Our coverage of the “derogatory” Facebook group case

 
 

Since the publication of yesterday’s article regarding a Facebook group run by 47 male UCD students that posted photos of women that were described as “derogatory” and “objectifying”, we’ve received numerous posts on our social media accounts supporting and criticising the coverage. The editorial team of the University Observer have elected to provide further information on the story in order to address many issues raised.

Sources

While we are, like any media outlet, entirely entitled to protect our sources in any circumstance, in this case, we were contacted anonymously. The identity of the students who brought the group to our attention is not known to the staff of the University Observer. All information provided by the sources was independently verified after they contacted us late on Sunday night and was all found to be correct.

The group

The Facebook group that was referenced in the article was not a public page O’Halloran had liked, but a group that consisted of UCD students. Up until Marcus O’Halloran was contacted for comment and the page was removed from social media, all of the content in the group was publicly available to any Facebook user and was seen firsthand by the University Observer, including the names of all of the group’s members. Only O’Halloran was named in the article, and that decision was made due to his high-profile campaign across campus and due to specific complaints addressed to the Observer regarded his involvement.

It should be obvious to anyone reading that the existence of the group in itself was an important issue regardless of O’Halloran’s membership. While only one post from the group was published, after being censored by this paper, many of the group’s posts were of a similar nature and had been “liked” by O’Halloran.

Fairness of coverage

We refuse to publish any coverage that is not entirely accurate, fair and necessary. As has been discussed, all information had been independently verified by ourselves and was confirmed by O’Halloran in his statement. In terms of fairness, O’Halloran was given full right of reply to the piece, the publication of which was postponed to ensure his comment was included.

In his statement, which we published in full alongside the piece, O’Halloran apologised for his involvement with the group. For those who have said that the group was taken out of context, O’Halloran did not offer any further information about the nature of the group other than what was said in his statement. Regarding the timing, the story was reported as soon as the full information was in and O’Halloran’s response was received.

For anyone who has seen our video coverage of the election candidates or our election supplement, it should be apparent that our commitment is to fair and objective coverage that is critical of every candidate (many of O’Halloran’s supporters shared our video interview with him, some even doing so to defend him after the story was published). We had no issue writing about financial irregularities during Michael Foley’s tenure as L&H treasurer or Megan Fanning’s unawareness that her involvement in Young Fine Gael had been removed from her manifesto without her knowledge.

All editorial staff members of the Observer were briefed on objectivity in advance of the election, and told to not partake in campaigning. Two who chose to do so were relieved of their duties until the end of the election season and exempted from any involvement in our coverage and accessing any information supplied to the newspaper. Megan Fanning, the presidential candidate, resigned from the staff of the Observer in January of this year, before beginning her campaign. She had served as one of our two news editors, and has had no involvement with the University Observer in any capacity since resigning.

We reported on a group of 47 male students from this University, who publicly shared photos of women in a derogatory fashion. We also reported on a prominent election candidate’s involvement with the group (most of which happened just over a week before publicly announcing his candidacy), only after giving him full right of reply. For those who for whatever reasons feel that we should have withheld or delayed reporting on a story many voters have felt significantly important to their decision, we are happy to respectfully disagree.

If you were a member of the group in question, or have been affected by this group or others in your faculty, and want to provide further information or context, please contact editor@universityobserver.ie.

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