We are living through momentous times, as our country wrestles with racial injustice amid a pandemic. Ohio State students joined the nation in protest for the Black Lives Matter Movement earlier this summer, and in recent days and weeks their protests have come to Bricker Hall.
Students there gathered in support of Black Buckeyes and to ask the university to take action that would make Black students feel supported and safe in light of the university’s handling of the Sept. 3 public safety notice. The Lantern has covered these protests to document history and publish truth.
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics states that the mission of journalists is to “boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience. Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear.” That is what we strive to do as the independent student voice of Ohio State.
To be clear, The Lantern fully and completely supports our Black students. This is not a two-sided issue; Black students and Black lives matter, here and everywhere. It is not — and never has been — the intention of our news organization to make anyone feel less than heard.
The Lantern has been asked to blur the faces of protesters. We understand protesters’ safety concerns in making such requests, but demonstrators are in a public space, and as such are subject to being recorded. Altering images also runs counter to journalistic ethics, because it brings into question the authenticity of our images. By granting anonymity in this form, it might lead other groups, anywhere, with any message to request the same.
Speakers have directly addressed Lantern reporters during protests asking for their names and photos to be excluded from our coverage. A person, however, who chooses to speak at a protest does so in public which means legally and ethically they may be recorded by journalists and others. Some of the speakers at protests have also been public officials who hold office in Ohio State’s Undergraduate Student Government. The very role of journalists, operating as the Fourth Estate, is to report upon government officials doing the people’s business.
A public official asking reporters to exclude their face and name at a public protest is a form of censorship of the free and independent press, and a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We would not blur the faces of administrators, mayors or police officers, nor would we blur the faces of those representing the student body.
We cover protests by any group, because it is news that happens on our campus. It is our charge and responsibility to cover movements that involve and impact the lives of students. We will report them accurately and fairly, and will uphold the same standard for every group that assembles on our campus.
We want the message of these groups to be heard, and we want Ohio State students, faculty, staff and alumni to look back at The Lantern archives 100 years from now and understand what these times were like. That has been the mission of The Lantern since its inception, and it will be our mission every day moving forward.