By MELANIE MARTINEZ
To write or not to write … for journalists, this is something that is never pondered. It’s not even a question: journalists write, and write, and write and — you guessed it — write. They write about everything and anything and a true and noble journalist always writes the truth.
Knowing this, I was a bit shocked to learn that a reporter in Massachusetts was fired for writing a quote in his story about a young soccer star who transferred schools.
The athlete explained that she left her old school, Mount Greylock, because socially, it was like “the movie ‘Mean Girls’.” Because of that school’s cliques and drama, she transferred to McCann Technical School despite its “somewhat inferior academics and athletics”, she added.
The reporter, Isaac Avilucea, posted on his blog that the sports editor at the North Adams Transcript not only approved the story but even praised it on Twitter.
It was after Editor-in-Chief Mike Foster received calls from angry school principals and parents that he decided to fire Avilucea.
The editors then addressed the story in an editorial in which they deeply apologized for it. They explained that it was “unjust” of them to publish a story with statements that were “simply wrong”.
What I find appalling is that what is truly “unjust” here is the fact that these editors are calling a quote from a source erroneous, and even went as far as firing the reporter who wrote it.
What’s a journalist if he or she does not write the facts, supported by evidence? A well-rounded story is one that includes quotes from sources. In this case, a story about a young athlete who transferred schools obviously needs a quote from that young athlete about why she transferred.
But then I tried to reflect on the other side of this. Journalism can be seen as a career with beauty and romance, dating back to World War I times when reporters would venture to the dangerous fighting fields in various exotic locales and come back with dramatic stories.
Though this is true, journalism has also always been a business, and still is. Newspapers make money through advertisements and from the people who buy and read them. In smaller towns, it is especially important to have strong public support and continuing circulation.
Because of this, I can see why the editors the North Adams Transcript did what they did. Firing Avilucea and publishing an apology most probably mended things with those who were offended by the story, I just wish they hadn’t called the statements wrong, because they were opinions.
What could’ve nobly solved the problem and saved the angst (as well as Avilucea’s job) is if Avilucea had included comments from the schools themselves. His editors should have urged him to so that both sides could be shown and they’d have the chance to defend themselves.
This story just reminds journalists that we must always write the truth, but remember we are running the risk of losing our jobs in a career that though filled with beauty and nobleness, is also a business.