The situation The Gramblinite has found itself in this past week has taught us some invaluable lessons. For those who may not know, here is the situation: Kindergartners and first-grader’s at Alma J. Brown (ABJ) Elementary, a laboratory school governed by and on the campus of Grambling State University, participated in a rally in support of the Jena Six on the same day that tens of thousands protested in the small town about 90 miles from campus. During the AJB student rally, chains, shackles and a noose were used to demonstrate a brief history of racism in our country.
Because the youngsters had no concept of what lynching was, teachers demonstrated by placing a noose around a child’s neck. The teacher placing the noose was the grandmother of the student used in the demonstration. The Gramblinite took pictures at the rally, posting on its Web site 14, three of which showed the noose.
Because of our nearness to Jena and its association with nooses, the AJB story and photos drew national, and international, attention.
Now, back to the lessons we learned:
1. Journalists will lie and/or use intimidation when it suits their purpose(s):
— Using subterfuge in trying to get in touch with the editor in chief instead of asking for him outright.
— Continually attempting to goad a university employee into making an on-the-record statement even after being told about the standing policy that university employees cannot make official statements, and that such statements can only be issued through the Media Relations Office. (By the way, The Gramblinite had nothing to do with the incident that prompted this policy.)
— Denying knowledge of the source of the noose photos and getting the national exposure that was by right The Gramblinite’s.
— Threatening The Gramblinite with legal action for not directly supplying them with the noose photos, even though they were available from The Associated Press, which had our permission to use and distribute them.
2. Administrators will lie when it suits their purposes:
— Trying to act like interrogators on TV police shows, using misdirection and even outright lies to try to trick someone into implicating themselves or others.
— Disavowing knowledge of certain events even when there is proof otherwise.
4. Professional journalists and administrators will go to any lengths to keep themselves covered.
5. Someone will always question the decisions we make, even though they were made as a group with much discussion of the merits vs. drawbacks of any story/photos we use.
6. Second-guessing our own decisions is not always a good thing.
7. We shouldn’t underestimate the impact of what we do, even though we are students.
8. We still have much to learn – but we already knew that.
That’s our view!