Law and order
A fellow editor and I had a conversation earlier this week about whether to pursue a particular story, and he said something along the lines of us not having enough evidence to push the story to “trial.”
With that statement, the editor made a great point about the way that newspapers can some times serve as a district attorney’s offices. Because we’re heavily mixed up in the court of public opinion, we often have to decide whether certain stories are worth pursuing, just as prosecutors do the same with legal cases.
In that sense, I am The Daily Cougar’s “district attorney,” with my jurisdiction being the University of Houston and outlying areas, which just about includes the city of Houston. I am ultimately responsible for deciding which issues we investigate and how vigorously we pursue the stories. Similar to district attorneys, I am elected to my position each semester and am allowed to appoint my “assistant district attorneys.”
In keeping with this analogy, managing editor Matt Keever is the executive assistant district attorney. The various section editors are assistant district attorneys who double as “police captains,” as they also lead the investigations. Our writers serve as “detectives,” as they root out the topics that we investigate. The editors decide how to prosecute the issues.
Together, we make up the newspaper version of the television series Law and Order.
As editor in chief, I’m right in the middle of all this.
Sometimes, I advise my editors not to pursue stories that don’t appear to have any merit or ones for which we don’t have enough evidence to adequately report. If we eventually secure enough sources, then I’ll give my approval to send the story to “trial.”
Like prosecutors, we build our cases around evidence. No proof, no story.
We sometimes run stories that could put people in a lot of hot water. Other stories involve extremely sensitive issues that could inspire a lot of emotion from thousands of UH students.
Our stories can make people look like geniuses. They can also make them look like idiots.
Thus, that’s all the more reason why try not to rush any story to trial without conducting a complete investigation.
Do we always achieve this standard? Unfortunately, no. But we’re student journalists who strive every day to become better investigators. We won’t stop in our quest.
Plus, I kind of like the idea of being a district attorney. Just think, I still have time to apply for law school …
Take Care and God Bless!!!