The Daily Collegian defends their coverage of a couple who found love at Penn State

The Daily Collegian at Penn State University has gotten used to covering controversy. We’ve all heard of the Sandusky story, and the conflicted legacy of former football coach Joe Paterno.

But this month,they covered something the staff considered normal: they covered a couple who had met at Penn State; the couple just happened to be gay. The staff didn’t anticipate any controversy, but they got some. A prominent conservative lawyer tweeted about the piece, and his followers responded with some pretty strong reactions. Strong enough that Matt Martell, the opinions editor, felt the need to explain just why pieces like this are important.

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Matt Martell

While Matt, a senior majoring in digital and print journalism, wasn’t a huge part of the initial story planning, from what he heard in budget meetings, he considered the story a routine feature.

“We tell stories of people meeting at Penn State all the time,” he said. “A football player proposed at homecoming, and we covered that. We thought this shouldn’t be any different. It’s just about a couple who found love on Penn State’s campus. We didn’t think there’d be backlash.”

A fellow staffer, who is a member of the LGBTQ community, saw the tweet from the conservative lawyer and the responses he was getting. The staffer shared her desire to issue some kind of response and Matt agreed.

“It was disgusting some of the stuff [people were saying],” he said. “One commenter said he feels bad for hotel workers who have to clean up a hotel room after a ‘night of gay frollicing.’ And I thought how ignorant and insensitive. What’s different? You’re not comfortable with their story. If it was a straight couple, it would have been nothing.”

So Matt responded to the backlash with a pretty passionate editorial.

“[I felt the need to respond] because the conversation of being gay and accepting people for who they are still isn’t where it needs to be,” he said.

According to Matt, journalism has two purposes.

“One is to report the news,” he said. “To be this neutral party in the constant back and forth between the polarization in our society. And two: to be the voice for people who don’t always have one.”

He said the horrible backlash to what the staff viewed as a routine story showed why these stories need to be told.

“The backlash confirmed our decision to post it,” Matt said. “Why we need to hear these stories. Stories that make people uncomfortable are why we need to keep telling them.”

He likened it to listening to a song you just don’t like.

“After [listening to it] 30 times you A: tune it out or B: you understand why people like it or you can finally listen to it without being angry.”

The Daily Collegian is used to facing backlash from angry readers. When you are a student newspaper covering Sandusky and Paterno, that’s bound to happen. Matt said the reactions that bother him the most are from people who call anything they don’t want to hear “Fake News.”

“No matter what you say there are some people don’t want to hear it,” he said. “Those kinds of things are dangerous. When people call and say it’s fake news, when it’s actually been proven, [that’s just wrong].”

Matt said he and the Daily Collegian are committed to telling the important stories.

“We can’t make homophobes accept [homosexuality],” he said. “But we can try to keep them from hurting people with their views. We believe there is truth. We are truth seekers, and want to tell the truth that there is nothing wrong with being gay.”

 

Comments
One Response to “The Daily Collegian defends their coverage of a couple who found love at Penn State”
  1. Kate Reid says:

    The website I am reading this article on is collegemediamatters.com. Why, yes of course these matters matter! Matt Martell and these young journalists at the Daily Collegian should be applauded for standing up and speaking out against such hate and ignorance. This is not fake news. This is honest and courageous news. Love is love and kindness matters! Super Job!

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