Ethics Alert: On Hot-Button Issue Like Ebola, Should *All* Editors Agree on Editorial Stance?

If an editorial does not reflect the unanimous opinion of an outlet’s editorial board, should it still be printed?

A journalism graduate student at Syracuse University is calling out The Daily Orange, SU’s student newspaper, for expressing a viewpoint in a recent high-profile editorial that only five of its eight top editors voted to support.

In the editorial, the Daily Orange took the university’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications to task for disinviting renowned photographer Michel du Cille from an upcoming campus talk. Concerns had been raised about du Cille’s potential exposure to Ebola stemming from his recent visit to Liberia — although he has shown no symptoms.

As DO editors argue, “The decision to disinvite du Cille stemmed from the panic surrounding the Ebola virus, not from factual evidence and the actual likelihood of du Cille bringing the disease to SU. … Disinviting du Cille reflects poorly on Newhouse and denied students participating in the workshop of a learning experience. The decision has also potentially burned a bridge with du Cille. … This decision could cast a shadow on the prestige of the school in years to come.”

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In response, SU grad student Nick Canedo argues in a letter to the editor that the only significant shadow looming over the controversy is the failure of the DO editorial board to agree on its Newhouse criticism.

As the paper states in the second-t0-last paragraph of the editorial, three editors serving on the eight-member board actually “supported Newhouse’s decision, saying that any possibility that du Cille might have Ebola warranted Newhouse disinviting him.”

According to Canedo, the DO should have thought twice about printing an editorial sparking so much internal newsroom disagreement.

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As Canedo writes in his letter — headlined “Editorial Board’s Lack of Unanimous Decision Reflects Poorly on DO” — “The focus of Monday’s editorial should’ve been on the imminent adversity the school was going to face no matter what they decided, not ‘Decision to Disinvite Photographer was Fueled by Ebola Hysteria.’ If The Daily Orange is going to run such a headline for its editorial, then all eight members of the board should stand by it. … As [Newhouse dean Lorraine] Branham has said in numerous interviews, the decision — whichever way the school decided — was going to upset people. The dean and the university should be commended for decidedly picking a side in the case — something the editorial board did not do.”

What do you think?

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