This past weekend, Stony Brook University was shaken by the passing of one of its students. The Statesman reached out to the campus community looking for comments and information on the incident. Although no journalist enjoys covering these kinds of stories, the truth is that not doing so would have been a greater disservice to Jocelyn Pascucci and would have ignored The Statesman’s civic duty. In a matter of hours, Twitter lit up with negative comments pertaining to The Statesman and a wider discussion on journalistic ethics; specifically the insensitive nature of the press when dealing with tragic events such as the death of Jocelyn Pascucci.
Consider for a moment the alternative to The Statesman’s reportage on the situation. The Statesman could have published an article similar to the ones found in “The New York Post,” “CBS” or “The New York Times”—a sterile article detailing how the doorman of an East Village apartment building found Ms. Pascucci unconscious and how she was pronounced dead at the hospital. But this type of reportage would be a disservice to Jocelyn. We’re all worth more than the type of article that these media organizations published. A quick Google search online of someone’s name should not show the headline “Co-ed dies after boozing.” Instead, The Statesman chose to reach out and get more information about Jocelyn and who she was from the people who knew her best: her friends and family. Jocelyn wasn’t a drug-addict or a drunk; she was a bright, talented young lady. She was an undergraduate fellow for the Undergraduate College of Arts, Culture and Humanities, an avid artist, and a beloved friend and daughter.
We—Stony Brook students—are all grieving. Painting the picture of a life well-lived (with the help of Jocelyn’s friends and family) is the final service we can do for Jocelyn. The friends of students who have passed can help to set the story straight so that all can remember the deceased the way he or she was meant to be remembered. Instead of taking to Twitter to berate The Statesman about the actions taken by its staff, we ask that you help us make sure that Jocelyn’s life isn’t misunderstood. Take a step back and read the media’s coverage of Jocelyn’s death. Now read ours.
The Statesman comprises a group of volunteer staff who are people, too. Journalists all over the world have to do this thankless job, and covering death—especially the death of a peer—is never welcomed. Nobody wakes up in the morning excited to contact grieving people about the friend or family member they recently lost. Our staff performs this task in the interest of providing truthful, accurate information and in serving the community. It comes from a place of respect for the family and friends of the deceased. Not one of our staff members wants to see anything published but the truth. The community should remember Jocelyn for who she was, and as journalists, we do our best to preserve her memory.
Though we never hope for something like this to happen, we hope before you judge The Statesman, you realize we are doing a job that not many can do. Contacting loved ones is not easy. It’s hard to separate yourself from the situation when it hits so close to home. But these are things that as journalists, writers, and staff, we all learn to deal with.
To clarify, Statesman reporters did not inform anyone that Jocelyn had passed away. That is not our place, nor did we publish anything until The Statesman had contacted the police department and received an official confirmation. The Statesman contacted the victim’s friends to find out more about who Jocelyn was. When these individuals refrained from responding, our staff never badgered them.
The fact that we are a campus publication shouldn’t take away from the fact that The Statesman is a legitimate news source. The reality is that we care a lot more about covering the story because we had a connection to Jocelyn. She was our peer and a student at our university, and as a fellow students, we feel much more obligated to report the story in depth. The larger news organizations treat this as just news, but to The Statesman, it’s much more than that. We lost a member of our community, and for The Statesman to be targeted as insensitive for trying to get the full story is hurtful. Covering the death of a student, as a student, is not something we enjoy. We do it because we hope to be remembered and respected in the same way if something were to happen to us.
- The Editors