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College newspaper retracts news story for quoting too many white students: 'To prevent further harm'

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The student newspaper at Vassar College in upstate New York retracted a news story because the article contained too many quotations from white students.

What is the background?

Vassar College announced in February that Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security for the Obama administration, would speak at the school's commencement ceremony this spring.

One week after the announcement, Johnson withdrew from speaking at spring graduation because students expressed outrage over immigration policies enacted during the Obama administration, such as detaining migrants inside detention centers at the southern U.S. border.

What did the student newspaper say?

Vassar's student newspaper, the Miscellany News, revealed Wednesday that student editors removed a Feb. 17 news story detailing Johnson's commencement-speaker invitation and subsequent withdrawal.

The problem? The news story quoted too many white students.

The newspaper explained that editors initially planned for their story to focus on student outrage over Johnson's invitation as commencement speaker. But because Johnson withdrew from speaking before the story was published, editors refocused the story to cover the latest development and quoted students reactions.

"In prioritizing urgency over thoroughness, we made misguided and insensitive oversights with whom we were representing in the article and failed to provide in-depth reporting of the issue at large," the editors explained. "The majority of our quotations came from white students and therefore we reduced the positions of students of color to a singular, tokenized perspective."

"After this was brought to our attention, the paper decided to remove the article online in an attempt to prevent further harm among the communities we misrepresented," they said.

The editors went so far as to claim that their actions somehow demonstrated "many of the institutional flaws and structural problems within our paper."

"Journalism, including college journalism, has historically been a white-centric, often elitist field, and The Miscellany News is not immune to the consequences of these structures," they wrote. "The publication of the article and its subsequent removal reminds us of the systemic issues our members are implicated in, as well as the privilege and lack of diversity that we have allowed to persist for generations across our boards."

Anything else?

To prevent future incidents, the Miscellany News editors established a "review board that aims to examine quotes and sources to ensure both their veracity and the integrity of their representation" within all future news articles.

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