Letter from the Editor

Posted by thetuftsdaily on March 4, 2013 under Campus News | Comments are off for this article

In addressing the paid advertisement entitled “Faces of Islamic Apartheid” that appeared in today’s issue of the Daily, I’d like to clarify and apologize on behalf of the Daily for the editorial oversight that led to the ad’s publication. It should be made clear that any ads that run in the Daily, including this one, do not in any way reflect the views of the paper, nor do they reflect the views of any member of the paper’s masthead. On a personal level, I would be deeply disappointed if anyone at Tufts truly supported the Islamophobic and violently offensive ideas this ad and the organization that purchased it promote.

While the Daily reserves the right to sell ad space to any organization that agrees to pay the posted fee, our collective failure to thoroughly vet the origins and content of this particular ad was indicative of a deep dysfunction in the way our system works. Our readers deserve better than a faulty system, and so effective immediately the Daily will begin a thorough reevaluation of how requests for our paid ads are vetted.

The Daily retains its editorial independence from the university and the TCU government by relying solely on advertising revenue from organizations both external and Tufts-affiliated that agree to pay our posted rates. Every ad that appears in the paper originates with an email from the advertiser to a representative from the Daily’s business staff, whose positions are far removed from the content decisions made by the Daily’s editorial staff. Members of the business department process each ad and the corresponding payment from the organization purchasing it. It is at this stage that the content and origin of an ad should first be evaluated for accuracy and fairness, and accepted or rejected based on whether it achieves the overall level of discourse that the Daily hopes to achieve with all of our content, paid or otherwise, as the newspaper of record serving the Tufts community. In this case, the ad was sent by a representative of the Horowitz Freedom Center, an organization whose advertisements in other publications have drawn similar reactions to the ones I have heard from multiple students to today’s ad in the Daily. It’s obvious that a clearheaded evaluation of the ad based on these criteria simply didn’t happen. This is due, in part, to the lack of a defined protocol in the case that we receive ads that contain content of questionable acceptability. It’s rare that a hateful organization like the David Horowitz Freedom Center requests that the Daily place an ad promoting its views in the paper. We receive and print several external ads in each issue of the paper and most of them are purchased by local and national businesses, or Tufts academic departments or student groups seeking to advertize events or classes.

In the handful of instances that this organization and others like it have approached the Daily in the past, we have refused their request to purchase an ad on the grounds that they were blatantly defamatory and simply not suitable for publication in a newspaper that serves a community like Tufts that will not tolerate hate speech. This criteria applies to the ad in today’s paper as well. The fact that this ad was considered acceptable for publication when the Daily received the request, let alone left in place through multiple rounds of edits was, in short, irresponsible. It’s not fitting of the Daily’s commitment to holding the position as this campus’ primary source of news and discourse in a socially and appropriate manner. Precedent doesn’t excuse the oversight that led to this happening even one time. In light of this mistake, it will from now on be required that each business department staff member be given strict and explicit guidelines for thoroughly and thoughtfully reviewing each ad that is submitted to the Daily. This begins with considering whether the ad’s buyer is a person or organization whose values and intentions align with those of the Daily — a criteria this ad and the organization did not and do not meet.

The responsibility for this ad appearing in the Daily doesn’t end with the Daily’s business department, however. After an ad is placed it is incorporated into the digital document on which the paper gets created and its content edited. Each page of the paper is printed out and reviewed by multiple members of the Daily’s editing staff and at least one member of the paper’s managing board. Clearly, we as editors are guilty of lapses in judgement and a failure on multiple levels to process advertizing content with the same conscientiousness we process Daily-produced content. A similar reevaluation to the one the business department will undergo will also apply apply to each of the editors responsible for looking over the paper, ads and all, before it goes to print.

I want to be clear: in publishing this ad, and in every piece of content that appears under the Daily’s name, discrimination was not our intent. Promoting the opinions of organizations that are guilty of hate speech was not our intent. Alienating Muslim students at Tufts was not our intent. Our intent was to complete a financial transaction that happens multiple times a day between the Daily and those who buy ads with us. But doing so in blatant disregard of the implication that this particular ad’s content would have for those who read it was careless. It was irresponsible, and it gave voice to a party whose voice does not belong at Tufts. It indicates a need for the Daily to seriously reconsider how we vet those who wish to advertise with us and the ads they submit.

I would also like to extend my sincere gratitude to the members of the Tufts community who have reached out to me and the Daily in protest of our publication of the ad. It shouldn’t be up to you to keep hurtful material out of the Daily — that job is ours — but it’s heartening that we serve a community if students that has the best interest of their classmates at heart and the conviction to hold the Daily accountable for our actions.

While it’s my hope that Tufts and the pages of the Daily remain a place where free speech and contesting viewpoints can see light in the interest of productive conversation on controversial issues, this aim must be conducted within the realm of responsibility and civility. In granting legitimacy to those whose goals are to create dissension and promote hate, we went beyond that realm, and for that I apologize. The Daily does not support the message of the ad or the organization that purchased it, and a reevaluation of our ad placement and editing processes will certainly take into consideration the hurtful impacts of this kind of language has.

Sincerely,

Martha Shanahan
Editor-in-chief , The Tufts Daily

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