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Learning how to balance justice and journalism as a copy editor -30-

Kimmy Rice stands for a portrait. (Michael Gallagher/Assistant Photo editor)

By Kimmy Rice

June 10, 2024 9:28 p.m.

A career in journalism was never on my radar.

Activism – which is commonly perceived as incompatible with journalism – constituted a large part of my identity in high school. I attended marches, led school walkouts against gun violence and interned for social justice-oriented organizations.

So when I joined the Daily Bruin in 2021 after several unsuccessful applications to the Undergraduate Students Association Council, I had no idea how my morals would be put to the test.

Now, nearly three years later, I have a much deeper understanding of journalism. As a copy editor, I learned the significance of every comma, capitalization and verb. I know more obscure sports jargon than the average person.

Perhaps most importantly, however, I have come to see the concepts of objectivity and neutrality in a new light.

Objectivity is seen as the foundation of the news industry. It is what earns our readers’ trust and upholds our credibility as a source of facts.

But in the face of injustice, the pursuit of objective truth can be derailed by neutrality bias, which the News Literacy Project defines as “a type of bias in which a journalist or news outlet tries so hard to avoid appearing biased that the coverage actually misrepresents the facts.”

News today is driven by the fear of saying something wrong rather than a responsibility to say something right. On May 1, The New York Times reduced targeted attacks on the Palestine solidarity encampment at UCLA to “clashes.”

On May 2, the Los Angeles Times described demonstrators and police as tussling – painting peaceful protesters as an equally aggressive party.

But when the Daily Bruin’s coverage of these events started to come across my desk, I knew I could not allow neutrality bias to stand in the way of truth. I made it my mission to ensure no passive or understated language was allowed to misrepresent what we so clearly observed the night of April 30: a violent attack on our community perpetrated by outsiders.

Under the guidance of the Copy team, terms such as “attack” and “aggressor” were allowed to be used in place of “face-off” and “counter-protester.”

Although Slack threads are no street march, I see these efforts as activism all the same.

There is still work to be done. It could be 10 years before mainstream news outlets commit to using “genocide” to describe Israel’s ongoing violence against Palestinians.

This is not to dismiss the incredible strides student journalists across the nation have made in restoring moral clarity to the field. I am proud to know the many passionate and brave reporters, photographers, videographers, copy editors and editors who put everything on the line to show the world what happened on those harrowing nights on campus. Their work will be remembered for years to come.

To all those who will follow in our footsteps, I leave you with this:

The classic journalism imperative is not “Power is held to account.” It is “Hold power to account,” and it has an understood subject: you.

You can hold structures of power accountable with your words. Use them.

Rice was a Copy contributor and staffer 2021-2022, slot editor 2022-2023, Design contributor 2022-2024 and co-Copy chief 2023-2024.

-30-

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