The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

“Be true to your work, your word and your friend.” -Henry David Thoreau

One letter.

One decision.

One mistake.

One mistake that can cost you the credibility of your newspaper, and thus, everything you print in it. Every story, every fact, every writer can be personally affected by this one mistake.

Not checking your sources.

Not getting express consent of someone to put his or her name in print on a letter. Not making absolutely certain that they have in fact even written the letter.

One of the first rules of journalism you learn is to check everything yourself, at least two times. You should never go by what others say or do, or even by what has been said and done in the past.

Precedents and common knowledge mean nothing. If you don’t check the facts and the sources personally, you’re bound to get them mixed up.

This is exactly what happened last week. In our editorial section of the January 29 issue, we printed a letter that was supposedly written by Coach Hurt, the head coach of the track team here at St. John’s.

The Torch was made aware of the letter by members of the track team, who told us that Coach Hurt himself had written it. The letter was displayed in public places throughout campus, including Montgoris Dining Hall, which is where our sports editor obtained the copy that was printed in our editorial section.

Throughout last week the letter was passed around the Torch office and many rumors circulated with it. By production night on Tuesday, I was under the impression that Coach Hurt had sent the letter to us personally, and that we had his permission to print it.

This was, however, not true.

We here at the Torch were blinded by our passion. Many of us felt very strongly about the cutting of the four varsity sports teams.

In our haste to print the letter, which expressed very articulate and well delivered ideas about the topic, nobody bothered to check if it was in fact written by the coach, and if we had permission to print it. So, without consent, we went ahead and included it in the editorial section with the other letters.

Our normal procedure when we print letters is to call the writer of the letter and check to make sure they had in fact written it, and if so, if we can print it. Often times we do this multiple times just to make sure. And we always leave our phone numbers with them in case they suddenly change their minds.

We never allowed Coach Hurt this opportunity.

Not one editor thought to double check. Not one editor asked themselves if it was just too good to be true; if this letter was just too perfect and passionate to have actually been given to the Torch to show the world.

No one called to ask him. Out of four section editors, a managing editor and myself, editor in chief, not one of us double-checked.

We made the biggest mistake in journalism. Not only does this reflect badly on that one letter, it reflects poorly on every other story we’ve written. Which is why I want to rectify this as soon as possible.

First and foremost, I want to apologize to Coach Hurt. I can only hope that this does not affect you personally or professionally while at St. John’s and beyond, and I hope that others around you can see the mistake was not yours, but in fact, ours.

Secondly, I want to apologize to our readers. As student journalists we have a responsibility to adhering to the truth at all times. In this case, we failed to do so.

In the future, however, the Torch as a whole is making a renewed effort to not make a similar mistake again. It is completely against our policy to print false information.

Of course, we here at the Torch could have never told you, the reader, about this situation. We could have just let this blow over and hoped for the best.

But that wouldn’t have been the truth; we wouldn’t have been giving you the whole story. It’s our job to keep you informed.

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