Keepin’ ’em Honest

Session: Watchin’ the Dogs

About a year ago, I vividly remember standing outside of a room in Moseley Center as a judicial team discussed the actions and punishment of then-SGA Executive President Taylor Martin, who was found guilty of a minor charge. As a team of Pendulum reporters patiently stood in the hallway, alongside other SGA representatives, the air was tense. “Leave it to The Pendulum to show up when there’s a problem.” It came from the huddled group of students standing on the opposite side of the hallway.

It was a statement that made me angry and then made me self-assess. Was there some truth to their statement? Was The Pendulum only being reactive, instead of proactive? In all truth, we had not done an exemplary job attending their meetings or reporting on their various initiatives. But, as soon as controversy became apparent, there we were, notebook in hand. As much as I didn’t want to, I had to admit we had some work to do. So, we made a decision:

“While we do not question the various successes SGA has had in the past years and its positive impacts on campus, we will now closely monitor all that SGA does and bring prompt, correct and fair information directly to the student body. … While we understand SGA’s displeasure with student media at this point, we now only ask it to understand our purpose as a group on campus to the same extent we understand and recognize its.”  

At “Watchin’ the Dogs,” Kenna Griffin (Oklahoma City University), echoed this sentiment and even went so far as to say covering student government is the most important role a student newspaper can fulfill. Even though we’ve made a new commitment to follow SGA as closely as we can, there’s always room to grow and I hope to implement her tips and tricks into our own student government policy at The Pendulum.

Check out the top tips from Griffin to “watch the dogs:”

  • Go to all of there meetings.
  • Know the law.
  • Rotate the beat reporter every semester.
  • Write about people, not processes – tell students why they should care.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest.
  • Break news immediately – live tweet, put information online immediately and then follow-up with a more in-depth report.
  • Host staff training.
  • Don’t drop issues.
  • Get a copy of all of their documents.
  • Hold the publication staff to the same standards (GPA, code of conduct, etc.)
-Caitlin O’Donnell

One thought on “Keepin’ ’em Honest

  1. Caitlin,

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the session and that it reminded you of the importance of journalists’ roles as the watchdogs of governments, no matter how large or small.

    I’m sure you’re tired but full of great ideas after another fabulous ACP/CMA conference. I hope you’ll follow me on Twitter @profkrg and check out my blog,, for more nerdy fun! Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you or your staff.


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