Self-criticism is a central pillar to both writing and political organising. I generally write down my own criticisms of my writing in order to improve future projects. In usual circumstances, I would not publish one. It just would not be interesting. The reason I am publishing this one is that I felt that the situation deserved it for the sake of transparency.
This small follow-up serves as a bit of a self-criticism as some of my methods relating to the research and the words I used in the article were not appropriate. Beginning with my methods of research. When interviewing the leadership and observing the events held by SOS – NoVA, I was not openly clear about all of my intentions and did not attempt much of a journalistic neutrality. By this, I do not mean that I should have informed my sources that the article would be critical, I am under no obligation to do so. What I mean is that I should not have been as open and personal with them as I was. I walked the line between being polite and being a friend which was compromising to the trust of my sources, their expectations of the article and my journalistic integrity. Not to say I regret making their acquaintance. I thank them still for allowing me to interview them and their hospitality but, attempting to be close and offer my services gave a wrong impression that clearly did not allow for them to have proper expectations of the article. Furthermore, my participation in their poster event, while not wholly a mistake, should have been handled in a more professional manner than it was. This again heightened the expectations of my sources and was not fair to them. One may, quite rightfully, ask why I did these things. To answer this all I can say is that I am new to the field of journalism. I was not fully aware of what the proper etiquette for dealing with sources was. This is no excuse and I can say that I will not be making similar mistakes in the future.
As for the actual article itself, I have mixed feelings about the way it turned out. While the tone was always supposed to be critical, the harshness of my tone and tactics of illustration ranged from mean to ethically questionable. The main area of concern is my handling of the interview and how I reported it. In general, my tone was needlessly harsh. The harshness was not needed to illustrate my point, I could have been critical and polite. I will say though that I am not really ashamed of this as much as I feel that I could have done it better in a more polite way. Where a major issue arises is when I wrote about the turnout of the walkouts and my claim that they use an open forum method to be able to claim more legitimate attendees. This claim is an inference based on my personal experiences with the movement, the interview with the leadership, and other sections of my research. While I still hold that this claim is not improbable and certainly has a degree of truth to it, I will admit that I should have been clearer in the fact that it was an inference. Another mistake I noticed was my usage of a quote from my sources about their lack of platform. This quote should not have been used for one simple reason, it was stated off the record. There is really no excuse for this and negatively impacts my credibility and the trust of my sources. The last real concern was my singling out of one of the sources and discrediting them as a socialist. While to many Marxists harsh criticism is not only common but encouraged among comrades, a news article is not a proper place to put them. As I would consider the source a comrade, I should have voiced my criticism in a more direct way rather than in an article of which it had little reason for being there.
All this being said, I stand by everything I wrote. All of my criticisms are legitimate and are backed up by quotes, experiences, and the actions of the movement. What I should have done however is made my opinion that the movement is not completely useless clearer than I did. The March for Our Lives and its related movement are not useless. They have allowed for students to get more politically active and enter the world of political organising. As much as this is true, it is also true that these movements cannot go without criticism and the organisers of these groups should expect criticism, especially criticism from their own political sect. Again, I stand by everything I said, they are legitimate grievances that needed to be stated and the movement should be aware of. I regret being so aggressive in my language but, that’s where it ends really. If the organisers of SOS – NoVA are reading this, and I do hope they are, listen to what I wrote. Take note of it. Even if you do not necessarily agree with the criticism. It is the way to improving yourselves as a movement. You gotta learn to take it. I will conclude with a little challenge for you, both as individuals and as an organisation: prove me wrong. Believe it or not, I want to see you get better at what you do.