DEI update: The Eagle responds to reader questions about coverage
A look at the paper’s publication process
The Eagle issued a reader engagement survey Oct. 27 to collect feedback on and improve its coverage. The survey, which was available for two weeks online, included questions about where readers receive their news, how The Eagle can improve our coverage, level of trust in The Eagle and how staffers can improve readers’ trust.
Although The Eagle has several thousand followers across social media platforms and subscribers to its newsletter, the survey only received 15 responses. The survey results indicate that nearly half of the 15 respondents primarily receive their news from The Eagle through Instagram, as opposed to The Eagle’s website, Twitter, Facebook, newsletter and print edition.
Of the respondents, 40 percent indicated that they have moderate trust in The Eagle, and 47 percent indicated a moderately high or high level of trust. Just over one-fourth of respondents indicated a high level of trust.
Given the low number of respondents, we know that this survey is not exhaustive of how we can improve. The number of respondents also shows us that we may have weak points in our outreach and how best to share things like this with our audience. By answering reader questions and offering the opportunity to give feedback, we hope that being transparent with our audience will allow us to build more trust in the AU community.
The survey also included a section for readers to ask questions about how the newspaper runs, answered below.
How can students write and submit letters to the editor and/or op-eds?
All students are encouraged to write and submit opinion pieces, articles or letters to the editor, regardless of their major, for a chance to have their work published. Send letters to the editor to Editor-in-Chief Nina Heller at firstname.lastname@example.org and op-eds to Opinion Managing Editor Kayla Kelly, at email@example.com.
Please note that sending in a draft does not guarantee that your work will be published in The Eagle.
How is The Eagle fact-checked?
All of our fact-checking takes place internally, beginning with the writer(s) responsible for a story. Writers are expected to verify information by communicating with multiple sources and double-checking facts using reputable online news sources, which we hyperlink in stories. Quotes, facts and statistics are attributed to the source in stories, consistent with The Eagle’s code of ethics.
Stories for The Eagle go through at least four rounds of editing before they are published. Copy editors, who are responsible for checking for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, also verify factual information in a story using the internet. Despite these efforts, we are not perfect reporters and sometimes must issue corrections on facts in our stories, denoted in italics at the top or bottom of an article.
How is The Eagle funded?
All student media organizations at AU are funded through undergraduate activity fees, which have historically been divided between Student Media Board, Club Council and AU Student Government. This year, the Student Media Board is being funded through an allocation of $100,000 of reserve money that has accumulated over several years. The Eagle received a semesterly allocation from that shared pool of money.
The Eagle receives some funds through the undergraduate activity fee of $88.50, which is mandatory for all full-time undergraduate students at American University. The Eagle also has revenue it can spend from advertisements that appear on the website, the newsletter or in the print edition.
Do AU faculty have any input or is the paper entirely student-run?
Like every student organization at AU, The Eagle has a faculty advisor as well as an assigned advisor through the Center for Student Involvement. The Eagle is editorially independent from those advisors and the University, and all final decisions are made by the editor-in-chief. Although The Eagle is a student-run newspaper, we accept and publish opinion pieces from AU faculty and staff members the same as we would for AU students or other community members.
How many people work on a single story at once?
Most stories are typically written by one Eagle staffer, then edited by many: a section editor, managing editor, editor-in-chief and copy editors. The writer takes suggestions from the editors and revises their story accordingly. Some larger-scale stories require more staffers. Five staffers covered the recent student walk-out to protest the University’s response to sexual violence, and six staffers attended at least one day of the staff union’s strike in August.
The weekly staff editorials are written by the Opinion managing editor, but they reflect the ideas and beliefs expressed by the staffers who participate in the mandatory weekly editorial board meetings. The purpose of these editorials is to represent The Eagle staffers’ opinions as a whole.
Does The Eagle have a political agenda?
No, The Eagle does not have a political agenda and seeks to keep the AU community informed. Political bias is kept out of the stories we write, with the exception of the Opinion section — the opinions expressed by any writer are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff.
Why doesn’t The Eagle ever cover a conservative point of view?
The Eagle staffers attempt to cover both sides of the political spectrum as much as possible. In April, news staff writers spoke to both left- and right-leaning students for a print story on free speech on campus. They contacted members of AU College Republicans and the Network of Enlightened Women at AU — an organization intended to empower politically conservative women — in addition to AU College Democrats and the nonpartisan Project on Civil Discourse. In their reporting, they were careful not to include any personal political biases nor insert their opinions.
It is also important to note that not every potential source we contact agrees to go on the record, or be quoted in a story for The Eagle. We may reach out to many students, and it is possible that the few who respond may happen to share the same beliefs.
Why doesn’t The Eagle support conservative voices?
Regardless of political affiliation or policy stance, as long as an opinion article sent to the Opinion managing editor abides by The Eagle’s requirements of being well-researched and based on facts, it is required to be published, according to Kelly.
“Though we haven’t had [many] non-liberal contributor articles submitted to us, we did have a few articles published in the past year that don’t follow ‘left ideologies,’ such as one that is against masking and completely abandoning COVID-19 restrictions and one that directly mentions conservatism [on campus],” Kelly said. “... In short, it’s all dependent on who’s willing to submit an article/piece to me and not an underlying agenda.”
An estimated 86 percent of AU students consider their partisan alignment to be left-of-center, according to AU Student Government’s fall 2021 programming survey. In other words, conservative students are in the minority at AU. Students who want to see their views reflected more in The Eagle are encouraged to send story ideas to the editor-in-chief, submit an op-ed or apply for a staff position.