The Student Government Association was furious. The Crimson, the student weekly newspaper, had just published a story about how organizations still had yet to receive funding from SGA for the semester, and there was less than a month left in the semester. SGA bypassed their faculty advisor (who liked The Crimson) and called in the assistant dean of Student Life, claiming the Crimson contacted incorrect sources, took a quote out of context and purposefully manipulated facts to accuse Senate of blaming and attacking Greek Life. The paper trail proved that none of this was true, but the assistant dean berated the editor-in-chief for allowing an article criticizing SGA to be published nonetheless.
The next week, The Crimson published a full page of responses – one from The Crimson, one from Panhellenic Council, and one from SGA. According to staffers, only then did the SGA president respond to requests for information. (Earlier, he had not responded and information had been received from the SGA Pro Tempore).
At the end of the day, the Crimson staffers had done an incredible job covering the story. They told the story with the information SGA had given them, and kept the story unbiased. The truth is that dozens of organizations were furious with SGA, and adding bias to the article would have been easy. However, the Crimson staffers did not do this and told the story in a way that was completely fair. Yes, the story shone a negative light on SGA, but that is the fault of SGA. SGA had made some significant mistakes, and the Crimson only reported on it.
There are a couple of lessons to learn from this ongoing story…
1) When there is a significant problem that affects hundreds of people, it is the responsibility of the media to report on it. Therefore, when your organization gets into a rut, they need to have a plan of action as to how to properly share this with the media. They don’t need to try to cover anything up or play the blame game.
2) If you do not give media outlets the information they request, the media will still publish the information they have. If the story doesn’t come out the way you want it to, that is your fault, because you did not respond to the media when they tried to contact you.
3) Media outlets need to have a solid paper trail. If you (as the media outlet) are ever accused of misquoting someone or taking something out of context, the paper trail is the only thing that can get you out of trouble.
First article: http://samfordcrimson.com/?p=5546
Second article: http://samfordcrimson.com/?p=5597