Letter to the Editor

It is unfortunate I have to be writing this letter but in this past week, I have witnessed journalism that failed the audience The Sundial serves along with a letter from the journalism department that is completely tone-deaf regarding police brutality as it only addresses journalists but not the issue they are documenting.
For those of you who may not know what I am referring to, The Sundial posted photos on social media from a Black Lives Matter protest held in Northridge where protesters’ faces were displayed. This caused an uproar with students and alumni commenting on the post to take the first photo down because the person did not want to have their face shown, as well as to blur other protesters’ faces. This has now led to a long thread of 62 comments that started on June 5, and while I’m writing this on June 10, The Sundial is yet to respond or release a statement. The grace period for a statement has passed and The Sundial’s audience deserves an apology because it has taken too long.
As a journalist and the former Editor-in-Chief of The Sundial, I can say I’m more than disappointed. I am aware that practicing journalism is difficult because as journalists we will always question our rights versus what is morally right. The topic right now is whether it’s ethical for journalists to publish identifiable photos of protesters with the current outcry of fear that the police will track them down with the help of these images. I want to state that yes, photographers have the right to take protesters’ photos because they are in a public space with no privacy, but at this moment it doesn’t mean that is the right thing to do. To ignore the fact that the police, CIA and FBI are capable of surveillance and spying is ignoring the long history of targeted protesters and student protesters who have been incarcerated in this country.
I hear and read comments from young journalists like myself reminding their audience of their “rights” and honestly, we look very entitled as journalists when we focus on what we are allowed to do without thinking about how it is helping the public that it’s our duty to serve. Who cares about your rights as a journalist when you’re hurting the people you serve! People are scared right now, especially people in Black communities as well as all communities of color due to corrupt American policies and systems that have targeted minorities and those who speak out. The Sundial chose to be insensitive during this very sensitive time, but I’m not surprised, just look at the department they are attached to.
The journalism department denounced the police brutality against journalists, which has been an increasing issue while documenting protests against the murder of innocent Black lives at the hand of the police — the catalyst being the murder of George Floyd. But by only denouncing the police brutality against journalists and failing to mention what they are reporting on, well journalism department you really missed the mark. The department has yet to make a statement regarding the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery or the police brutality against the Black community and all communities of color. As a student of the department, I’m sure they believed if they made a statement in regards to these issues they would be considered the b-word, biased. This is complacency that perpetuates systemic racism and by choosing to stay silent they choose to ignore their students and faculty of color. What is being unbiased truly doing when you know an injustice was made and has been historically made time and time again?
We’re in a pivotal time here in America where we can choose to reform our racist systems and forever change our “traditional values” or choose to stay the same, this too will affect journalism as a whole. It’s time journalists return to a human level and show sensitivity during times like these because we serve our audiences not the other way around. I’ve dealt with ethical issues like these many times when I was EIC which was incredibly difficult and I’ll be honest, I’ve made my mistakes while handling them. Journalism is about holding people accountable when their actions are hurting the public, but Sundial editors, you aren’t holding the right people accountable, you’re only hurting them.
I want to remind young journalists like myself that we have the power to change systems that taught us what is right and what is wrong. It’s time journalists change the narrative and depart from traditional values that empower us but not the people.

Thank you,

Madison Parsley

Former Editor-in-Chief of The Sundial 2019-2020