For an article that landed itself on the front page, “McDermott library ramps up security” says very little. Ten paragraphs. Twenty sentences. A front page article, and those were the words given to discuss the library’s new policy.
I certainly understand if The Mercury chooses not to focus on investigative journalism — it takes time, and we are all busy, busy students. But coming up with ideas also takes time. Writing articles, regardless of length, takes time. And in the case of the library’s new security measures, when questions are begging to be asked, to be answered, writing such a short, promotional and non-critical article seems more effortful than simply following the natural threads of investigation.
Last week, after reading those ten paragraphs, I put down my newspaper and picked up my phone. It took 45 minutes to confirm the following facts.
Of UTD’s seven aspirational peers, six have libraries open to the public. UC Berkeley is the sole exception.
UTD is considered the third ranked public university in Texas. The two ahead of us are UT Austin and Texas A&M, both of which boast open libraries.
According to the article, the new security system “was added to match other schools in the UT system, like UT Arlington” — but of UT System’s nine undergraduate institutions, seven have open libraries. UT Arlington, and now UT Dallas, are the only two which do not.
These are facts — easy enough to research, to include in an article. Beyond this cursory research lies a whole world of questions.
What do the students think about the new security measures? In the article, one student’s opinion was discussed, but one student’s opinion does not represent the whole of student opinion. How was the interviewed student selected? Did The Mercury seek out differing opinions? How much data was collected? Neither I nor any reader can be sure, because that information wasn’t given to us.
What happens if a student wants to use services such as peer tutoring, supplemental instruction, or even wants to attend a class that’s located in the library, but they don’t have any ID on them? What happens when a student tries to bring in family members, only their elderly guests — or perhaps their younger siblings — don’t have their government ID with them? What impact may this have on casual use of the library — students running in last-minute to print something, to browse the stacks, to meet with their friends or classmates? Why, if the goal of the new scanners is security, do students have to scan to leave? Why are there not functional scanners on the other entrance at the first floor of the library?
All of these burning, pressing questions, and “McDermott library ramps up security” addresses none of them.
I understand the need for informative press — shedding light on university policies and services is invaluable. But that can’t be where it ends. To accept the mantle of the journalist is to ask questions; to be critical; to dig deeper, look further and give your readers thought-provoking material to digest. I implore all writers at The Mercury to embrace the challenges of investigative journalism, and I hope to see more thorough pieces in the upcoming issues.
Computer Science and Cognitive Science