Valley Voices

Laura Tsutsui: ‘Unprofessional, insensitive’ Collegian editorial on Trump only gave him power

The Fresno State Collegian’s front page on Feb. 21 compared Donald Trump with Adolf Hitler.
The Fresno State Collegian’s front page on Feb. 21 compared Donald Trump with Adolf Hitler.

Fresno saw a lot of excitement last week. An editorial from Fresno State’s Collegian student newspaper has inspired a lot of politically and emotionally charged conversations. Whether these conversations were fruitful, however, may be another question.

As a student at Fresno State and member of the Mass Communications and Journalism Department, I believe the Collegian’s editorial was insensitive. The editors know it; they wrote it this way on purpose.

Despite the editorial’s intent to create a forum of political discourse, the reception of the piece showed its true shortcomings.

The Feb. 21 edition of The Collegian was a tabloid. It made sweeping generalizations about several groups of people and did not apologize. I get it; it was hyperbole. Thank you, to The Collegian, for the explanation in Wednesday’s editorial (again, making its front page).

Troy Pope, editor-in-chief of Fresno State's student newspaper The Collegian, explained what the staff was trying to do with its front-page editorial comparing Donald Trump with Adolph Hitler. The editorial sparked sharp reactions among students a

I do not disagree with the action: Freedom of speech is important and should be exercised. I disagree with the way in which it was carried out.

Talking about and criticizing Donald Trump only gives him power, unless done effectively. The editorial, exercise of First Amendment rights that it was, was an ineffective way to criticize and find fault with him.

The purpose of journalism is to tell the truth. That particular edition of The Collegian was not a fine moment in its truth-seeking. For an award-winning paper supported by my educational institution, I am disappointed. I expect more of my peers. I hope they can intrigue, inspire and motivate me to be more engaged in the school and community. I finished reading that editorial feeling angry, frustrated and helpless.

Media should inform and thus support its audience, not bring it down. There is a time and place for opinions and editorials; the front page of a college newspaper is not that place.

According to The Collegian’s Staff Policy Manual, the mission of The Collegian is to “provide the university community with news of interest and provide a university forum of public opinion, all presented in a professional manner.”

Monday’s piece felt anything but professional and little more than a rant. As a learning lab for the Valley’s up-and-coming media professionals, it can and should do better.

The Collegian’s General Policies and Guidelines promise also that Collegian staff members “shall not demean readers, viewers, other staff or former staff through The Collegian, The Collegian Online or through any other media.”

Trump uses sweeping generalizations about immigrants and liberals to excite his audience. This article did the same, calling out Trump supporters and “hard-core liberals” alike.

It is expected that the Collegian’s staff “will not publish any material intentionally using abusive language, profanity, or that singles out certain groups for reason of shock value or stereotyping.” The stipulation is that this may be determined on a case-by-case basis by Collegian editors.

I do not see the logic behind letting Monday’s piece be an exception with the line, “Get off your lazy asses and do something about it, you hipsters.”

As a piece deemed to have front-page significance, the editorial should have adhered to these standards, opinion or not.

I am not blind to the fact that The Collegian editorial board cannot (and will not) admit to wrongdoing; I read this in the policies as well. The Collegian technically did not do anything wrong, but what the Collegian did was not done well.

There is a lot to learn about that piece, no doubt. Call me an optimist, but I want to believe in my paper, my peers and my university. I hope for and encourage The Collegian to do better moving forward.

To the editors of The Collegian, please do exercise the right to freedom of speech, but use it with understanding. Wield the title of reporter with pride and humility, knowing that there is always more to learn.

Laura Tsutsui of Fresno attends the Smittcamp Family Honors College at Fresno State with a major in mass communication and journalism. Her Twitter handle is @lauraliterally or send an email to lstsutsui@gmail.com.

  Comments