Staff Editorial: The Graphic’s Senior Leaders Strengthen Their Commitment to Inclusive, Unbiased Coverage

Art by Ally Armstrong

The Graphic remains dedicated to serving the Pepperdine community as an inclusive, unbiased news source. In the past, we have done this by holding those with power accountable, exposing injustices and amplifying voices in the community. As we begin a new semester, this paramount goal remains unchanged.

Over 25% of U.S. Americans have “not very much” trust in the media, while over 30% have “none at all,” according to a Gallup poll. In a society where the public distrusts the media more than ever before and where human rights are often equated with politics, we promise to remain transparent and nonpartisan. We will continue to balance our commitment to equality with our commitment to objectivity.

In a June 2020 staff editorial, the Graphic promised to amplify Black student voices, and now, we are again holding ourselves accountable to this promise. We understand the importance of representation and, as editors, it is our responsibility to ensure that the stories our staff interviews represent the diversity of our readers — the same readers whose input we seek through social media, surveys and letters to the editor.

The Graphic, especially our By The Numbers special edition, has gained increased attention on social media, facing accusations of favoring a liberal point of view.

While we always welcome conversation and constructive criticism, being called biased when our primary objective is to be unbiased has motivated us to reiterate the core values we have always held.

We hold the conviction that telling the stories others wish to remain untold — including exposing instances of racism, sexism and homophobia — is not political: It is the truth. We acknowledge that as human beings, we possess natural biases and we work every day to ensure our content is balanced and accurate.

The insurrection at our nation’s capitol reaffirmed our belief in the importance of true, unbiased journalism and our duty as journalists to protect democracy.

Although the Graphic’s long-term goals remain unchanged, these recent events within our community and our nation have strengthened our staff’s commitment to these goals, motivating us to hold ourselves more accountable to a process of constant improvement. Here are just a few of the plans our current senior leaders have to achieve our objectives for the spring 2021 semester.

“In the art department, we are committed to promoting diversity and representation through the artwork we produce. Our section strives to create art using inclusive imagery that all our readers can identify with.” — Ally Armstrong, Art editor

“Pepperdine Graphic Media’s readership is composed of individuals from different backgrounds, and therefore, it is important to not focus on one individual group but rather how different groups come together to make the world a better place.” — Sahej Bhasin, advertising director

“My section depends largely on other sections, as I promote the diverse sections of PGM. In terms of remaining an unbiased news source, I will be committed and encourage my team to be committed to fact-checking before promoting any content.” — Hadley Biggs, Business director

“While we’ve always sought to include students of all years, majors and backgrounds, this spring’s episodes will intentionally highlight diverse student experiences and interests. In addition to continuing content, a new series will spotlight smaller student clubs and their members.” — Marisa Dragos, video producer

“Accuracy of grammar, style and content is the focus of the copy editing desk. With this principle in mind, the copy editors and I are aiming to ensure fair and balanced coverage by optimizing factual accuracy, argumentation and readability of all of the pieces that are published.” — Tiffany Hall, Copy chief

“The photo desk strives to maintain accuracy and transparency with our photos. We never want to take any misleading or misdirecting photos, especially for breaking news events. It is our priority to hold ourselves as photographers accountable for shooting what is happening in reality, not what our biases or heads tell us to search for. ” — Ali Levens, Photo editor

“PGM is constantly growing as a newsroom and as a group of people. As we know, people aren’t perfect, so we look to our readers to hold us accountable. Our lines of communication are always open and welcome to comments, criticism or concerns. Whether you want to reach out privately through email or publicly through social media, we always encourage comments and conversations.” — Sofia Longo, Life & Arts editor

“Podcasts go through the same editorial process as articles and other sections of the Graphic, meaning that our unbiased approach as an organization is also applied toward our podcasting. Each podcast brings to light specific topics or people, but multiple sources are usually sought for.” — Kaelin Mendez, head podcast producer

“The PGM News team is committed to reporting, researching and interviewing diverse angles and sources in every piece and telling every story impartially with integrity and humility. As News editor, I strive to create a news cycle focused on the breaking and also the rebuilding, listening to the voices of the Pepperdine community before my own.” — Ashley Mowreader, News editor

“The media is meant to be unbiased and show all the facets of the world we love, and Perspectives will showcase all opinions. We will be reaching out to cultural clubs like BSA and now political student groups like the Pepperdine Republicans, so we can have balanced, fair and unbiased writing. People have bashed the Graphic for being too liberal or just ignoring the stories and perspectives of others, and that includes different political groups and POC at Pepperdine. Perspectives will stand as a place for all the world’s opinions to gather and engage with one another, no matter race, culture and orientation — whether sexual or political.” — AJ Muonagolu, Perspectives editor

“We want to commit to being a desk where Pepperdine athletes, coaches and community members can speak their mind and feel empowered to share their viewpoints on issues that matter. At the same time, we also want to acknowledge the lens through which many view sports — as an escape from daily life or an outlet to simply have pride in their school or enjoy the accomplishments of our talented student-athletes. For those people, we’re going to keep doing what we’ve always done — giving you the accurate scores and stats, win or lose, and telling the stories of the incredible people who make up the Pepperdine Athletics community.” — Paxton Ritchey, Sports editor

“For big stories in particular, we will include a blurb that goes into the behind the scenes process of our writers. This is in the spirit of increasing transparency into the journalistic process and us as an organization. We hope to be able to answer some questions you as the reader might have about our intentions and things that might not already be in the story, including why we chose a certain story or what we still might not know. Ultimately, our lines of communication are open, and if you have any unanswered questions about the process behind a certain story, we welcome you to share them with us by filling out a form you can find by clicking on the “Let us know your questions” button near the bottom of the newsletter.” — Emily Shaw, Pixel editor

“This semester, Currents is intentionally highlighting stories of people who have found beauty amid ashes, life after loss, forgiveness in pain, hope in despair and anything in between. I know so many people in our community have a beautiful story to share, and I don’t want a single one to be overlooked or unheard.” — Lindsey Sullivan, Currents editor

“When you read the Graphic, we hope you get the sense that every design choice took several sources of input and background checking for it to come together. Before we design a page, we will always read the articles to make sure the words come to life in an eye-catching way. Plus, being designers, we always research for design inspiration and have the lucky opportunity to be influenced by resources everywhere. If we’re not being open-minded and accepting, we’re not performing our roles as designers.” — Isabella Teague, lead designer

“The social team continues to be a platform for the entire PGM staff. We make sure to share each writer’s voice with the Pepperdine community. As our writers continue to produce diverse and inclusive content, we ensure that our social media platforms are a reflection of that. After last semester, we want everyone to know that if there are any questions or concerns about anything taking place on our social platforms, our DMs are open and we will always listen.” — Brianna Willis, digital editor

After this semester’s orientation, we plan to meet with the rest of the senior leadership team to plan ways to increase transparency surrounding our journalistic and ethical standards. This might include explaining our policies on our website and social media platforms, discussing why we covered a specific story and how we reported on it, explicitly inviting readers to share their concerns or own stories, including editor’s notes for opinion pieces and developing stories, and more carefully tracking the diversity of our sources.

We acknowledge the lack of diversity — both racially and politically — of our staffand invite students, especially those from underrepresented communities, to apply to join our staff by emailing us. Community members may also contribute a guest column.

Our commitment to diverse, inclusive and unbiased coverage starts with us and this staff editorial.

We are holding ourselves accountable, and we encourage you to do the same by sending us a letter to the editor at

Makena Huey,
Executive editor, Pepperdine Graphic Media

Rowan Toke,
Managing editor, The Graphic