Editorial: Our Trump cover tells a story — whether we like it or not

As the editor-in-chief of The Ledger, I take journalistic integrity pretty seriously. Our opinion editor, Sean Gill- MacDonald, wrote a piece about a Halloween cover we scrapped after students took offense to the theme. We could have run the cover, but we take pride in producing not only smart journalism, but also ethical journalism.

This is why I was a little shocked when I received an email from a student saying that some students did not like the choice of our cover from our Nov. 9 issue, which displayed Donald Trump with the words, “Trump wins” across the front. According to this student, images of the president- elect “plastered” around the school, “reminded them that their lives do not matter to anybody.”

I want to set something straight. I didn’t post Donald Trump on the front of the paper to instigate a sensationalized or angry response, I put his picture on the front because it was news. The plan from the start was to put whoever won the election on the front, and — to many people’s dismay — Trump won.

As editor-in-chief, it is my responsibility to report the news — and the cover in question certainly did that. Whether we like it or not — Donald Trump is slated to become our next president, and it would be journalistically unethical to not put that on the front cover of a newspaper just because it’s Trump.

But our cover is more about who won and who lost — it’s about starting a conversation — something we as U.S. citizens have lost the ability to do. That’s what journalism is about. It’s creating a conversation about the who, what, when, where, why and how. Ignoring the issue only makes it worse. The Donald Trump cover starts a conversation about why roughly 110 million of the eligible voting body didn’t go to the polls, why people voted for Donald Trump, why he’s the president-elect, and — most importantly — where we went wrong. Our Nov. 9 cover doesn’t hide the conversation — it drops it right in front of our noses.

I’m a white man, and I cannot imagine how other races and genders feel about Trump. On election night, several staff members were in The Ledger’s office watching live as part of our coverage. Being a diverse newsroom with students from multiple backgrounds and ethnicities, I saw the fear on many of their faces. When it was time to print the cover, however, the staff understood that as a newsroom, we had a responsibility to our readers and to our campus — to create a forum for discussion.

I’ve watched countless friends, students and U.S. citizens complain about the biases within the media, and I refuse to fall in line with the rest of the journalism world. Unlike some media platforms, I still believe journalism is the shield between the haves and have-nots. I see the pain around campus, and I sympathize with our student body. But I cannot ignore Trump’s presence simply because of who he is.

His face on the cover of our Nov. 9 issue wasn’t a poor choice — it was a reminder of what happens when we quit talking about our future.