Staff editorial: Dispelling myths

By Editorial Board

No one is shirking responsibility for the errors that appeared in The Daily Illini last month. Matt Vroom’s Nov. 5 “Jew Joke” comic strip and the falsified Ariel Sharon quote in a Nov. 19 letter were deeply regrettable incidents. However, to take these two errors – along with past mistakes accumulated by different staffs – as an indication of an anti-Semitic bias in our newspaper would be erroneous. These errors were isolated incidents.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday that Interim Chancellor Richard Herman would look into starting a competing, University-sponsored newspaper if we don’t train our staff better and undergo sensitivity training.

It would be out of line for us to question the idea of competition. After all, Champaign-Urbana is host to our publication, a metropolitan newspaper, two alternative weekly magazines and numerous other forums. But Herman’s ultimatum of University workshops or an alternate publication still is unsettling.

We don’t agree with accusations that our staff has an agenda. We strive to maintain a diverse newsroom atmosphere, and we respect diversity in our content.

The real problem is systemic. Unlike a professional newspaper, the DI staff changes every semester. Lessons learned from past mistakes have not been passed on by senior editors effectively. We admit fault for this and are taking steps to address it.

However, there’s a difference between a breakdown in the system and an agenda. The most challenging part of a college newspaper is the constant influx of new blood at the expense of accumulated experience. Although we always will welcome better training, creating an institutional memory is more important.

We are well aware of the impact our newspaper has on the local community and beyond. Recent news coverage, letters and comments from various groups and readers have reinforced that we don’t work in a vacuum. What we publish has serious consequences, regardless of our student status.

Ultimately, we are taking steps now to cultivate a better relationship with our readers and with our community. We value our ability to deal with the problem independently and in a manner internal to the Illini Media Company.

We take great pride in our day-to-day coverage, and we will stand behind our paper through the bad and the good. But before this editorial board says our final goodbyes, we sincerely hope that those who have been critical of our publication in the past to continue criticism, but make an effort to understand the nature of what we do and the role we play in the community.

Thank you for reading.