Oil and water; journalism and politics

At City College News, we have the dual responsibility of being members of a student organization, and of being journalists. During Student Senate Meetings, City College News chooses to abstain from voting, regardless of the magnitude of the matter.

As journalists, we live and work by a code of ethics. While there are a few different codes that exist, in the U.S. we are guided by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) code of ethics.

The SPJ code of ethics states that, as journalists, we must seek the truth and report it. The code also states that we must act independently, which includes (and is not limited to) that we –

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment,and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
  • Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.

 

At City College News we make the choice to abstain from voting to keep our journalistic integrity. Students, faculty, and senate members entrust us with information, both on and off the record, and we take that trust seriously. Voting on issues of any matter would compromise our neutrality, which is a direct violation of our code of ethics. We have a responsibility, not only to our readers, but to journalism as a whole, to remain as impartial as possible so as to deliver objective news.

Nowhere in the policies of the MCTC Student Senate does it say that we are required to vote, however under section 5.04 (1) it does give us the right.
Robert’s Rules of Order is a point of reference in our Student Senate, along with any formal meeting, that was published in 1876. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, a vote is counted as Yea or Nay. No party can be forced to vote, nor can they be forced to abstain from voting. A party with the right to vote may choose to abstain from voting, and it being a non-vote will not affect the vote’s outcome.

Abstention is a choice made by some journalists, and has come up previously during presidential election cycles. A few journalists that have made their choice not to vote on a public matter are Nate Silver, Jim Lehrer, Leonard Downie Jr., Jake Tapper, and Keith Olbermann. Keith Olbermann is quoted saying, “I don’t want anything, even that tiny bit of symbolic connection, to stand in between me and my responsibility to be analytical and critical.”

Our job is not to be beholden to those at MCTC in positions of power, our job is to serve the nearly 14,000 members of the MCTC student body.

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