When I came to Ohio University and was accepted into the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism — one of the top journalism programs in the country — I expected excellence out of not just the professors, but also the students. Although there are some outstanding people within the program, I’ve noticed many problems throughout my time here.
Recently, I have been annoyed at The Post. That annoyance primarily stems from asking only white students if they feel safe on campus and writing an article about the problems of victim blaming while actually victim blaming themselves. The article quoted a source who has no authority to give advice on how to prevent getting raped. These problems of not properly representing students are pervasive.
But the most frustrating moment I experienced with The Post came last semester when I was writing about Student Senate President Megan Marzec. On her Facebook page, she posted screenshots of the harassing emails that included the names of the men who sent them. In my column, I quoted the harassers. While The Post could legally publish the names, the executive editors didn’t feel comfortable doing so unless I contacted the harassers beforehand. It’s important to keep in mind that four out of the five top editors at The Post are male, a trend that exists in mainstream journalism as well. As a woman, I did not feel comfortable reaching out to men who had already sent these angry emails to Marzec. If they chose to contact me, had their names been published, then at least it would be public knowledge that they are harassers.
Marzec is free to be in the public and receive threats, yet these harassers are free to hide. Journalism is not supposed to help silence those already marginalized. I feel the editors should have allowed me to run the names or at least offered to contact these harassing men for me. As a new columnist to The Post, I wasn’t sure that I could come to the editors with my concerns at the time.
There have been other sources of racism and sexism within journalism on campus too. In several of my journalism classes, which are predominately made up of white students, I have heard students say things that are incredibly problematic — from victim blaming, to sympathizing with rapists, to even stating that white men are the new minority in America.
I have had two male professors in the Scripps program spew sexist commentary as well. One professor said that women talk behind each other’s back more than men do — a stereotype used to pit women against one another. The professor then asked us to prove him wrong. I wanted to say that he was being misogynistic but held my tongue since he had power over my grade. the other professor called an unfounded rape case on Court Street “not true” and took the stance of a victim blamer. This is the same professor that would later edit a story of mine and tell me I should interview survivors of sexual assault who were sober at the time of their attack. Apparently the survivors I interviewed who were intoxicated at the time weren’t sympathetic to the reader. As a senior in my final semester, I won’t have to worry about having those sexist professors again.
It is not good teaching when you tell female students they are gossipy and then expect them to counter your point when you hold the power in that situation. It is not good journalism to only walk up and down Baker to get opinions from white students and call that “Streetview.” It is not good journalism to write a story about how students don’t feel safe on campus and quote students who tell them how to avoid being raped.
It is important for us journalists to constantly critique ourselves and our work and seek out critiques from other students, professors, reporters and editors. We need to be watchdogs and call each other out when we witness anything sexist, racist, transphobic, etc. That is one of the reasons I write this column. Journalism needs to be more than just slapping together quotes. Instead it should be about thinking critically about whom you’re interviewing and why you’re writing a certain story.
Journalists should be the voice of the people, not the force that silences them.
Jessica Ensley is a senior studying journalism and an active member of F--kRapeCulture. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.