I write to you regarding the opinion column that was printed in [Thursday, April 2, 2015] issue of the UCSD Guardian, titled “Students: Be Aware of Campus Politics.” The decision to publish this column does not hold up to basic ethical standards of journalism. Rather than informing the public or stimulating good debate, the Guardian provided a microphone for mudslinging.
The biggest red flag is that the author of the article, Jordan Utley-Thomson, is both a writer for the Guardian and a candidate for office associated with the Tritons United slate. This presents a clear conflict of interest. Even though Utley-Thomson declared his “biases” at the beginning of the article, he should not have been allowed to publish as a writer for the Guardian. The article belongs as a Letter to the Editor, or, at most, clearly labeled as “Guest Commentary.”
Utley-Thomson’s claim that he is “covering the news” is especially worrisome. If this is news, why is it in the opinion section? The article discusses Utley-Thomson’s interpretation of a Facebook post and comments that no longer exist, and he did not directly quote any of the people whom he criticized, which means that his claims about the content of that post and those comments cannot be independently verified by readers. Perhaps Utley-Thomson’s interpretation is correct, but those of us who did not read the post ourselves will never know. The Facebook post is gone, supplanted by Utley-Thomson’s version of the events, in print and publicized. Utley-Thomson claims that his political rivals “harassed,” “cyberbullied” and “character assassinated” one of his fellow slate members and later compares them to infamous criminals (“ratfuckers”). By making unsubstantiated statements about other peoples’ (his political rivals) actions, as a journalist writing an op-ed column for a newspaper, Utley-Thomson commits the very “character assassination” of which he accuses others.
Jordan Utley-Thomson is free to make all the unsubstantiated claims he wants. It is you, the opinion editor of the UCSD Guardian, who decides whether, and in what context, to publish those claims. You provided a microphone for political mudslinging. Again, at most, Utley-Thomson’s article should have been published as “Guest Commentary.”
You could correct this error by issuing a retraction explaining that the article should not have been published as an op-ed piece and/or by giving the persons named in the article the opportunity to defend themselves in a “Guest Commentary” piece.
Thank you for your time.
— Josh Kenchel
Graduate Student, Biological Sciences
A Note from the Guardian Editorial Board
We’re aware that the UCSD Guardian itself is becoming a topic of news lately, and there’s a certain difficulty in covering news you’re a part of. But we do want to promote transparency where we can even if it’s uncomfortable.
As this letter points out, giving the “persons named in the article the opportunity to defend themselves in a Guest Commentary” would have been a prudent approach to the situation, and we did exactly that, immediately after the initial complaint was made. However, we were not given any content to publish.
We’re interested in promoting an open dialogue on campus, and we don’t expect this situation to get swept under the rug. Additional letters to the editor on this topic or on the many other issues on our campus should be addressed to: [email protected]