Letter from the Editor: On the Purpose of the Newspaper

Drew Kaplan ’20, Editor-in-Chief

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Although the attribution of this quote is dubious, “journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations” has been a sentiment about which I’ve often found myself thinking. My thoughts have only been increased by this quote being attributed to George Orwell. Over the past few months, I have found myself called on to defend or, really, to justify The Dickinsonian, and this Orwell quotation, again noting the attribution issue, has become a focal point of my thought. The purpose of a newspaper is, in my view, to keep its community informed, and for us, our community is Dickinson College. This does not mean we lie, fabricate, or mislead our audience. However, this also does not mean we pull punches when we strike a nerve. The purpose of a newspaper is to find the truth, and print it so that everyone within the community is fully informed. This truth might very well be damaging to those who attempted to keep that truth hidden. I believe it will not be controversial to say that those who keep information hidden are not well disposed to having that information come to light. 

A liberal arts college is, on its face, meant to be a centre of learning, and the free exchange of ideas. Now, I suppose this is in reference to academic ideas, but it seems to me equally applicable to ideas and knowledge in general. Restricting access to information amongst students, faculty, and all other members of the community does no one any good. Instead, it only creates the opportunity for that wound to fester and promote mistrust; individuals are fully able to infer when something is amiss, even if exactly what is amiss cannot be articulated. That these affairs are discovered is an inevitability. The time frame on this discovery is the only element that is variable. This inevitability speaks to the benefits of open discourse. 

Restricting access to information may very well seem like a good idea in the short term; if information is restricted, it may corral a newspaper away from journalism and towards public relations. However, these restrictions are antithetical to the purpose of a newspaper. The purpose of a newspaper is journalism, not public relations. Journalism, by Orwell’s definition, is how I justify The Dickinsonian. The truth will work itself out in the end, and journalism the means by which often it does, in no small part because it is exactly what others want to hide.