When you study to be a journalist, you obviously learn how to create news reports, write flawlessly and conduct interviews. But one of the most important things you learn about is finding the right angle on a story. Journalists – and EM – are sometimes criticised for being bitter and only seeing the negative side of things. I could never agree with that. A good journalist reports on things that happen in society, things that are promised and not delivered, people who have become victims of wrongdoing and people who have broken the rules. As a journalist, you report on transgressions both major and minor, you act as a check on power, you find out whether the things people claim are actually true, and you depict reality as faithfully as possible, negative or positive does not matter. You write about what you observe, based on these questions: what stands out, what deviates, what do I want to say with this story, and how can I make sure people are informed?
This is how we chose the angle for the article ‘My guide kissed someone from your group too, right?’, which EM published during Eureka Week. We asked our reporter to record what new students experienced on their first night out in Rotterdam. What stood out, what deviated, what was the atmosphere like, and what was the common thread running through these observations? And that’s how it happened.
The article painted a picture of reality on that evening, in that moment, as perceived through the eyes of that reporter and based on that angle. The drinks flowed, the atmosphere was great and there was some flirting and kissing. He observed, he spoke with people, and he and the photographer chose fitting images to go with the story. For those who haven’t yet read the story, it ends with a conversation between a first-year student and a guide about who kissed who.
After the story was published, I was approached by a student who had a problem with the story. According to the student’s criticism, guides aren’t supposed to kiss first-year students during Eureka Week, since there is an imbalance of power which means the rules of mutual consent don’t apply. She thought that by describing guides kissing first-year students, EM was ‘normalising’ inappropriate behaviour.
Now, I don’t know the details of the rules governing guides during Eureka Week, and the story wasn’t about that. I do know that this story did what it was supposed to do: it painted a picture of the experiences of first-year students on that evening. And yes, there was a lot of kissing, which stood out to the reporter, so that became the common thread running through the story.
Naturally, as a reader, you can and may have an opinion on that. That’s why we write these stories, to inform our readers about what is happening in the world. Then it’s up to you to decide whether you think that’s normal, or not.