Farewell column: News Editor Taylor Vance

Posted on May 2 2019 - 5:01am by Taylor Vance

“I wish the DM would write more about professors’ research or students’ internships.”

Photo by Christian Johnson

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a remark similar to this one, I probably wouldn’t have to check my bank account to make sure I have enough money to afford Pick Thai at 9 p.m. in between editing news stories for the next day’s paper.

Normally, I would shrug off an uninformed remark about how the DM should only cover things that cast the university in a positive light, but I was especially surprised this time because this comment came directly from a senior administrator.

I want to take a nontraditional path with my farewell column and use my last byline to urge the student body to support an independent, rigorous and fair news desk.

Every day that I walk into the Student Media Center, I feel incredibly lucky, because anyone who is afforded the opportunity to work for this award-winning publication should feel a sense of awe and understand the gravity of continuing the legacy of journalists who were historically censured for doing the right thing.

But this year has felt different.

It’s felt like DM editors have faced more opposition, worked twice as hard and jumped through more hoops to get honest answers out of people who should welcome questions — the same people who have taught us to ask them to hold the university accountable.

This year, neo-Confederate activists marched on our campus, eight basketball players kneeled, our chancellor resigned, professors published a report detailing systematic racism on our campus and the namesake of our journalism school published a racist, sexist post on social media. This community needs an independent and aggressive news desk now more than ever.

The role of the DM in our student body is to reveal the truth even when people attempt to skew or hide the truth — no matter how ugly or malevolent the truth may be.

We are not here to protect and embellish the image of the university.

We are not here to be the university’s public relations instrument.

We never will be.

We were created as a separate entity to hold administrators and student leaders accountable — to inform you, the university community.

There will always be people who will continue to try to prevent the DM from pursuing the truth without fear, but there is not a single ASB executive officer, senior administrator, public relations official or university lawyer who will ever succeed in doing this.

I’m not saying the DM shouldn’t highlight professors’ and students’ accomplishments. In fact, we have done so numerous times this year. But I want to encourage the student body to support The Daily Mississippian and continue to ask us for more in-depth news coverage.

We don’t stay up until 1 a.m. working for the money or the recognition. We do this because we care about you, and we want you to be as informed as possible about what is going on behind the closed doors of the Lyceum.

So, I’m asking you, the student body, to counteract half-hearted and lazy attempts to stifle and manipulate DM editors and, instead, support the good journalism that comes out of this paper.

I joined this editorial staff because I saw a lack of in-depth stories and rigorous reporting from the news desk, and I made it my goal as a news editor to try and request more public records from the university and demand more transparency from ASB candidates.

Next year, a new chancellor is likely to be selected and the Confederate monument is set to be relocated.

So, when you read an article that shows an ASB candidate isn’t being forthright or that university communications won’t return a request for comment or that administrators haven’t been transparent, I’m asking you to stand with the DM in holding people accountable and demanding our leaders address long-held grievances expressed by students and faculty.

I know Griffin Neal and Hadley Hitson, as the next news editors, will continue this goal of asking tough questions and improving the news desk in ways I could never think of. They are the editors who will need your support next year.

If readers ever want a subjective view of our campus filled with Pollyanna positivity, the university’s public relations website is available 24/7.