Proportionality was a word I heard a lot last year. After every major event that directly or indirectly affected life at the university, I asked myself: how is EM going to report on this?

What are we going to spend our limited editorial time on? How big is the event? What else is happening? What would readers expect from us? In short, would it be proportionate – to start with a recent example – to focus the efforts of all our editors on the pro-Palestine tent camp on campus? Believe me, there would have been plenty to research and write about, the subject is important enough, many people are aware of it and it affects a lot of people at the university as well.

However, the editors were busy with other stories, which were also important, when the tents were being pitched: the European elections, the Student of the Year elections (which are also about students who are socially engaged), suicide prevention among young people, students who are informal carers, troubles in university democracy, the fuss about gender-neutral toilets and I could go on.

So, every morning during the occupation, we asked ourselves: do we cover the occupation today or can we shift our focus a little today? At this time, the editors were working weekend shifts for the first time in a while, because any university medium worth its salt will be on the scene whenever there is news to cover.

And then there is another aspect of the war in Gaza. It is a conflict that everyone, including the editors at EM, has strong feelings about. It seems that people are either for or against it, and if you are for one side, you are automatically against the other side and vice versa.

Meanwhile, as journalists, it is our job to navigate between the two sides, to give the truest possible picture of reality and events as we see them. That is difficult in a conflict where there seems to be no middle ground, even if you write about it as indirectly as EM does: limited to the effects and actions within the university community. You have to make sure that what you are doing is right. And that means prioritising diligence over speed, and making choices. It also means that you can’t report on everything you would like to report on and that you can’t investigate every single tip and complaint.

Similarly, after the attack on Erasmus MC and the death of a lecturer, I decided this event was so big and so impactful that EM had to keep the story small. Small in the sense that we chose to talk to people who were close to the story: our colleagues and students. Unlike media peers, which move from one incident to the next, EM is more interested in the longer term. Taking time and, if necessary, waiting until people want to talk.

Last year, someone drew my attention to one of the principles in the Code of Ethics of the US Society of Professional Journalists: to minimise harm. It’s one of the guidelines on which journalists throughout the world base their professional ethical conduct. As a journalist, you don’t set out to harm anyone. However, this can be hard to avoid because of your primary mission. This is to serve the public and provide them with reliable and truthful information, regardless of the interests of the people you are writing about. However, this too has its limits. To me, minimising harm means not inflicting any unnecessary harm on anyone and treating everyone you come into contact with in your work as a journalist as you would like to be treated yourself.

This can be a tricky balancing act, especially in a small community like the one here at the university, where your readers are also your sources and the main characters in your articles. Last year was full of challenges like this. But it also made us – as editors – realise that journalism has an important role to play in the university and that EM matters.

Read more

Can you remove my name from the website?

One of the most common requests that come into the editorial office is an interviewee's…

No comments yet — start the discussion!