As journalists, we respect certain rules above all else. First, don’t lie or fabricate. Second, be unbiased when reporting. Finally, do not speculate; only report the facts.
Our neighboring “professional” paper, The Times of Trenton, has chosen to ignore two of these rules.
In its March 21 issue, The Times ran a story on the cancellation of Senior Week. In The Signal’s coverage, not one senior, administrator or Senior Class Council member mentioned that they thought the cancellation of Senior Week was related to the tragic death of John Fiocco Jr.
The Times, however, decided it was so relevant to the cancellation that it must be mentioned in the third paragraph of its Senior Week article. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the fact that The Times thought Fiocco was related to the cancellation of Senior Week — it was the way they presented it.
“It was March 25 last year that Fiocco dropped down a trash chute in an incident that remains under investigation,” the article reads.
Besides its inappropriate tone, this comment is speculation, something that has not been proven in the investigation of Fiocco’s death. For The Times’ editors to let something like this slip by is completely unacceptable. Since the beginning, The Times and other media outlets have assumed and guessed things about Fiocco’s death.
The Times showed its carelessness in keeping facts straight when its own report was proven wrong four days later.
On March 25, The Times reported, “There was no forensic evidence in the trash chute itself. . Fiocco’s body . remained in good enough condition for investigators to determine if Fiocco had plummeted down the trash chute.”
New Jersey State Police Detective Sgt. William Scull added, “There are certain things we look for that would have been indicative of him falling down the chute. We didn’t see any of these things . not one.”
I was in the Times newsroom the night Fiocco’s body was found. At that time, it was not yet proven that it was his body. In response to this not yet proven fact, an editor of my section exclaimed something to the effect of, “It doesn’t matter, that’s how we’re running it anyway.”
Not only did The Times break the rule of speculation, but it assigned the Senior Week article to someone with an obvious conflict of interest.
Senior journalism major Matt Egan was assigned the story on the cancellation of Senior Week, his Senior Week. To have someone write an article for a group of people to which he belongs is a big problem in journalism.
It is impossible and unfair for Egan to have to write an article on an event he most likely would have attended with his peers under traditional circumstances.
Journalists wonder why they get so much criticism for their work. It’s because there are papers like The Times breaking all the rules and making it harder for us to put forth a decent, honest newspaper that people can turn to for information. What can you really believe?