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Delivering American University's news and views since 1925.

| Thursday, April 24, 2014



A note from the desk of the editor





Significant campus and national debate on our coverage of Professor Adrienne Pine’s classroom breast-feeding merits the following statement of fact:

The Eagle initially started looking into this story when we thought an unknown professor was under administrative review for breast-feeding in class. We then found a number of students who confirmed Pine had breast-fed her baby during a “Sex, Gender and Culture” lecture.

Heather Mongilio, who has worked at The Eagle as a news reporter for a year, interviewed Pine to confirm the information we had obtained. I subsequently offered Pine anonymity by withholding her name, the class and the school she teaches in.

Had Pine never posted her now well-known essay on CounterPunch, we may have never run a story in the first place. If we had, we would have honored our promise to grant her anonymity.

After Pine’s decision to post her essay, we initially hesitated to communicate with both our readers and mainstream media on a story that had not been published. We could not make the call whether or not to publish until we had all of the facts, and it would have been premature for us to talk about the story in public before the story’s publication.

But national mainstream media could not wait, and The Eagle, Pine and the rest of the AU community have been covered in The Washington Post, NBC and The Huffington Post.

On Sept. 12, we were able to finish gathering all of the facts we felt were necessary to write an objective news story, found both in our print edition and online. This is the first time we have published a staff-written story on the matter. We used official statements from the University, Pine’s own words on the breast-feeding and her thoughts on her interview with Mongilio (who did not write the final story in order to prevent a conflict of interest), information on the law for public breast-feeding and student reactions.

However, we did not give Pine enough time to respond to this story in addition to the initial interview. We provided Pine a place for her viewpoint in the story through her post. But that is not sufficient, and for that we apologize.

We stand by our reporting because this is the essence of journalism: we received a news tip and followed up with the proper sources to confirm the truth. The story, in our eyes, became newsworthy when we found specific policies that afforded her protection, opinions from the University on her actions and widespread campus debate on a very legitimate question on the social acceptance of public breast-feeding.

As a journalist, my preference has always been, and will continue to be, to speak through objective news reports. The Eagle values transparency in its editorial policies and practices, and, now that we have our final story, we can be more open with the steps we took to get to this point. We will continue to follow the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, a national standard for media standards and ethics. We encourage readers to submit letters to the editor with any concerns to edpage@theeagleonline.com.

Zach C. Cohen is editor-in-chief of The Eagle.

editor@theeagleonline.com