MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — A professor first got Senior Matthew Giffin interested in Middle Tennessee State University’s student-run paper called Sidelines.
“[I] started out writing sports articles, writing about the football team, and I eventually migrated to the news section,” Giffin said.
During his time at MTSU, Giffin worked his way up, eventually becoming editor-in-chief. “I loved working for Sidelines, I really did. It took a lot in me to make the decision to do what I did.”
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But he decided to step down after issues arose with an article he recently published.
When Hamas attacked Israel in early October, Giffin decided to write a story about an MTSU student who had friends living in Tel Aviv.
“It was a profile on a student who has a particular point of view and experience based on what’s happening over there,” he said.
After sharing the story on Instagram, Giffin said the paper soon started receiving negative feedback and comments from students. “I expected a little bit — I didn’t expect the amount that it got.”
Giffin claimed the student in the piece asked him to take down the story out of concern for his safety, so he did. But then Giffin, the editorial board, and the newspaper’s faculty advisor met to discuss issuing a statement about pulling down the story.
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“I voiced my concerns several times, and I think it was ignored,” Giffin said.
The statement explained why they removed the story, but it also said the paper, “failed to report on the casualties the Palestinian people have suffered and focused only on damage done to the Israeli population.”
“I pushed back against the wording of the statement several times, and they put it out anyways,” said Giffin. “So seeing nothing really left to do, I resigned because I didn’t want to stand behind that statement.”
Giffin said he loved his time at the paper and still cares for those who work there, but believes there’s still an issue of antisemitism that needs to be talked about.
“It’s here too,” he said. “It’s right at home and I think it’s important people start to realize that so we can take action and eliminate the influence of these attitudes.”
News 2 reached out to the news editor of the paper who sent this statement:
“Sidelines denies silencing former editor-in-chief Matthew Giffin. Late last month, the student editorial board took part in a timely and ethical discussion about the article in question and decided to publish a statement explaining why the article was removed. In addition to addressing the threats to the student being interviewed, the board also recognized an imbalance in the story’s reporting of casualties resulting from the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel. Our faculty adviser, Leon Alligood, did not advise us to take down the article. Our former editor-in-chief decided to retract the story prior to meeting with the editorial board and faculty adviser. Mr. Alligood did not advise the board to publish a statement. After the article was retracted, we felt it was necessary to provide an explanation to our readers. Sidelines is a publication where student journalists learn through real-world experiences such as this. We continually strive for accuracy and balance. We thank our former colleague for his contributions to and leadership of Sidelines and wish him the best in all his future endeavors.“