Last November The Denisonian’s website, denisonian.com, grossed 1,500 visitors in one month. That was a huge milestone for us.
Last week, when we published the article “Expelled student sues Denison, receives settlement,” our website got 1,500 visitors again – in less than three days.
That article, written by former news editor Debbie Gillum viraled out on social media sites like Reddit, Facebook and Twitter and other news sites such as Inside Higher Ed.
We were excited. But we also recognized something else: the need to always be responsible and certain about our reporting decisions, particularly in the sensitive cases of sexual assault.
The word “receives” may in fact connotate that the settlement was monetary. Due to confidentiality, we were unable to confirm just what the settlement was.
As a result there has been some ambiguity, which has lead to the assumption for some that the student, Zackary Hunt, was “paid off” or that Denison’s administration wants to “sweep things under the rug” – two popular but possibly false sentiments.
What can help us, as a news organization, to be more accurate? Policing ourselves, certainly, but having access to the relevant facts in such a sensitive situation could be helpful as well.