The CW Editorial Board overstepped its boundsBy Matthew Gillham and Will Sorrell | 03/22/2016 6:17pm
Central to the diffusion of both fact and opinion, media wields tremendous power. As the official newspaper of The University of Alabama, The Crimson White is no exception – more than 37,000 students and thousands of alumni rely on the CW to be the mouthpiece of insight into campus.
Yet, with such tremendous power comes tremendous responsibility, and in their annual endorsement for SGA president, the CW Editorial Board used its voice not to critique a student’s platform, but a student’s character. For any newspaper’s editorial board, but especially one made up of students representing students, the CW’s denouncement of Caroline Morrison's character was an exceptionally severe critique that unfortunately became a focal point of the article.
In the article, the CW editorial board argued their interview with Caroline Morrison gave them “serious questions about her character” due to her “giving the impression” of claims that the CW found questionable. Moreover, the Editorial Board went further, supporting their harsh accusations with having “heard multiple reports of Morrison disrespecting and showing a lack of decorum toward other candidates and their supporters” and finding her claim of being The Machine’s first choice for president to be questionable.
Questions and controversy permeate all political endeavors, and the Morrison campaign is no exception. Yet, controversy does not inherently condemn character, and we believe the CW unfairly and unjustly drew this correlation. Morrison’s claims were certainly bold and merited contemplation, but courage always draws attention, and attention should not condemn character.
Though we strongly dispute the conclusions of the Board due to our own interactions with Caroline, we’re particularly disturbed by the lack of evidence the Editorial Board provided in publicly vilifying her character. Are impressions and vague reports of disrespect, in an election where every candidate was demonized in various sectors of campus, enough for a newspaper’s leadership team to collectively and vocally question a student’s integrity? We don’t think so, and we doubt we are alone.
Unfortunately for Caroline, the student whose character was called into question, the opportunity to defend her integrity likely won’t completely undo the questions caused by statements to which she wasn’t given the opportunity to respond before publication. And such exists the lingering power of a newspaper’s words.
Additionally, in articulating that Lillian Roth, another candidate, exceeded expectations in her interview, the newspaper’s leadership team revealed they had allowed their preconceived notions of the candidates before each interview to color their opinions. For a leadership team that represents a small segment of campus yet holds a monopoly over campus news, that’s an unsettling realization.
For full disclosure, it’s worth noting that both of us assisted Caroline’s campaign team. However, we do not denounce the Editorial Board’s choice of endorsement, nor their critique of any of the candidates’ platform points. But with the gravity of such character attacks the Editorial Board chose to publish, there certainly needed to be a significant amount of undeniable evidence to back those claim, and there wasn’t.
We expect more from a leadership team that has given us, along with dozens of other students, the opportunity to write and publish our thoughts as individuals to the rest of campus. We expect more from a leadership team that’s encouraged us to challenge and debate and oppose. We expect more from a leadership team that’s been integral to the progress this campus has seen over the past several years, including the integration of the greek system.
In writing this article, the Opinions Editor, Leigh Terry, who was more than supportive of publishing a critique against a group that included herself, was given the opportunity to explain and justify the accusations before this article was published. We just wish the Editorial Board would’ve afforded Caroline the opportunity to do the same, but they didn’t.
We won’t be so naive as to question the character of those on the Editorial Board for their words in their SGA presidential endorsement, and in doing so presume the very conclusion we’re heavily criticizing now. At this point, we can only hope that future Editorial Boards of The Crimson White proactively avoid the dangers that any carelessness in the use of power can bring.
Matthew Gillham is a senior majoring in economics. Will Sorrell is a senior majoring in finance. This editorial represents the views of both writers.