Kentucky Kernel asks ‘How Many More’

With the national conversation focused on sexual assault and harassment, college communities are discussing not only the cases they know about, but also the ones they don’t and the ones that will still inevitably happen.

That’s exactly what strikes Paidin Dermody at The Kentucky Kernel. That this story isn’t going anywhere, so she and the paper asked How Many More? In an unusual move, the editorial ran on the front page and tied all these horrible stories into the secrecy surrounding them on college campuses.

180129KYKMAG_1.jpg

Paidin, a junior majoring in journalism and English, and others on the Kernel staff started forming the idea for the piece as the Larry Nassar sentencing was being covered.

“We just thought that it was about time someone, even a small college newspaper in Kentucky, voiced what everyone in this country needs to hear,” Paidin said. “It’s all been in the news, we hear it on a daily basis. Who is going to be the next victim, what industry will be highlighted next?”

She said she was struck by the impact journalists were having on telling these stories.

“Through our research and experience we saw how journalists in several instances have been the people who are bringing these crimes of sexual assault to light,” Paidin said. “Without reporters doing their jobs, several offenders would have gone unnoticed and continued to sexually abuse innocent lives.”

While these stories can be hard to tell, to report on and to read, she thinks they are important in helping to reduce sexual violence.

“It’s our jobs as journalists to expose the truth,” she said. “The truth can hurt, but it can also heal. We don’t want to keep hearing about the next victim of sexual assault and the next one after that, but that is the reality that we live in. But actively reporting on these crimes and getting others to speak out will start the process of no longer being complicit, and that was our main message.”

Obviously Paidin and her staff are passionate about ending sexual assault on their campus, as are many college journalists. Paidin said college journalists are seen more as advocates sometimes and that’s OK.

CommHeadshots

Paidin Dermody, editor of the Kentucky Kernel at the University of Kentucky on 4/11/17, in Lexington, Ky.

“[W]e mostly live on our campuses and sexual assault is very present on our campuses,” she said. “It is something that we don’t get away from, especially as a media source. It’s our job to report on what goes on in and around our campus and unfortunately that includes several instances of sexual assault crimes, whether it happen in a dorm room or at a party or anywhere.”

She said college journalists are connected to their audience through age, proximity and similar experiences.

“Even though we are working for a media source, we are students, too,” Paidin said. “We are the same age as the victims on our campuses. It is not far removed from us. We are not just reporting on it. We are living it with every other student on our campus and it’s our job to keep each other safe, whether that be in the form of writing a story to bring the reality of sexual assault to the forefront of our conversations, standing up for a friend, or speaking out when we see something that isn’t right. It’s not just our job as journalists, it’s our job as people.”

She said she believes journalists can be advocates for social change while still striving to be fair and objective.

“Tell the truth, present the facts of the situation, do your research, and get it right. Let the facts argue for change,” Paidin said. “In this case, we laid out Nassar’s crimes and other cases of sexual assault in other industries and on other campuses, including our own. We showed the numbers and let them speak for themselves. Too many, how many more? There comes a time when you need to take a stance on a subject like sexual assault, and as journalists we can use our voice for good. Collectively, as a Kernel staff, that was our truth on what we made of the facts and the research and how it made us feel and what needed to be done about it.”

She said the reaction on campus has been good and personal.

“I’ve had someone who has a history of being sexually abused come up to me and say that they admire the work that the Kernel has done, especially with this front page editorial,” she said. “They said that we may not be the biggest paper out there, but more people need to be writing stories like the one we did because it does help and hopefully it will help others from being silenced and offenders from going without punishment.”

The Kentucky Kernel has a long history of being brave and trying to tell the truth. In fact the University of Kentucky is suing the student media outlet in an effort to keep some sexual assault files sealed. But that obviously hasn’t deterred the student staff.

“We believe wholeheartedly that what we are fighting for is the right fight,” Paidin said. “If we don’t do it, how many more people in positions of power over innocent lives will abuse their authority and slip away unpunished. It’s just the humane thing to do, keep fighting for what is right. Our entire staff believes that and we have the backing of so many people nationwide to keep us motivated.”

She also said that the responsibility to prevent sexual assault lies with everyone.

“No one should be complicit when it comes to a crime like this,” Paidin said. “If you see something, you should say something, and doing so could save a life or many lives from being changed forever.

Leave A Comment