research as well as follow up on the issues of concern to the student body. News coverage of day-to-day happenings is excellent, but in-depth exposés seem to be rare or nonexistent. Could it be Cornell University is so transparent, open and pure that nothing merits serious watchdog journalism? Are the Collegetown landlords treating all of us so fairly and equitably that there’s nothing to examine? I somehow suspect not (but by all means investigate and prove me wrong). As a reader, I yearn for The Sun to take this bold journalistic jump from reporting the day’s happenings and University announcements to unearthing the deeper issues, discovering and reporting on what doesn’t make the press releases and University announcements pages. The Sun is a college paper, but that doesn’t mean it cannot, when necessary, shine the disinfecting light on unsafe, reprehensible or invidious practices that may affect the student body. Who are the good landlords? Who are the bad landlords? Where and how, exactly, does Cornell spend our ungodly tuition?

To be sure, it is not that there is none of this type of hard hitting and labor intensive investigative journalism. As Jeff Stein ’13, the Managing Editor pointed out to me, numerous articles over the past year have required Sun reporters to comb through court documents, use Freedom of Information Law requests and conduct the type of interviews and follow up needed to “tell the stories beyond the press releases.” I urge the editorial board to focus more on this type of journalism and to prioritize investigative stories moving forward. Consistent with the current editorial board’s general responsiveness to feedback and concern with continually improving The Sun, the current Managing Editor recognizes that investigative journalism is an important area to improve and expand at The Sun.

It’s reassuring to know that The Sun is aware of the necessity to take on this type of labor intensive journalism in this rapidly changing media landscape. It is important for the newspaper to, as Stein points out, “do more than regurgitate talking points.” In an era where President Skorton can (and does) email the talking points to everyone, the role of the newspaper must be to adapt and do more. I urge the next board to adapt quickly, to delve deeper into the stories and to keep apace with the changing times.

Nicholas Kaasik is a second-year law student at Cornell Law School. He assigns and edits submissions for Barely Legal. He may be reached at [email protected]. The Public Editor column runs monthly on Mondays.

Original Author: Nicholas Kaasik