Vandalism and critique are not the same

A quick shout out to the person who scribbled on our newspaper

Rebeca Partida Montes, Staff Writer/Photogrpaher

One of the most exciting factors of writing for The Mesa Press is being able to work in an environment that imitates that of a professional newsroom. Every week, we come together to discuss current events that are happening on campus, our community, or in the world. We are given the freedom very different to a regular classroom, where we thrive and learn based on our own content and our abilities to create content that appeals to many people, not just a professor.

Hours of research go into some articles. Placing ourselves in environments where people might look or think differently than we do is also something we constantly do. As a writer, you take the time to gather information and organize it in a way that is both interesting and clear. For photographers, they take time to learn their cameras, to study the space they are given to work with, and to capture moments that give just as much feel as the article it belongs with.

While we carry ourselves like professional journalists, I think our readers should keep one thing in mind: we are students, we are learners, and aside from creating the distributed paper, our main job is to learn from mistakes to further enhance the quality of our newspaper.

In our October 11th issue of The Mesa Press, our front-page story gave a bit of coverage and insight on the death of an unarmed black man in El Cajon city. It was a story I sought out for a handful of days, placing myself in intimidating situations involving protesters and police. Unfortunately, my front-page story was printed and distributed with the wrong word-choice in the subheadline.

“Fatal shooting in El Cajon insights Black Lives Matter protests” was what our subheadline read. We had used the wrong insights, which should have read instead as “incites”. When critique day came, we acknowledged this error. “How did we miss that?” was the most common question among myself and the other staff members. We had overlooked a key word and it was now in physical print.

Besides distributing the paper, we also take the time to pick up any unread papers when our newest edition is printed. When doing that on the week of October 25th, we came across two different piles of our paper that had been vandalised. Each copy that was still on stand had the error in our subheadline crossed out in red ink with the correct word written right above it. It was funny at first glance, but when we reflected on who could have done that, why they took the time to do that, and what they got out of it, the feeling of having our work vandalized sunk it.

While the person who did it may have thought it was an innocent act, or a form of helping us out, they failed to recognize what we are: students. Learners. Practicing journalists.

The Mesa Press is free and available for all students, staff, and faculty members, and even anyone else that comes across it. Being an easily accessible paper, though, does not mean that anyone is entitled to take our work and destroy it or alter it for everyone else who will want to read it after them. While taking a few copies for yourself or your class or home and making any correction is fine, it becomes a form of vandalism when you take our work, alter it, and then leave it there for others to see.

When we see artwork on campus or anywhere else, we do not take it and destroy it. If we see someone doing a science experiment and they do it wrong, we don’t go up to them and try to fix it ourselves. I am almost positive that if you were to see a paper like the New York Times or the Union-Tribune with an error anywhere in the paper, that you wouldn’t go out of your way to buy every single copy, correct whatever bothered you, and then put it back on the stands.

Our paper being free does not mean you can sit there with twenty copies, scribble on it, then put it back on the stands. We welcome critique, suggestions, and comments at The Mesa Press. We thoroughly enjoy feedback from our readers. You can always write to us or email us, but writing across our paper is not the correct form of critique.

Like I mentioned, we are students and we are learners. This word-choice error was something we spent a lot of time talking about. It gave us an opportunity to seek improvement and to advance the quality of our work.

So if you are reading this and you were responsible for the vandalism or you know who was, I ask you on behalf of the Mesa Press staff to please think about what you are doing the next time you decide to write all over someone else’s work. We spend hours writing our articles, and editors spend even longer looking over things and putting together our issues from scratch to send into printing. It takes us an unbelievable amount of time, effort, and money to produce The Mesa Press newspaper. It is not fair or kind to take what we worked so hard to create only to have it altered in ways that we as a newsroom did not approve of.