To the University of Minnesota community,
There is no easy way to open this letter. Now is a time of grief, heartbreak and outrage, and sometimes words fail to wholly capture the essence of the time. But, as the legacy newspaper that serves the University community, our job is to put pen to paper and bring you some of those necessary words.
We must first start by discussing the notion of objectivity, which has underpinned much of legacy mainstream journalism. This ideology is framed as a “view from nowhere,” a presentation of the truth free from personal insight or biases. Yet this mindset is one that has been used to buttress problematic power dynamics, dynamics that center the voices of writers who are white, elevating their voices as the truth and norm while scrutinizing the perspective of marginalized writers as subjective and secondary.
We aim to challenge and change this. We are learning every day how to disrupt and root out this idea. Too often, legacy publications have been responsible for or complicit in the continued dehumanization of Black communities. We, as an organization, are committed to continual self-reflection and conversations about how to dismantle the historic racist practices inherent in journalism that upholds the status quo.
George Floyd was killed by police in the city of our flagship campus. His death was preceded by the police killings of many other Black people. Minneapolis residents — students included — have taken to the streets to say they will take no more. Floyd’s killing prompted an international response to reckon with the institutional racism inherent in law enforcement and other structures.
It is not the duty of Black individuals to inform us of the historic trauma they have experienced; nor is it their duty to relive the trauma that the past six months have brought amid the pandemic and recession that disproportionately harms Black communities.
Therefore, as journalists and leaders of the Minnesota Daily, and as non-Black people, our role will be to listen to what Black students and other community members have to say and amplify the stories they wish to share. Only then, when we have a multiplicity of perspectives and lived experiences, can we strive to tell the news in full.
The first ethic of journalism as outlined by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics is to seek truth and report; the second is to minimize harm. As the largest public forum at the University, the Minnesota Daily has the privilege and obligation to minimize the harm done to all communities but especially those of color. However, it is not enough to simply lessen harm: our aim is to question the problematic ways that journalism has interacted with people of minoritized identities. We seek to uplift and amplify the voices of those who have been minoritized, not “give” them voices — that is theirs, with or without journalists there.
You may ask why this letter took us so long to write. When the protests first began, with Minnesota Daily reporters on the ground and history unfolding, we had to acclimate and figure out the standards we would set so that our coverage would not just be fair but equitable. We also, on a personal level, struggled to find something useful to contribute to this national conversation and were hesitant to take up space. But we became inspired by our colleagues at the Wake Magazine, who astutely wrote about the need for those in the media with privilege and a platform to speak up against systems of oppression, too.
In an effort to be held accountable by readers, we are publicly releasing the internal goals being enacted — some already in progress, others on the near horizon — during our tenure as editors aimed at pushing equity and diversity in our workplace and stories. To keep this letter more condensed, we have included these goals as a PDF below.
These efforts have been spearheaded by our Content Diversity Board, which was founded last year. You can read the board’s report of its first year of work here.
We encourage individuals of all backgrounds to apply to the Minnesota Daily, to send letters to the editor, to engage with our content and challenge us when we make mistakes. We are a learning institution and still have a lot to learn.
We wish to hear from you and will make every effort to listen to what you have to say.