OPINION: Why we ran the Arizona story (and would do it again)

By Jessi Emmert

This past summer, I took the following piece of advice to heart: “Never call yourself an aspiring anything.”

I am a naïve, inexperienced, young, raw, gun-shy, timid and rather innocent journalist.
But I am a journalist.

One of the first things I learned when my writing began being regularly published was this: get used to criticism – a lot of it. If you don’t have thick skin, you won’t make it in the media industry, period.

Two weeks ago, The Huntingtonian broke the news that HU was in negotiations to start a satellite campus in Peoria, Ariz. We released this information on our website 10 hours before the university press release came out.

The decision to do so, I can assure you, was not one the editors and I took lightly.

We deliberated for hours, consulted with several professionals and checked and rechecked all of our facts before hitting the “publish” button.

As we anticipated, the feedback to this decision was mixed. Some faculty and students felt we jumped the gun and acted inappropriately, believing we should have allowed the university to share the news first. Others have voiced the opposite opinion, saying we made the right call by releasing the information.

I would like to explain why we stand by our decision to break the Arizona story.

First, I will admit that there is unquestionably a certain appeal to breaking a big news story. It’s a fantastic feeling for a group of journalists to know they uncovered a story and were the first to share it with their readership. It’s the rare moments when you get a hold of a story like this that makes our job exciting.

Second, and more importantly, we were confident in our facts and sources. We had carefully combed every page of the Exclusive Negotiation Agreement, spoken to several people in the city clerk’s office in Peoria to confirm our information, read and reread the president’s address in his annual report, and watched and recorded the Peoria city council meeting where the motion to enter the agreement unanimously passed.

Simply put, we were ready to run the story.

Had we waited, we would have run the exact same story 10 hours later — the only difference would have been that the press release would have come out first.

And that just was not a good enough reason to wait.

Our job, as your media outlet, is to provide you with the most accurate news we have in a timely fashion. To hold a story an extra 10 hours when we were completely confident in it would have been a failure to serve the campus and a failure to do our job.

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