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Evaluating the Collegian’s Coverage of the Molander Story

by on February 2, 2012

It appears as though the Collegian attempted to interview a well-rounded selection of sources to explain the “controversy” that “shook up the campus.” If something is controversial, there are several ways of interpreting it. People are going to disagree. Often times, controversial issues can’t be explained as right or wrong, black or white. Whether or not Molander’s intentions were true as expressed in his letter and through his Facebook post, the letter itself certainly did cause unrest on campus. The Collegian attempts to give a voice to the students who negatively perceived the letter, but using quotes like “‘I was kind of freaked out’” don’t exactly give the reader a lot to work with. Quotes are very important when covering a story. It brings forth a human voice and opinion, and provides a statement that is unique. I believe that a journalist should choose to use a quote if the message conveyed cannot easily be summarized or paraphrased. The decision to print the quote “‘We kind of walked in sketched out,’” said by student Kelly Cline, seemed questionable to me. First of all, the sentence itself doesn’t explain much. “Kind of” suggests anything but a strong reaction, and “sketched out” is a term that has been coined by our generation, almost qualifying as slang. Structurally, the sentence doesn’t really make sense either, but I guess I’m being picky. As a reader, I want to know why she was “sketched out.” What part of the letter made her uncomfortable? What was the atmosphere like in the dorms after the letters were discovered? I believe the answers to these questions would have added to the mystery of the story if the Collegian had been able to express the feelings and opinions of specific Southwest dormitory residents.

I also would have liked to know just how the police responded. If “campus safety and security are always of the utmost importance” according to Blaguszewski, how exactly was that initiative carried out? If the Collegian had included solid information and perhaps even some quotes directly from the police, it would have given a voice to the law thus validating the way that UMass responds to events like this.

While the Collegian made an effort to make the Molander story public in a generally objective manner, I found it hard to believe several of the claims they set forth. I believe the readers have a right to know what UMass really said to Molander and if in fact the administration asked him to withdraw. If that is true, that is a whole other ethical can of worms that would surely burst open. Also, why did the Collegian believe there were undercover police at the Blue Wall? How did they know that? Why should I, as a reader, believe them if they don’t tell me? I do not think it was appropriate to include that statement if a) it was not confirmed, and b) if they refuse to reveal their source.

After Molander’s withdrawal, the Collegian interviewed two student sources to comment on the development. What was expressed in the article exposed an issue that delved deep into the student community and culture at UMass. Though I believe that a group identity on a college campus is incredibly important, the reality of the situation is that it is highly unlikely that every enrolled student will feel embraced by it. Molander made it clear that his social needs as a human being and student were not met, and his desperation seemed to be conveyed further in his statement to the Dean by the use of reiteration and the inclusion of capital letters.

Molander left before any of us had a chance to fully understand the situation. Who knows what will transpire, but the missing pieces need to be recovered. There are more sources out there who possess vital information on the subject, and I hope to see the Collegian follow up on various counts of confirmation.

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