NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Letter to the Editor: Observer staff incompetent

The follow is a Letter to the Editor that I’m submitting to the Observer. If I can be of assistance in anyway please let me know. I look forward to hearing from you. -Daniel Potocki


The Observer, the award winning student newspaper of Northern Essex Community College, has failed the students, faculty, and greater community it is supposed to serve. In the February 24, 2016 issue of the paper there were a number of errors so fundamental to publishing a newspaper, that it exposes some combination of gross apathy, willful disregard of duty, and stunning ignorance on the part of the Editorial staff.
The Opinions section is one half, the other being News, of the foundation upon which a newspaper is built. In a college newspaper the Opinions section is a place for exploring important beliefs and values as well as sharing new ideas with the community. It is the voice of the community, and a place to reflect. While the News section is supposed to be pure objective reporting, the Opinions section is where that news gets interpreted, broken down, and placed into the community conversation. The Opinions section is where critical thinking lives.
The whole of this issues Opinion section, outside of the Editorial which I will address shortly, was dedicated to the article, “Tutorial: Do-it-yourself Spa Day.” This is a complete and utter failure of journalistic integrity, and a failure of duty to the community. There was a time when the Opinions section was vibrant with the voices of students and faculty. A time when important ideas were discussed and explored in it’s pages. In it’s place now is the essence of vapidity, and the Staff should be ashamed that this was allowed to happen. This is made even more galling by the fact that we are in the middle of a landmark election year, that is shaking the very core of the American political establishment, on both sides of the isle. Given all that, and all the contentious and powerful issues we face in modern American society, the best the Opinions section is capable of delivering in a how-to guide for an in home spa day? The is ridiculous and insulting to the readership.
On top of that to then have the papers Editorial be written in the first person, as part of a Letter to the Editor? Does the staff of The Observer not understand that an Editorial is the unsigned opinion of the newspaper itself? Do they not understand that Letters to the Editor should be kept apart from other articles? Do they not understand that something written in the first person should at least be signed by someone? I honestly don’t know how individuals put in charge of an award winning newspaper could not be aware of the fundamental rules for putting one together. Further, if they are aware, then how did this happen? Did no one in the process from conception to publishing stop and think, “maybe this is a bad idea?”
For the Opinion piece on home spa days to be published, an almost comical series of repeated failures of basic competence had to have occurred. The Opinions Editor, Rachael Sarcione, had to fail to realize the piece shouldn’t be in her section. Then the Copy Editor, Jowi Meli, needed to fail to recognize that the piece shouldn’t be in that section. Finally, the Editor in Chief, Kim Whiting, who is ultimately at fault for this debacle, had to completely fail in her job to see that not only did this piece not belong in the Opinions section, but that both her Opinions Editor, and her Copy Editor seemed to not have a firm grasp on what exactly their job is. I can only hope that some member of the staff raised this concern, but was overruled. Did this happen because of ignorance or apathy? Either way, The Observer owes the NECC community an apology for a total failure of quality control and journalistic ethics.
The Observer is one of the first things people who come to the school will see. For many who don’t attend clubs or activities on campus it is the only way they will ever engage with the rich, diverse, and vibrant community at NECC. For some, the columns in the Opinion section represent the best chance for engagement with new ideas that will challenge their own beliefs, the very purpose of higher education. In all respects The Observer didn’t just fail its own national award winning heritage, it failed the NECC students and faculty, and it failed the other Observer staff Editors who are competently running their sections. The paper is only as strong as it’s weakest links, and this edition exposed some very weak links indeed.
My name is Daniel Potocki, I’ve been a student at NECC since the fall of 2006. In my time at the college, I have been in Student Senate, the President of Contemporary Affairs, the Opinions Editor of The Observer, and the Editor in Chief of The Observer. I am in the unique position of knowing exactly what is required of the Editorial Staff, and how difficult the job is, because it was a job I did for several years.
I’m writing today, as a former Editor in Chief, to express my sadness and frustration at what has become of the newspaper I used to run. As the voice of direct experience, I implore Sarcione, Meli, and Whiting to consider if they are really qualified and suited for the positions they hold on staff. For instance if Sarcione wants to write these kinds of articles then maybe she would be better suited in a different position on the paper. I ask The Observer staff to look back and try and figure out what series of events lead to such a complete failure of the basics. Then they need to go back and relearn the fundamentals of running an Opinions section so they can actually serve their community, and stop tarnishing the reputation of the paper that means so much to so many.

With respect and disappointment,
Daniel Potocki, former Editor in Chief of The NECC Observer