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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

OPINION: Men’s Basketball just won’t back down
Abigail Taylor, Contributing writer • February 27, 2024

Khashoggi Murder and the Role of Journalism

Khashoggi+Murder+and+the+Role+of+Journalism

How limitations to journalism extend to the OG&B

Jamal Khashoggi was a prominent Saudi journalist, who pursued controversial topics and took risks by criticizing the government of Saudi Arabia. He had to transition between many different organizations because of the nature of his publications, but ultimately felt that constructive criticism of his home country was more important than maintaining a low journalistic profile. Recently, however, he imposed his own exile to the United States to avoid arrest in Saudi Arabia.  

 

On Oct. 2, 2018, Kaoshoggi disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in order to obtain a divorce document. While Saudi Arabia initially denied any involvement in the disappearance, evidence has since been presented suggesting Saudi agents murdered the journalist inside the building in a “rogue operation.” Despite contrary reports, one fact remains the same: Khashoggi was targeted because of his active participation in criticizing his government.  

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It’s easy to assume that journalistic limitations only extend to countries outside of the United States – that U.S. journalists are only limited when they take on international issues in dangerous countries. But it’s not that simple. Even U.S. journalists face limitations in approaching certain topics. As Dr. Courtney Dorroll, assistant professor of religion, describes, “We’ve had this ethos of the journalist and media being this fourth estate…being kind of the watch dog. But we also see, even in our own political situation, push-back on that.” In recent years, a new dynamic has risen in American politics, where the media is criticized as being “fake news” and undermined as a credible source. The U.S. media may have the freedom to criticize, but publications still rely on the financial support of advertisers and the traffic of viewers and readers. How does taking away some of the power of the press impact how stories are approached? How do in vogue trends sway the approach of journalists? Do the limitations of journalism apply to Wofford, and specifically the Old Gold & Black? 

 

I decided to head straight to the source, sitting down to talk with OG&B editors: Caroline Maas ‘19, editor-in-chief, and Sheridan Kate Murray ‘19, managing editor. As seniors with years of experience in journalism at Wofford and outside of the college setting, they were more than happy to reflect on their experiences and share their views on journalism at Wofford: 

 

What is the role of journalism at Wofford? 

 

Sheridan Kate: “One thing that initially drew me to the paper is…when you hear about Wofford culture, you sort of get the viewpoint of one certain type of view and perspective…journalism on Wofford’s campus gives people that voice to be heard.” 

 

Caroline: “It’s more so to inform but also to offer new, fresh perspectives about things…and to generate conversation around the issues that we write about.” 

 

What factors or limitations do you think shape how people write articles? 

 

C: “Where you’re from, how much money you grew up with, what your major is, who your friends are…I think you’re more hesitant to write critical pieces about groups you affiliate with, which is why…it’s a good thing that we have people with lots of different perspectives who write for the paper.” 

 

SK: “The perceived culture on campus can impact what people choose to write about…a lot of times people are afraid of the way they themselves will be perceived if they choose to write about things that are more sensitive.” 

 

What do students want to read about? 

 

C: “It depends on who you ask. I think you have the part of the student body that’s very comfortable with where the school is and who they accept and who gives money to the school and there’s that deep rooted tradition of wanting to keep things as they are – as white and upper-middle class and wealthy. There have been huge leaps and bounds by President Samhat and the Wofford administration…to change that and to alter the demographic of the school.” 

 

SK: “There are definitely certain leaders who want to see Wofford through rose-colored glasses even now, and want to hear about us singing the praises of what students and faculty are doing but…we wouldn’t have writers who wanted to talk about these topics if nobody wanted to read them. That shows interest…and we see to get the most noise on campus, both good and bad, when we write about things that are controversial.” 

 

What consequences do you see for people choosing to write about controversial topics? 

 

SK: “The biggest thing that I’ve seen is alumni backlash. Certain members of alumni really bristle at the idea of more controversial things being written.” 

 

C: “Yeah, it’s so small that everyone’s going to know…who wrote it, what groups they affiliate with, what their reputation is, and is going to have something to say about what they wrote and what they perceive their intention behind it to be.” 

 

What are the limitations to writing articles? 

 

SK: “Faculty and staff can be helpful, but also a huge limitation…especially people who do deal with matters that are more controversial and may not want to talk about things that don’t make them look amazing.” 

 

C: “We are at a private college and so much does [depend] on funding and money. The college has to be careful about what their faculty is saying about the school and yeah, it’s great to get dissenting opinions, but at the end of the day, they’re going at it with the mindset of being for the college.” 

 

How do think the limitations of Wofford reflect those of US publications? 

 

SK: “I think we have to worry a lot more about how the things we say will be looked at and perceived…I think [news sources] can cover things a little bit more bravely and they don’t have to worry about the implications.” 

 

C: “But to an extent, reporters and journalists have the pressure of living up to…the ideas and beliefs that people perceive them to have…the image perception thing is still very much there, just in a different way.” 

 

Journalists at Wofford may not have to fear for their lives when publishing an article, but the freedom to speak freely is still, to some degree, controlled by outside forces. Whether it be the threat of backlash, lack of cooperation from faculty or trouble enticing readers, even Wofford’s Old Gold & Black faces limitations in publishing. So what does this say about the function of journalism as a whole? When journalists criticize the government, their credibility is undermined. When journalists support the government, they elicit backlash for complicity. In both cases, the esteem of journalism is called into question. Khashoggi’s death is significant in more than just the realm of politics – it also forces us to recognize the values of journalism and in some ways, the limitations.

Caption: Saudi journalist Kamal Khashoggi went into self-imposed exile last year, saying he feared arrest. Photo credit: April Brady/Project on Middle East Democracy 

 

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