In Support of Independent Student Journalism

As an independent student publication, The Spectator does not seek to be an antagonist to the administration or any student organization—our intention is to encourage accountability in these institutions and celebrate their successes.

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As students and editors tasked with continuing a 103-year-old tradition of independent student journalism, we are invested in upholding a high standard of reporting, writing, and analysis of important issues in our school community. We are also cognizant of our relationship with the staff and students we serve. But this past year has proven to be an especially challenging one to us as journalists.

Many members of the Stuyvesant community, including students and staff, refuse or are reluctant to talk to The Spectator. For example, the day after the escalator accident in September, a member of the administration turned away reporters looking for an interview, saying that it was “too early.” The Spectator’s interest in interviewing right after the accident comes from a mandate to cover such incidents with accuracy, when clarity of information is most essential. After the accident, sensationalist publications like the New York Post spread incorrect information, and rumors built on Facebook. Ambivalent statements released by the administration did little to satisfy students’ anxiety. Ultimately, the initial instinct to withhold information did more to feed the chaos than it did to heal it.

This general disregard for The Spectator's role as a conduit of information was exemplified when Soph-Frosh SING! producers explicitly asked their members to refrain from talking to The Spectator about the platform collapse that occurred last spring. In the case of the set collapse, SING! members were trying to make sure that SING! would be able to continue in the future and were concerned that press coverage would contribute to SING!’s end. The reluctance to facilitate The Spectator’s reporting also stems from a fear that Spectator coverage will antagonize the administration or the people in charge. It is important for us to emphasize to the administration and student body that the goal of reporting is to inform, not to assign blame.

We understand the fear and discomfort that comes with presenting the whole truth without resistance. Central to our legacy is that we are, at our core, a student newspaper. We often know the people we’re reporting on personally, have stakes in the clubs we’re writing about, and are under the jurisdiction of the faculty, of whom we may be critical. We sometimes struggle to balance our obligations as journalists and as members of the community.

In the course of its investigations and reporting, The Spectator often uncovers and publishes information that can portray Stuyvesant’s institutions in a negative light. When the results of a Spectator survey regarding academic dishonesty were used by the New York Post to paint Stuyvesant’s academics as tainted by rampant cheating, there were editors on the board who were just as upset by our choice to publish such statistics as much of our readership was.

B​y avoiding our reporters and giving disingenuous interviews, these groups are asking The Spectator to sweep negative information under the rug. Not only does that weaken the paper, it also weakens the school. Leaving academic dishonesty unreported does not mean it doesn’t exist, and neglecting to report accidents doesn’t stop them from happening again.

We believe that publishing the truth—good or bad—does the greatest service to our community. Our role in the school community is twofold: we provide agenda-free coverage to inform the student body and wider world about events at Stuyvesant, and we provide an outlet for student writers to express their feelings about the world around them.

The Spectator does not seek to be an antagonist to the administration, the Student Union, or any other Stuyvesant organization. Our intention is to encourage accountability and improvement in these institutions, not to dismantle them.

And while we do use our platform to critique, we use it most often to celebrate the achievements and uniqueness of our peers. The Spectator provides coverage of all of Stuyvesant’s sports teams, theatrical events, and STEM teams. We give shout-outs to exceptionally performing individuals or teams and connect ordinary students to their school’s clubs and organizations. Our Features department regularly interviews and writes profiles of teachers and students, bringing them schoolwide recognition. Without us, these stories would be largely untold.

At the end of the day, we aren’t perfect. Sometimes we get details wrong in our reporting—not unlike any other news outlet—or let our personal relationships affect our reporting. Sometimes we let typos pass by our editors or struggle to interview our peers professionally. We do our best to produce The Spectator and have faith that the result, a news organization thriving in a school environment, is both important and special. As the world grows ever more hostile toward the press—think of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder or the pipe bombs sent to a number of targets, including CNN—the importance of public trust and support of journalism becomes clear. Whether it is Stuyvesant students cooperating with The Spectator or the American public defending a free press, journalism needs to be protected. The stakes are high.