On Tuesday, I invited editors at UC Santa Barbara’s The Bottom Line – a student government-financed publication – to respond to critics of their decision not to cover the Isla Vista rampage. They sent this statement:
As The Bottom Line Editorial Board, we would like to address the inaccuracies in a recent Op-Ed [published by The Bottom Line], clarify our editorial process, and reaffirm our views on the recent coverage.
The Op-Ed that TBL published on May 25, 2014, “Op-Ed: Why We Have Not Yet Published Anything on the Isla Vista Shooting,” was written by a previous Executive Content Editor, and was approved to be posted by a few members of our current editorial board, but without consultation with our advisor and the majority of the editorial board. In a mentally and emotionally compromised state, the editors directly involved in the publication of the Op-Ed misjudged the situation. Even though said piece is an Op-Ed, we effectively allowed someone who is not currently involved with TBL to speak for us and define our coverage of the Isla Vista tragedy.
The Op-Ed states that “we have decided to not immediately publish an article on the recent tragedy in our community of Isla Vista to minimize the emotional harm for our reporters, photographers and multimedia journalists.” Although minimizing harm to our staff and community contributed to our decision, it was not the main factor. We decided it would be best to gather all the necessary facts to report on such a grave and tragic incident, rather than rush to publication and print misinformation. This does not mean that our reporters and photographers refused to or chose not to cover the events of May 23.
Our staff has been reporting, interviewing, and photographing since Friday night in preparation for an online story published Monday and our regular print issue on Wednesday. Additionally, we have been covering the incident through our Twitter account, providing accurate live updates of the events.
We pride ourselves on factual and accurate reporting, not sensationalism and fear-mongering. We, as a news organization, do not want to contribute to the panic by exploiting the grief of our fellow community members. We serve our community first, and we took the steps that we thought were necessary to best serve that community. Our primary audience is UCSB and Isla Vista, who were rocked by a tragic event and have experienced a severe loss. We did not think it journalistically ethical to harass our community in its time of grief and shock, and decided to hold off premature publication of an article so that we did not hurt anyone through misinformation.
Sincerely, The 2013-2014 Bottom Line Editorial Board