Regarding the labeling of first-year Mekael Daniel as junior Rachel Hyppolite in Vol. 47, No. 9 of the Catalyst, which was released Nov. 11, 2016, and subsequent “apologies” in March.
Written by Brittany J. Camacho, Mekael Daniel, and Rachel Hyppolite
Over the last semester, the Catalyst has made distinct and clear efforts to highlight social and political issues in a changing political climate. Under the supervision of the most recent team of editors, nearly every front page in 2017 has featured a story on race, socio-economic status, gender, religion, local politics, inclusion, exclusion, you name it. As the Catalyst continues in this direction, I implore all of those at the publication that there is still an intense amount of work to do in recognizing the work of students of color, most especially as their photographs continuously flood the front page without proper citation or sensitivity to being correct.
In the Nov. 11 issue of the Catalyst, first- year Mekael Daniel’s image was run on the front page of the print edition, in which she was labeled as “a student.” This very sensible response to perhaps not having anyone on your staff capable of recognizing her was for some reason rescinded on the on-line publication, in which somewhere along the multitudes of editing and fact-checking that must go into the journalistic process, she was mislabeled as Rachel Hyppolite.
This decision is still beyond confusing and appalling, nearly seven months later, for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, it makes clear that Mekael was neither notified that her photo was taken nor that it would be used in the November issue. Yes, it is clear that at public events all students on campus become potential subjects for local news outlets and photographs. However, it becomes twice as clear now that in the decision to first label her “a student,” then as someone who has been at the college for two years, makes clear that neither Mekael nor Rachel were contacted for verification of the image, or even present at the event. Rachel Hyppolite was not in attendance at this rally whatsoever.
Secondly, from the perspective of a former staff writer of the Catalyst, and one of the only students of color working for the entire publication at the time, both this decision and its resulting apologies, both public and private, make clear the value the Catalyst places on students of color as a part of the news room and members of this campus. The entire public apology, three lines in total, reads:
“Last November, The Catalyst misidentified Mekael Daniel in a photo from the “Make America Love Again” rally. The Catalyst would like to formally apologize for this mistake and thank our readers for holding us accountable. Such accountability holds us to a higher standard of student journalism.”
There is no mention in this apology of Rachel Hyppolite, the irresponsibility of doing so in the context of making such a mistake during such a racially charged election season, and the use of accountability here is misguided at best. The Catalyst cannot merely be held “accountable” for a misprint, it must work toward tightening up its fact-checking processes, its outreach to members of this campus, and of either making an across the board decision to refer to featured images as “students,” or as the vibrant and necessary members of this community that they truly are.
It is not sufficient or responsible journalistic practice to cite the hectic nature of the newsroom as the reason for a mislabeling that happens in the everyday lives of students of color, most especially black girls, at Colorado College. Each time we are called outside of our names, we are forced to interrupt our days, our studies, and evaluate the environment we have ended up in and why it cannot bother to recognize us.
In an article, though far back in the academic year, highlighting the presence of “love” that CC cultivates in such tumultuous times for bodies of color, it is a slap in the face to read an article, see yourself interpreted as someone else, and have such a viscerally painful experience chalked up to a lesson in “accountability.” This may have just been a “mistake” from November for the publication, but black girls, students of color, and marginalized groups on this campus do not exist to help further accountability in journalism, or to do anything but seek an education and carve out a space to belong that is on a daily basis invalidated and denied.
If such mistakes are so commonplace in the newsroom due to its environment, perhaps it is time for the publication, as it moves to new heights of reporting, to consider making this environment more productive and fit to serve all of the members of this campus. To start, we suggest reaching out to students from populations which photographers and editors consistently feature but do not employ, in order to strengthen the network and reach of fact-checking on your team, for the 2017-18 academic year.