Letter to the Editor: Watchdog duties

My name is Erin Hoffman and I worked for The Watchdog for a year before transferring to the University of Washington. Now that I’ve been at the UW for a quarter, I’ve noticed a stark difference between the way The Daily, UW’s newspaper, is treated and the way The Watchdog is perceived by students and staff at BC.

First, to all reading this, I want to clear a few things up about The Watchdog. I don’t think people at BC actually know how much work The Watchdog is.

The Watchdog is entirely the work of students—the faculty adviser is there for guidance, but never actually touches the paper.

It is the responsibility of students to investigate and find stories to assign, supervise each other’s deadlines, conduct interviews with student leaders and administrators, write articles (sometimes as many as five or six in a week, depending on the length of the paper) and put together the paper using Adobe Creative Suite.

Additionally, there is no journalism program at Bellevue College, save a few isolated classes. Students working for The Watchdog’s employees have to learn very quickly how to write articles and use complicated professional software in order to put out a paper every week.

When I was on staff, there were days where my coworkers and I were on campus for 12 hours at a time.

I know The Watchdog isn’t perfect. There have been errors in the paper which I acknowledge. But it is not due to the incompetence of the staff.

Almost every factual error in the paper, for instance, was due to misinformation given by someone being interviewed. The newspaper staff doesn’t just make things up. Misinformation comes from reporters being unable to confirm sources because no one will talk to them.

I think it’s fair to hold the newspaper accountable which is why anyone is encouraged to submit a correction of they see something wrong in the paper, but it’s hard to work so hard to put out an 8-16 page paper every week that people don’t support.

I’m aware of the current schism between the student government and The Watchdog, and it saddens me. The newspaper could be a great resource for the student government—it’s free PR.

When I was news editor, I reported on more stories that reflected negatively on the student government than reflected positively, and that was because I literally never heard about any of the positive stuff.

The Watchdog is always looking for stories and all it takes to get a positive story in the paper is to talk to an editor.

Also, when the student government screws up, they should view The Watchdog as a way to explain themselves. It doesn’t have to be entirely negative all the time.

The Watchdog staff runs corrections all the time; when I was on staff, we accepted responsibility for our mistakes. Why isn’t that a continuing attitude?

I guess what I’m trying to say is, the newspaper should be a place to start and continue a dialogue about student life at BC. It’s a grossly misunderstood and underused resource on campus, and I want to encourage everyone to start changing their ideas of what The Watchdog is.