Editor’s Note: Defining editorials; on-campus safety concerns

What makes an editorial, and what doesn’t. Also: cuts to guard overtime, students assaulted, antisemitism.

Alex Tey, Editor-in-Chief


Editor's Note

February 26, 2022
Editor’s Note is a weekly newsletter from WSN’s Editor-in-Chief that brings you the week’s top stories — and the stories behind the stories.
Hi everyone!

This week’s Editor’s Note explains what a house editorial is, what it used to be at WSN, and how we’re defining it going forward.

But first, this week’s top stories: overtime cuts leave buildings unguarded, more reports of university mishandling of campus assaults, and an interview with an Oscar-nominated director.
A purple uniform patch with the logo of the NYU Department of Public Safety on the shoulder of a Public Safety Officer.
The Department of Campus Safety has cut overtime hours for security officers who work on the weekends in eight NYU buildings. As a result, the posts are left unfilled or are staffed by other university employees. (Photo by Manaal Shareh)
Some NYU buildings are being left unguarded on nights and weekends as the university cuts back on overtime for Campus Safety officers, raising concerns about safety, student access and guard pay.
A Campus Safety officer: “If there was no overtime at all, this job would be a financial struggle.”

A student employee in an affected building: “Students as well as staff members are definitely not happy with this change.”

A Campus Safety union leader: “Our main concern right now is the safety of students and faculty.”

University spokesperson John Beckman: “NYU is constantly striving to save money, because those savings in turn help fund any number of University priorities.”

Last week, we reported on a student who said he was dismissed by Campus Safety after he was punched by a stranger while walking on campus, one of four students in about a week who were assaulted in this manner. Now, two more victims have come forward, saying that their reports were also mishandled. The total of students known to have been attacked on campus this month now stands at six.

A graffiti swastika was discovered outside the Tisch School of the Arts building on Feb. 16, prompting calls from Jewish leaders for more support from NYU. (On our Opinion page, Alexandra Cohen offered her own take on antisemitism.)

A program that allows students to donate meal swipes at NYU dining halls resumed on Monday.
A headshot of Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier.
WSN interviewed Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier about “The Worst Person in the World.” (Image courtesy of NEON)
Arts and culture
“I think it takes guts to believe that your thoughts have value, even if they take a little moment to develop in the time of the narrative.” WSN’s JP Pak spoke with Joachim Trierdirector of the Oscar-nominated “The Worst Person in the World,” and Lorena Campes reviewed the film.

Head to the Fashion Institute of Technology for a retrospective on ’90s designer fashion at the Museum at FIT.

Before tomorrow’s season finale, catch up on the latest episode of Euphoria with our recap.
This week’s edition of the Daybook, arriving in your inbox on Sunday evening, will feature an NYU public art exhibition, a Dua Lipa concert and more things to do this week.

The Soapbox provided updates on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Listen to This reviewed new singles from Jack Harlow, Sabrina Carpenter, Porridge Radio and maye.
Defining our house editorial
The opinion section of any newspaper runs two main types of articles: editorials (“house pieces” written by the paper’s editorial board) and op-eds (articles by individual writers that run opposite the editorials).

It’s generally understood that opinion articles don’t represent the views of a publication or its staff — that’s a familiar disclaimer — but editorials have a little more weight to them. But who’s behind those editorials anyway?

After all, the word “editorial” can mean several things in a newsroom. It can distinguish the editorial team (which produces the WSN content that readers see) from the business team (which works behind the scenes to sell ads and manage budgets), perhaps to separate editorial decisions and business decisions. Or it can mean “editorial” as in “editing.” In this context, though, “editorial” means a particular kind of opinion piece with some kind of institutional authority: house editorials and the Editorial Board that publishes them.

In many professional newsrooms, the editorial board is a group of opinion staff who report directly to the publisher, not to the newsroom’s executive editor. This gives the editorial board independence from the other sections of the paper, which benefits everyone — news reporters don’t have to worry about being associated with partiality, and the opinion page isn’t beholden to the opinions of staff outside of their section.

WSN’s organizational structure, though, isn’t quite as corporate or rigid, and in the recent past, its house editorials were not well defined. We didn’t have a solid understanding of 1. who the Editorial Board is and what it does, and 2. what a house editorial is and who it stands for.

We had been working under the assumption that the Editorial Board is the managing team (myself, the Managing Editor and the Deputy Managing Editors) and the two Opinion Editors, and house editorials were written by the Opinion Editors… but also under the auspices of the managing team… even though the managing team doesn’t usually have much to say about the editorials… and rarely writes them… except when they do… which is when everyone wonders what their role actually is in this arrangement. You can see how this is not ideal.

These problems came to the surface during recent discussions about an article that was originally proposed as an editorial. The piece was debated extensively within what was at the time understood to be the Editorial Board — and one of the central questions was whether the newsroom staff would feel comfortable being represented by the piece.

We even put an outline of the proposed editorial to a poll, with the intention of judging how strongly newsroom staff were against or in favor of the idea. The results ended up just a few votes short of the thresholds we had set to allow the piece to remain in consideration as an editorial (a two-thirds majority voting in favor, with two-thirds of the newsroom participating), which was helpful in the decision-making for this specific case. But I don’t think it’s sustainable to have to meet that kind of approval in the future.

That’s why, going forward, WSN as a whole (the institution or its staff) won’t be represented by the views expressed in house editorials. This means that the Editorial Board won’t have to worry about only writing pieces that everyone on staff agrees with, and the rest of the staff won’t have to worry about being misrepresented by house editorials.

It’s also not sustainable to have the entire managing team able to weigh in on a house editorial. We work with every section of the paper, and to have all five of us on the editorial board would at least appear to compromise the impartiality we must exercise when editing, say, news articles. Writing an editorial also gets more difficult the more people are working on it.

After discussions with WSN’s Managing Board, advisers and Opinion Editors, we’ve decided on these new definitions for our editorials.

The Editorial Board will be composed of:
  • the Opinion Editor(s)
  • the Deputy Opinion Editors(s)
  • the Editor-in-Chief
and a house editorial will represent the opinions of:
  • the Editorial Board
  • that’s it.
Upcoming house editorials will have a statement at the end saying something to that same effect, and upcoming opinion pieces will have a similar statement to explain that they only reflect the writer’s views.

If you’d like to weigh in on these changes or how we’re handling them, you can contact the Editorial Board at [email protected], and you can contact me (as always) at [email protected].

Until next week,

—the editor

Alex Tey
[email protected]

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