To the Editor:
In last week’s edition, Emily Calkins ’14 wrote an op-ed titled “Small Talk, Big Problem” in which she encouraged the campus to gossip less about other students. While I think we can all agree with her broader point that gossip is often corrosive, particularly on a small campus like ours, I disagree with her characterization of The Williams Record’s coverage of the central example in her op-ed, the article regarding the theft of a pizza van.
Calkins first asserts that the article itself was written in a manner that would naturally incite gossip. While I’ll let Calkins have her qualms about verb choice, I believe that the Record proceeded in a way that was incredibly responsible to protecting the individual. The incident was already being discussed on campus before the Record ran a piece on it. Writing an article in which the perpetrator’s name was not even mentioned helped to clarify details and prevent the story from taking on facetious and potentially more harmful dimensions. Furthermore, I completely disagree with Calkins that the Record was wrong to focus on how the incident might affect the pizza business on campus. The Record exists to address issues that affect the community more broadly, and by focusing on the ramifications of this incident, the Record not only took focus off the individual’s actions but also emphasized to students that this individual’s actions and the actions of every student on campus have important consequences for the campus as a whole. I agree that gossip can be detrimental, but so can irresponsible actions of individuals who act to jeopardize the safety of our community and the strength of our relations with Williamstown. Finally, Calkins implies that every Record editor “debated over [the situation] in the boardroom,” but she does so without cause. It is a completely baseless claim, and as the Record office is not open to visitors during board meetings or on Tuesdays, she has no possible way of knowing whether Record editors were spending time gossiping about the incident. Frankly, by then it was old news, and Record Tuesdays are far too hectic to worry about Domino’s unless it’s being delivered to the office. This article was not the source of an editorial; it did not even crack the front page of the newspaper. This was an article that was important to run for the good of the community, and to imply that Record editors neglected their work to gossip about a pizza van is inaccurate and insensitive to the hard work that Record editors diligently perform every week.
It’s healthy and beneficial to both parties to criticize the Record when it is unbalanced. However, it is neither healthy nor beneficial to advocate for the Record not to publish articles that may embarrass individuals because they have taken actions that harm the community. Certainly, the Record is responsible for public reaction to what it publishes, but in this case, it took every precaution to deemphasize the individual and focus on the community.
Nicole Smith ’14