Covering Charles Murray, responsibly

By SABINE POUX

BOCHU DING

My valentine this year is transparency.

I’m not the only one. In our editorial this week, you’ll see our board’s collective call for openness and clarity regarding Charles Murray’s upcoming visit. In that spirit, it feels only fair that we should pull back the curtain on our own editorial decisions — specifically, those regarding our coverage of Murray’s talk and any related stories.

The Campus’ goal, first and foremost, is to keep our community informed. Middlebury is small; word travels fast. We are acutely aware of the real consequences misinformation, disinformation and insufficient information can have on the college as a whole. We also realize that, in choosing what to publish, we have a hand in the conversations that take place on campus. It is a duty we take very seriously.

The importance of that role intensifies during campus  controversies that lead to national media attention. When stories are picked up by outside media, getting the details right has even higher stakes.

This burden requires us to be especially thorough — but there is a difference between thoroughness and excessiveness. We are very aware of what Murray and other controversial speakers might have to gain from a flurry of media coverage. Like last time, Murray’s name will again be splattered across the web this spring. Readers will order copies of his book to see what the buzz is about, both in odious rage and genuine curiosity. From Murray’s point of view, the phrase “no press is bad press” definitely applies. 

With all this in mind, here’s what you should expect from us.

Over the next few months, we will grapple with finding equilibrium between covering Murray’s visit sufficiently and covering it to a point of oversaturation. There are many important questions our reporters and editors plan on asking. We want to know more about the legacies of hurt and healing that have characterized the campus since 2017; how the college plans on deploying its security resources on the day of the talk; how students, faculty and staff are responding to the College Republicans’ invitation, as many already have in the opinion pages of this  newspaper.

And of course, we will be at Murray’s talk — and any concurrent counter-event or protest — with our video cameras and notebooks. Those reporting the story in 2017 made a conscious decision not to publish coverage   until they were certain they had all the details right. We will operate with the same sense of care while also treating matters with the urgency they deserve. 

You should not expect, on the other hand, that The Campus will become a Murray publicity machine. Murray’s visit is big, no doubt, but there is more to Middlebury than that visit. We will continue as usual with the full gamut of news and feature reporting that characterizes The Campus week after week, from symposia to sports games to your op-eds.

In other words: if you’re looking for clickbait, look elsewhere.

Sabine Poux ’20 is The Campus’ editor in chief. If you have any questions or concerns about The Campus’ reporting, on the subject of Charles Murray’s visit or otherwise, please email us at campus@middlebury.edu.