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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Staff Editorial: Vanderbilt Hustler correct in firing editor in chief

The Vanderbilt Student Communications Board fired the editor in chief of The Vanderbilt Hustler last week, starting a flurry of controversy as to whether the firing was the right decision.

The former editor, Jarred Amato, was first suspended and then fired by the board for falsifying the results in a Hustler sports poll allowing students to vote for their favorite Vanderbilt athletes – he presented a different winner than the votes reflected and then made up poll numbers.

Although Amato’s supporters have said his positive influence on the paper outweighs his bad judgment in this instance and argue that some mistakes should be expected at a university that’s purpose is learning and exploration, the board’s decision to remove Amato was the correct course of action.

Leniency for bad decisions stemming from inexperience, ignorance or difference of opinion is one thing, but knowingly publishing false and manipulated information is unacceptable for a staff member aspiring to be a professional journalist. This is not a matter of ignorance or inexperience, but a matter of a newspaper’s leader knowingly breaking the cardinal rule of the journalistic profession.

The new Hustler editor in chief, formerly the managing editor, made a good point in her written response to all of this – all a newspaper has is its credibility and its word. Amato’s decision to lie to Vanderbilt’s student body puts both of these in dire jeopardy and seriously endangers administrator, faculty and student trust in the Hustler. If a simple poll has been tampered with, how can readers trust the paper’s coverage of topics and controversies that could have a major impact on the university?

Sure, it looks like it was only a fun poll to encourage students to interact with the paper, but the implications of not treating this feature with the same journalistic integrity as any other part of the newspaper seriously calls Amato’s qualifications as editor in chief into question. Removing Amato from the paper’s top position is the first and most important step to renewing trust in the Hustler. College newspapers have enough of a struggle to be taken seriously without mistakes like this undercutting their credibility.

The Daily Cougar has made its share of mistakes and missteps, and we can relate to making difficult decisions and learning as we go. However, whether to falsify information shouldn’t even have to be a choice. Amato’s ill-conceived decision deserved the response it received from the board.

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