Editorial: Keeping clowns accountable

Erika Simpson
Senior Editor

As an editor on the Triangle staff, I am typically privy to most articles before they go to print. This, however, was not the case with either the “Friday night circus” article or the editorial in response to it. My first knowledge of the debate that was sparked by these articles came through Facebook. It literally congested my news feed—negative and positive comments alike.

I overheard many students discussing these articles for weeks afterwards and read the letters to the editor that were emailed to Triangle. The one that was published in the last print issue of the Triangle, “Clowns on a Mission,” caught my attention in particular because it accused the Triangle of printing false information and information from students involved that did not know they were being interviewed.

I checked with Andrew Wilber who interviewed them and saw some of the texts between himself and those he interviewed. Wilber told those he spoke to that he was a reporter for the Triangle and asked to record their conversations—they agreed. Others had no comment, but confirmed that they were present for the incident discussed in the article.

The writer of “Clowns on a Mission” stated that we are a Christian college and we should uplift people. True, but that is not the primary purpose of a newspaper. Newspapers began with the intention of holding the government accountable to the people. The purpose of a free press is to relate information that is in the public interest. Our newspaper holds the college accountable—including students.

Triangle does not print gossip—stories with unverifiable information (which would be the case if we did not mention the names of those involved in our articles). Triangle prints relevant information. Would you not want to know about crazies on campus with clown masks that may flash you on your evening walk?

Now for the matter of Shane Vicry’s editorial: His piece may have come off harsh to some, but it may help you understand his writing style if you know him. True, he doesn’t mind offending people, but he is also a sarcastic person. Anyone who has had one conversation with him would understand that his article was meant to make a point while being entertaining. His purpose was not to tarnish the reputation of those involved.

“Friday Night Circus” and Shane’s editorial also irked some students completely unrelated to the articles. Triangle received complaints that accused us of publishing incorrect information and scolded us for mentioning students that refused to comment on the situation. Journalists do not need an individual’s permission to use his name in a story, but a good journalist would confirm with everyone involved—which Andrew did. If an individual refuses to make a comment for the journalist who is writing the story, then the journalist cannot be held responsible for that individual’s perspective not being printed in the story. It’s like complaining about the president after refusing to vote.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion about the “Friday Night Circus” incident and the corresponding editorial—that includes the Triangle staff. When an editorial is printed, it is that editor’s opinion. Sometimes the purpose is to entertain and sometimes it is to encourage people to think a little more. It is my opinion that these two articles did both of those things.

Even though both of these stories angered some within the Bryan community, I believe that they served a greater good. They forced people to share their opinions and voice their concerns. Our forefathers fought hard for our freedom of speech. Let’s not waste it.