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From the newsroom: Responsible journalism has readers' interests at heart

You said it. We listened. See the readers’ reaction that sparked this discussion.

Over the weekend, the _Arizona Daily Wildcat_’s arts editor overheard someone at a party ask someone if they had seen Friday’s issue because “It’s all about porn and alcohol!”

I’d like to clear that up.

The regular paper no longer comes out on Friday. Instead, we’re trying this new thing called Wildcat Weekend. It’s coverage of alternative, edgier lifestyles and includes a larger emphasis on sports reporting.

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The more colorful content was a point of contention for some of you, especially the inclusion of jungle juice recipes.

We found this a bit surprising, in part because it is a pretty bland article that is mostly just recipes you can find on the Internet. The sarcastic comment that kicked off the backlash on our Facebook page was “Real classy stuff there. Definitely hard-hitting journalism.”

The commenter is right. The article isn’t classy and it isn’t journalism. But arts editor K.C. Libman ran it for a reason.

Recipes, while not journalism, are valid content for newspapers. Jungle juice isn’t classy, but it’s a party staple for many. Our weekend issue strives to be something that students can use to plan their weekend.

Jungle juice is popular, in part, because people want to get drunk but don’t want to taste alcohol. The description of the drink “pink panty dropper” could have used another sentence clarifying that the recipe is a good choice for a group of girls because, in the writer’s opinion, women in particular like jungle juice for this reason. The combination of the name and the description of the recipe as “a happy medium of ‘Oh my gosh, is there alcohol in this?’ and ‘One more of these will be the end of me’” led a few readers to suggest that the Wildcat endorses rape.

To be clear: We do not.

We didn’t name the drink, that’s just what it is most commonly known as.

Should we have encouraged readers to “get hammered” in the article’s headline? Maybe not, but drinking responsibly is the reader’s responsibility. People drink jungle juice to get drunk. It’s part of university life, and the writer, the arts editor, the copy editors and designers, the editor-in-chief and everyone who saw the page during production agreed.

As journalists, we strive to follow the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. One of the tenets of the Code is to minimize harm.

While I don’t think we failed to meet this tenet in printing jungle juice recipes, I do believe we erred in another article in the same issue: “Drugs, booze and girls are all you need for your weekend camping adventure.”

The article recommended going camping and taking psychedelics. While it suggested taking along a “trip-sitter,” it should have been more clear about how to camp safely while high, since the combination could result in serious injury or death.

The same article also should have warned against the danger of becoming dehydrated when drinking, especially since Mt. Lemmon is still experiencing temperatures in the 90s. The writer did note that “hopefully” the reader would bring lots of water, but this was mostly recommended to avoid the annoyance of a hangover.

While we aren’t going to run a Surgeon General’s warning with every article about drinking, including safety tips is particularly important when it comes to doing illegal stuff in the wilderness. Another important distinction between this article and the jungle juice recipes is that the camping article was written as advice for having a good time, whereas the jungle juice article was just a recipe list.

Wildcat Weekend will continue to tackle topics that are a part of weekend life — including sex, drugs and alcohol. What the Weekend won’t forgo in the future is journalism.

The majority of Friday’s issue was sourceless commentary that lacked variety, because four of 15 stories featured alcohol. This was a disservice to our readers, more than running jungle juice recipes was an endangerment to them.

Our arts editor is excited to hear what everyone has to say, good or bad, and he’s excited to dish out content that sparks stimulating conversation and inspires a memorable weekend.

— Bethany Barnes is the managing editor and readers’ representative for the Arizona Daily Wildcat. She can be reached at maned@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @betsbarnes.


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