On Oct. 24, an eboard member from Spectrum came to our office in O’Connor Hall to speak to our editorial board and staff about covering the LGBT community. For us, this is a long time coming. Last semester, only two eboard members attended a Safe Zone training.
This year, our Editor-in-Chief, Morgan C. Mullings, decided that Safe Zone trainings be mandatory for each eboard member before their time on the board is up.
In an effort to include the rest of the staff, she asked if someone from Spectrum could hold a mini workshop to teach staffers how to cover the LGBT community respectfully, because they are valued members of the St. John’s community. The workshop went very well and everyone learned a lot about the different identities of the Gender and Sexuality Minority (GSM) community. It has since enhanced our coverage.
We’re so grateful to Spectrum for taking time out of their schedules to meet with us, and learn a bit about our work as well.
The day of the workshop, Spectrum was also notified about a possibly triggering letter to the editor we received in our inbox (published as an ad in our last issue Nov. 6). At the time, we didn’t have a set decision, but each time a decision was made, a member of Spectrum’s eboard was contacted.
This was in an effort to let them know that while we will defend freedom of speech for all members of the St. John’s community, we also want to be sensitive to members who could be hurt by it.
The Torch grappled with how to handle the letter because of its contents.
It was published as an ad based on protocol from eboards in the past, who accepted ads when any St. John’s entity would like to send a message as-is, without any editing, to take a stance on an issue unrelated to what has been covered in the paper.
Many of the eboard members disagree with the ad’s content entirely — this is not grounds for removal of content.
As journalists, it is our job to acknowledge our biases every day and often act against them. And while hate speech is protected under the first amendment, we have not and never will publish hateful speech that is intended to hurt others.
We will continue to notify Spectrum (and other minority groups on campus) before something we believe may be triggering to certain groups is published. It’s an initiative we deeply care about, because words can still be hurtful or offensive regardless of their intention.
We intend to keep building and rebuilding relationships with every part of this institution, regardless of how difficult it may be, because that’s our purpose. And we’d like to thank Spectrum for always inviting us into their space. We will be seeing them at Safe Zone training this Saturday