I invited the Appalachian staff to comment on the brouhaha over their incorrect report about a popular Mexican restaurant closing, and the follow-up editorial scolding readers for being a little bit too concerned about their quesadillas and margaritas. Meghan Frick, association editor for editorial content at the Appalachian State University newspaper, sends this email, and points that “we tend to feel, like many college newspapers, that we have a little more room for sass on our opinion page.”
The response we saw to the Los tweets — even before we discovered our error — was the strongest and most immediate we’ve seen all year. Readers responded when athletes were accused of sexual assault and when discussion about hate crimes exploded in our town. But they’d never responded as quickly or as passionately as they did when we mistakenly tweeted that Los was closing.
We’ve never really subscribed to the “write to a fifth grade audience” model. Our student audience has proven to be savvy and capable, and we believe strongly in their intelligence. Our goal was not to condescend to them — we wanted to challenge them to engage this fiercely on all issues that affect them.
But we do understand, at a further remove from the situation, that our tone offended many of our readers. We are deeply sorry for that, just as we’re sorry for our original reporting error. We tend to feel, like many college newspapers, that we have a little more room for sass on our opinion page. That’s all that was meant by the tone of the editorial — snark, not condescension or deflection of our original responsibility.
We have gotten feedback — usually in the form of a quiet email or Facebook message — from people who loved the editorial. But we understand that, for most readers, the tone was unacceptable.
We’re all students and we’re all learning. As journalists, we learn in the form of split-second decisions. I’m fully comfortable admitting that, if I had this decision to do over again, I’d do it differently. We stand by the spirit of our editorial, but the tone in which it was delivered was far from ideal.