Editorial: Breaking news can break communities

Last week, a certain video may have ended up on your phone. Maybe it was forwarded to your family group chat, maybe it was on your Instagram feed or maybe it was Airdropped to you during second period. Upon seeing this video, you may have impulsively reposted it. Maybe you even laughed at it. Hopefully, you turned to trustworthy sources in hopes of clarifying information in this chaotic time. In doing so, you may have found that the Bark was silent — silent until now. 

On Thursday, Oct. 20, a student and teacher were involved in a physical altercation with one another. As many in the Redwood community did, the Bark staff felt an array of emotions, such as shock, fear, curiosity and sadness. The Bark, a student-run publication, aims to inform, explain, encourage and entertain the student body, while pledging to minimize harm, according to our handbook. So when our missions of informing and explaining potentially contradicted that pledge, the Editors-in-Chief made an executive decision for the staff to take a step back and reflect. 

We acknowledge that local news outlets released articles promptly after the event. While they did this, we were conflicted between publishing a piece in efforts to be a source of truth, as dangerous rumors were circulating, and being wary of adding fuel to fire. But looking back, we now believe it would have done the community a disservice to repost an already spreading video or risk using biased language, as we feel those aforementioned outlets have. We needed time to process and thoroughly understand the nuances and perspectives behind the altercation, as we feel the community should have too, and today, we stand by our decision to hold off on reporting. 

In that fight or flight moment, it was apparent Redwood was just as conflicted as we were. As videos, comments and conversations flooded social media and our classrooms within minutes, students had formed their own version of the event by the time the lunch bell rang.

Sensationalism, the spread of jarring stories to provoke public interest at the expense of accuracy, plagued Redwood in spoken form until Principal Payne’s email was sent out, but remains on the internet forever. What’s more, creating memes and edits out of an altercation that will follow those involved for a lifetime is more than inappropriate. It’s heartless and inconsiderate to the mental and/or emotional conditions that precede such an event. Even liking or commenting on a post circulating this content promotes a culture of insensitivity and remains a part of one’s digital footprint for life. In a time where social media can spread a story faster than any truth-seeking publication can, it is imperative that the community is empathetic and intentional about what information or content they share. 

With this in mind, the Bark is by no means shutting down the idea of reporting on what happened that Thursday. The conversation is still open. If we do cover it, it will be after we collect the necessary perspectives and developed information needed to do this complicated event justice. If we don’t, it will mean we have weighed the ethics of the situation and decided to abstain. 

Respectfully, the Bark.