Letter From the Editor: Why we write editorials
Holding powerful bodies on campus accountable is central to our duties as a paper
One of my favorite times of the week is when our staff gathers at editorial board meetings. There aren’t many times when our full staff gets to come together, and while our editorial board doesn’t encompass every member of The Eagle, it comes pretty close. Editorials are written and comprise the voices of nearly 100 members of our staff and community.
The Eagle’s editorial board has been an integral part of our operations for almost a century, according to our archives.
An editorial is an opinion article that shares a newspaper’s collective viewpoint on a specific issue. Most newspaper’s editorial boards consist of a few selected members to write a piece reflecting their viewpoint of the staff. The Eagle’s staff is composed of students across the AU community, with members in different schools on campus and a part of other student organizations. Because The Eagle is uniquely positioned as a smaller newsroom made up of students, the viewpoint is reflective of our entire staff. That means whenever you see an article with “Staff Editorial” at the top, it’s representative of The Eagle as a whole. There’s no byline on these articles, and that’s symbolic of the fact that they are devised and written as an entity.
So how does the editorial board work?
Once a week, we come together as a staff and vote on a recent story to editorialize. These editorials are typically aimed at presences on campus, D.C. and beyond that have significant power and influence over the student body. Many of our editorials look at decisions made by the University, Student Government and even sometimes D.C. lawmakers. The reporters who wrote the story explain what they learned in their reporting, and answer questions that the rest of the staff may have about the story. We look at the facts presented in the article and, after a lengthy discussion, come up with potential solutions for the future as a commentary for the AU community to consider. Members are invited to present their individual perspectives which inform our commentary as a whole. Sometimes we have differences, which are reflected in the editorial. We examine ways to be a voice for the student body and hold these powerful entities accountable, especially when that position comes with financial power. Although we are The Eagle Editorial Board, and are acting in a professional capacity, we are still students as well.
Per our ethics code, staff columnists are permitted, but not required, to attend editorial board meetings. Any staff member with a potential conflict of interest or involvement in the subject we are editorializing is not permitted to editorialize. For example, when we editorialized on the Interfraternity Council’s plans to reform following months of allegations of sexual assault and racism, all members of The Eagle who were in Greek Life or had recently disaffiliated as a result of these allegations were dismissed from the meeting. We always want to keep our editorial writing ethical and fair.
The Eagle understands the direct impact that we have as an organization to influence our community. Because of this, The Eagle strives to clearly label and distinguish between news and opinion pieces that are published. There is immense power and privilege in doing the work that we do, and we do not take that responsibility lightly. We know that our editorials make an impact on the University, and we choose to treat them as an opportunity to hold powerful figures and organizations accountable.
If you have questions about our work or practices, I encourage you to check out our “About” page, ethics code and reach out to me to start a dialogue.