Welcome to a new year on the Hilltop! My name is Katherine Na, but many of you probably know me as Katie — this will be my second year serving as editor in chief of the Foghorn.
Over the summer, I was made aware of several misconceptions about the Foghorn, as well as some confusion about how we, as a student newspaper, operate. Because of this, I wanted to use this space in our first issue of the academic year to provide as much clarity as possible and reaffirm our mission to accurately, ethically, and fairly report on important issues related to the University community.
Firstly, the Foghorn does not typically report over the summer or any other academic breaks and has never regularly done so. Any reporting and publishing that we do during these breaks is done on a voluntary basis, when editors have the time and ability to do so. This summer, one of our staff writers chose to spend some of his free time writing about ongoing negotiations between the University and full-time faculty union, but he was in no way obligated to. For every story that is published in the Foghorn, its writer is only one of, at minimum, five people necessary for its creation and publication. Over breaks, when our editors are balancing internships, jobs, and family obligations, it would be nearly impossible for us to maintain the same publication schedule that we have during the academic year.
Crucially, the Foghorn is also not affiliated with the Office of Marketing Communications, nor is it a marketing tool for the University. The Foghorn is, always has been, and always will be an independent, student-run newspaper. No one, not even our own faculty adviser, has the right to prior review (the ability to read and approve of a story before its publication) of any part of the newspaper. Any and all decisions about our coverage and the pieces that we publish are made by our editorial team alone. Our responsibility is not to endorse or pass judgement on the situations, policies, and individuals we report on — it’s to find out what’s going on, verify the information we learn, and put it into fair and coherent context.
Additionally, unless comments contain language that is abusive to (rather than simply critical of) the writer of a story, hate speech, or are spam messages, we have a strict policy of never deleting messages that are left on our website or social media pages. To do so would be to violate the Foghorn’s ethos of acting as a public forum in which people can freely express their thoughts and beliefs.
We also understand that some people are still upset about our publishing then-Provost Donald Heller’s letter to the editor in our Feb. 13, 2020 issue. However, only a week prior to the publication of his letter, the Foghorn had published what was essentially an autopsy of Heller’s career without giving him an opportunity to respond or represent himself within the story, or even making him aware that we were writing it in the first place. It was highly unethical for us to do so, and this action violated one of the most important tenets of journalism ethics that we are all trained to prioritize in our work. We didn’t publish his letter to the editor because he wanted us to, or because anyone made us — we published it because giving him the opportunity to speak for himself, albeit retroactively, was the ethical thing to do.
To close, I wanted to address an issue that was recently brought to my attention. I was informed that there have been multiple students of color who have had negative experiences working with the Foghorn in the past. I was deeply saddened to learn about this and want to sincerely apologize for any pain or invalidation that the newspaper, or our staff, has caused. Because the Foghorn staff has such frequent turnover, with editors constantly moving positions and new writers regularly joining our team, it’s hard to speak to events that occurred even one or two years ago — the odds are that the people who were responsible for those decisions have left the paper, or are no longer in the roles they had occupied at the time.
However, I can say with certainty that I, and the rest of this year’s staff, am deeply committed to prioritizing the Foghorn being an inclusive, transparent, and diverse organization. And while our virtual newsroom’s doors are open to all students who would like to join our team, I especially want to welcome those from marginalized groups and backgrounds to write and report for us, as well as pitch us ideas — your voices, perspectives, and insight are not only appreciated; they are needed in order to accurately reflect the incredibly diverse makeup of the University community.
If you are left with any questions or concerns, I am more than happy to provide additional information or speak with you further and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. With that, welcome to the new year — we at the Foghorn are honored to have the responsibility of hearing and writing about your stories, and we never forget what a privilege it is to serve such a passionate, outspoken, and vibrant community.
All my best,
Editor in Chief, San Francisco Foghorn