On Sept. 18, we removed Alexia Isais from her position as a State Press opinion columnist. Since then, we’ve had hours of conversations throughout our newsroom to decide how we want to move forward and improve as an organization and begin repairing relationships with communities that were damaged by this.
We understand that the first step is being transparent and clearly explaining the reasoning behind the initial decision.
Despite widespread narratives, Isais was not removed from her position because of anti-police views, her personal or political views. She was removed because her tweets violated our social media guidelines and journalistic ethics, and ultimately endangered our staff as well as our organization’s reputation.
When someone represents a news organization and celebrates or endorses harm publicly, they draw the same level, or even more, harm to the rest of the staff. As leaders of this organization, our priority is the safety and well being of our staff, especially those from marginalized communities.
We know our initial actions were not perfect and we have been working to address mistakes made in haste.
We started addressing these mistakes by deleting our first statement — the Twitter thread regarding its deletion can be found here. We have also provided Isais with copies of her unpublished columns to give her an opportunity to publish them elsewhere.
Additionally, we extended the opportunity for her to write a piece explaining the sentiment behind her tweets because we understand her views come from a place of pain and lived experiences and these views are largely unrepresented in mainstream media.
In recent years, our organization has been addressing its faults, and we are committed to being more diverse and inclusive in the work we do, the staff we hire and the journalism standards that we abide by.
We want to explicitly note that not all of the decisions made about how to address Isais’ demands were made unanimously. But we are unanimous in how we want to move forward as an organization and how we want to create a better newsroom in every way we can.
Final decisions regarding Isais’ demands
The original statement released by Isais and the groups participating in a boycott has been updated various times since Isais’ removal, so we addressed the demands as they were Oct. 7.
The first demand: “The State Press reinstates her position.”
Our response: To be clear, Isais’ tweets violated our social media and ethics guidelines and endangered students in our newsroom as well as the reputation of our organization. We understand that the removal of Isais from her position was a deplatforming of a voice that is rarely represented in mainstream media. Since her reinstatement would be purely symbolic — as Isais told us it would be — her voice would not return to our pages, meaning the root problem would still exist. Additionally, while our initial actions were flawed, the reasoning behind Isais’ removal still stands. We acknowledge our faults in this situation and take responsibility for them, but we will still abide by the ethics standards of our newsroom and our industry. For these reasons, Isais will not be reinstated.
The second demand: “We demand State Press’s statement be immediately rescinded and taken down from all publication platforms…”
Our response: As mentioned above, after various meetings, we decided to remove the original statement addressing the removal of Isais because its language was unclear and provided a vague description of the incident. We deleted this statement instead of editing it to minimize the harm it caused.
The third demand: “We demand (a) written apology be written by the publication.”
Our response: When we rescinded the first statement we publicly acknowledged this decision in the name of transparency. We also apologized for the pain and confusion the statement caused.
We apologize to Isais for the poor wording of the first statement because we understand that its language failed to make clear that the police are not a marginalized group. We also apologize to any and all individuals or communities who were harmed by this statement.
Additionally, we want to take this time to publicly acknowledge and condemn the systemic racism that exists in virtually every institution in the United States, including law enforcement and journalism. We also condemn police brutality in every form.
The Blue Lives Matter sentiment discredits the pain and violence inflicted on the Black community at the hands of the police while falsely equating an occupation to a racial identity. Additionally, the systems of policing were founded on racism and continue to operate on the marginalization of BIPOC communities.
As a newsroom, we have been working to address these issues and ensure that we accurately report on them and hold power to account. With these goals in mind, we cannot ignore the fact that this country is built on the oppression, genocide and enslavement of Black and Indigenous people.
The fourth demand: “We demand that the State Press address their siding with systemic and institutional racism and discrimination against leftist BIPOC by creating a council specifically for leftist BIPOC in the State Press itself.”
Our response: We will not be creating a council specifically for leftist BIPOC at The State Press. Leadership, the diversity officer and the diversity council unanimously agree that this demand was disrespectful and entirely discredits the work of BIPOC journalists on the existing diversity council and our staff. On top of being inherently disrespectful and dismissive of the work done by BIPOC journalists, this request ignores that The State Press is a journalistic institution and the existence of a politicized council goes against every standard that exists in our industry. Read more about this here, in a letter from our Diversity Officer.
Moving forward as a student newsroom
The value of student newsrooms cannot be overstated. These environments provide learning experiences and opportunities for those who are passionate about their communities, journalism and storytelling. In our newsroom, we are lucky to be editorially independent, meaning that every decision — whether it be content or staff related — is made by students.
This editorial freedom comes with a lot of responsibility and our newsroom is always working to be better and do better.
Going forward, our newsroom will continue to do the important reporting we’ve been doing. We’ll work to better represent our communities by uplifting and protecting BIPOC voices in ways The State Press hasn’t in the past. We’ll continue to challenge outdated standards and expectations while responsibly upholding those that still matter.
Since the initial decision, leadership, senior editors, the diversity officer and council have been involved in every step in the process for moving forward.
At the start of this semester we had begun laying out plans to address the priorities listed above. Following this incident, in the name of transparency and accountability, we want to make them public.
- Before this happened, we were revisiting our social media guidelines and are continuing to do so. We will be making them more open, so that staff members can reference and express their lived experiences and call out injustices while still upholding our code of ethics.
- Since the semester started, we have been tracking our sourcing through an internal audit which will eventually be published.
- We are re-evaluating the purpose of the opinion section to make sure it serves as a place for healthy dialogue instead of damaging discourse.
- We will be prioritizing community outreach and stronger, more representative coverage in order to serve our communities to the best of our abilities.
- We will host town halls that will be open to individuals and organizations within the ASU community.
- We will implement critical race theory trainings and discussions in our newsroom.
Going forward, we will be more public about internal projects like our diversity stylebook and diversity training guides. We will also formally introduce the diversity council, which we started in August.
While we understand that we did not meet every demand, we are open to having conversations about moving forward with any individuals or organizations who are interested.
Adrienne Dunn, Executive Editor
Andrew Howard, Editor-in-Chief
Joseph Perez, Magazine Editor-in-Chief
Farah Eltohamy, Diversity Officer