A look into The Chronicle’s process

By Zoë Eitel, Editor-In-Chief

In the past, The Chronicle has not been a transparent news organization. And what that has done is create a disconnect with the rest of the college and a distrust of our process. 

To improve transparency at a time when public distrust of journalism is running rampant, The Chronicle thought it beneficial to give our readers a look into how we remain fair, accurate and unbiased in our reporting.

It all starts with story pitches—and a lot of research. All 11 of our on-staff reporters—as well as anyone else on staff who wants to write—are trained to craft detailed story pitches about whatever topic they want to write about, whether it is an in-depth report on the college’s enrollment or a Q&A with a band. They are reading other news sources, past Chronicle coverage, studies, surveys, polls and everything in between to make sure they are as knowledgeable as possible about their topic before going into the story.

Any journalist will tell you that almost nothing is more important as the correct sourcing of a story, so that’s where we go next. Over the years, The Chronicle has built up a network of bipartisan experts—in nearly every topic imaginable—whom we go to when we need expert testimony or background information. Chronicle reporters also make sure to contact anyone who may be related to a story—even if we don’t include the interview in the story because it’s unnecessary, or for space reasons—so we can have a wide variety of voices and keep our bases covered. We make it clear who we have contacted when they are pertinent to the story, even if they declined to speak with us.

If you’ve ever been interviewed by The Chronicle, you’ve heard the question, “Is it OK if I record this interview for accuracy?” or something similar. This isn’t just because we don’t want to have to take notes during an interview; it’s a practice we follow to make sure we get a source’s words completely correct and in the right context. However, that doesn’t mean a source’s entire answer will be included in the story. That’s what paraphrasing is for. We only have so much room in print, and let’s be honest: Some sources can really ramble.

The recordings are not only for the reporters to check back on interviews, but they are also for our editors. We employ two copy editors and a copy chief who read through every story for accuracy, readability and—a journalist’s nightmare—possibility of libel. The copy editors not only read the story, but also listen to hours of recordings each week to make sure the direct quotes and paraphrased content are accurate.

Each story that is published in The Chronicle’s print edition or on its website is seen by at least eight editors. The eight editors—including myself and two faculty advisers—read the stories for everything from puncuation to writing style consistency to structure to content as a whole. 

Should that comma go there? Is it “protester” or “protestor”? Why is this source here instead of later in the story? Are we missing anyone we should talk to? What questions arise after reading this and can we answer them? The Chronicle editors ask those questions, and so many more, for each and every story. Depending on the week, that number can be just 20 stories and a handful of supplements—such as Top 5 and Staff Playlist—or it can be 25 print stories, the supplements and five online exclusive stories—or even more content.

So before the terms “fake news,” “biased reporting” or “misquoted” are thrown around, think about our process—which is more thorough than some professional, non-college newspapers—and whether you know what those words actually mean. We have been No. 1 in the state for two years in a row for a reason.