EDITORIAL: Why we reported on the Greek life party — and named names

The+statue+of+John+J.+Egan%2C+located+outside+of+the+Lincoln+Park+Student+Center%2C+wearing+a+mask.

Eric Henry

The statue of John J. Egan, located outside of the Lincoln Park Student Center, wearing a mask.

The purpose of journalism is to hold those in power to account, especially when the actions in question potentially put others at risk. That was the guiding force behind The DePaulia’s coverage of a recent St. Patrick’s Day party that included numerous known members of DePaul’s Greek life community. 

In this situation, the individuals at the party held the power to superspread Covid-19 to the DePaul and Chicago communities. Further, several individuals identified by The DePaulia as leaders in their fraternities and sororities are representatives for groups that recruit younger students and sway the behavior of their group as a whole.

While this news story was intended to highlight the danger that this gathering posed during the pandemic, the conversations within the comments and our DMs have devolved to question whether the publishing of our article was unethical or defamatory.

This presents an opportunity for further education about the role of journalism, editorial decision-making and public access. 

Importantly, this story, like all the others we publish, is based on independent, factual reporting using interviews with involved individuals, photos and other evidence. 

The reporter who wrote the article confirmed that the party occurred on March 13, 2021 — not last year — confirmed with numerous, unrelated sources details about the day’s events and obtained photographic evidence of the party and partygoers. 

If there was no basis to the story, it simply would not have been published. The DePaulia abides by the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which prohibits such reckless reporting. 

So, as any news organization would, we published the story based on facts. 

After the first story, our reporter received a tip about the party regarding additional members of the Greek life community at DePaul who attended the it, some of whom hold leadership positions. 

The DePaulia does not make editorial decisions without first discussing the ethics of those decisions. We decided to name the individuals in the photo who held said leadership positions because they weren’t average partygoers — they are leaders of their organization and therefore responsible for enforcing their policies, including Covid-19 protocols. And, after said discussion, individuals identified in photos by The DePaulia who did not hold such positions were not identified by name in the story.

DePaul’s fraternities and sororities largely operate as a public face of the university. As was reported in the story, the DePaul fraternity and sorority members signed contracts with both the university and their respective Greek Life organizations, where they pledged to abide by the city and university’s Covid-19 guidelines. The party in question violated those guidelines. 

If the party was held by members of the university’s Student Government Association or another campus group, our reporting practices and the story would have been the same. 

The DePaulia is not an organization that operates with the intention of opening sources or subjects to harassment or bullying. The purpose of this article was, as is with all of our other content, to inform the DePaul community of issues that pertain to them and to shine light on an event which potentially exposed members of both the DePaul and Chicago community to harm.

The behavior and activities of student organizations, as well as situations that could lead to worsening the spread of Covid-19 in Chicago, both qualify as information that students need to know.

Some have asked us whether we will step in to moderate or disable comments on our social media accounts. The DePaulia does not tolerate hate speech, threats of violence or slurs on its social media; this type of language will be deleted as soon as we become aware of it. 

However, it is not the role of media to moderate public discourse — and it’s certainly not our role to steer public narrative. Our role is to simply report the facts. Thus, we will not be disabling our comment section at this time. 

Furthermore, The DePaulia is not in communication with the university, the DePaul Panhellenic Council or the DePaul Interfraternity Council in regard to any disciplinary actions that will be against those named in the story or any other DePaul-affiliated individuals found to have attended the party. We are an independent group of student journalists who are not beholden to the wishes of the university or its affiliated bodies. Neither disciplinary decisions nor judgments are ours to make. 

We are always open to hearing from both our readers and the larger DePaul community as to how we can provide quality coverage in a way that is both ethical and not harmful to others. And, we encourage students to submit letters to the editor should they wish. We can be reached at eic@depauliaonline.com, managing@depauliaonline.com and online@depauliaonline.com

We stand by our reporting and our staff who contributed to both stories.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the context within which students who attended the parties held power, for which The DePaulia held them accountable.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect accurate photo copyright information.