The Lariat is not Baylor PR and you don’t want us to be

By Didi Martinez | Digital Managing Editor

Working for a school paper is not easy.

Aside from the pay and sense of pride most of us feel at seeing our work published, the costs don’t always outweigh the benefits. We work long hours, are constantly on deadline and consistently required to produce fresh content. To top it all off, we’re not exactly the most well-liked bunch within the university. Common complaints against those who work for the Lariat range from saying we take ourselves “too seriously” to “not seriously enough”— both of which are fairly valid depending on who you talk to.

But this column isn’t a ho-hum piece about why you should appreciate your fellow student journalist (although, a nice email every now and then would be cool). Instead, I offer an statement that I don’t believe has been reiterated enough throughout my time at the paper: The Baylor Lariat is NOT the public relations arm of Baylor University.

I say this because over the years, we have been subject to criticism based on the fact that our coverage does not “represent the university well.” The backlash we received online after our team covered the Washington, D.C., Women’s March offers a prime example of this. The Lariat was on the ground for the event and made a point of posting on social media with images of the event so that people back in Waco could get a better view of what was going on. The march was a highly politicized event at the time, which is why I believe we received the comments we did from our readers when we posted an image of two women standing in front of the Capitol building holding a sign that read, “Grab him by the d–ck and #throwhimout of office.” While lewd, the sign was clearly a play on what had already been in the news cycle weeks before, and the Twitter post itself made no commentary on the message itself.

Still, the amount of backlash we received from some of our readers was surprising. Not because they disagreed with the message — which is a reasonable expectation when posting about political events — but because many cited the post as “inappropriate” for Baylor’s student paper.

“Did someone forget to switch Twitter accounts. Not exactly appropriate,” one of our followers tweeted at us.

“Classy ladies. And classy, Lariat reporters! Not appropriate reporting. Would you put this on the front page of the paper?” another follower added.

To the credit of some of our readers, I can see why being affiliated with the university could blur the lines of what we can and cannot post.

When it comes to event coverage, the Lariat is not bound to covering an event in the way we think the university, students, faculty, parents or alumni would approve of. Our job is to report the news, and that is what you should hope a student paper does.

But this isn’t just a nice idea to have around, either. Over the years, the Lariat team has been essential to providing a necessary voice for the student body — some of whom had yet to find an avenue to make their opinions heard. At other times, our relationship with the university proves instrumental to considering the internal and external factors at play within every situation, especially when it comes to litigation against Baylor in Title IX cases.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Lariat is not always the best at drawing its own distinction between school promotion and news. Like I said, the news takes work, and sometimes finishing the day is the best we can do. But I will say we do keep a vigilant eye for moments in which our coverage fails to provide more insight or probe past the surface of information given to us. So keep holding us accountable, but in ways that ensure the student paper always adds to the conversation and not just agrees with dominant narratives.

Didi Martinez is a political science and journalism double major from Katy.