The story: the USF Faculty Association was holding "informational picketing" sessions last Monday and Wednesday to raise awareness about their ongoing contract negotiations with the administration.
I got in touch with the president of the USFFA and had a phone interview with him over the weekend. Then I figured I could get in touch with the rest of my sources on Monday as the picketing was going on.
The Foghorn does layout Monday night. I had Monday afternoon (my only free time after three classes) to gather the majority of my sources and write the entire 600+ word article. I quickly spoke to as many people as I could who were outside at the event, and then scrambled into the Foghorn office to get my words onto paper, fast.
The story was, I thought, a success. It was long. There were a lot of quotes. My grammar was superb and the story flowed quite nicely. A+ work, I thought.
Sometime around Tuesday, I got a nagging feeling in my stomach. There was something not right about my story. By Wednesday, it was quite clear: my story only presented one side of the issue. Only USFFA picketers and supportive students were quoted. There was no representation from the administration, nor any dissenting faculty or student voices. Oh. Shit.
Sure enough, Thursday morning, after the paper had been on the newsstands no more than 12 hours, Fr. Stephen Privett, USF president, sent the Foghorn an extremely angry e-mail. I'll quote for you some of Privett's more stinging insults:
- "The article is a classic case of 'Fox' journalism where one and only one perspective is passed it off as 'news.'"
- "How can anyone with a brain think that the University 'has run economic surpluses of $40 million a year for the last three years?'"
- "Had your reporter taken the time to at least review my convocation address, she might have had a clue about the University’s overall financial situation."
- "The Foghorn’s passing off such a one-sided, partisan discussion of a very complex situation as a 'new' article is inexcusable."
I definitely regret not spending more time gathering interviews to create a balanced article. It's true that the article was "biased." Not in the sense that I included my own opinions in the piece, but in the sense that I only interviewed people on one side of the issue. Was this based on my own feelings about the faculty contract negotiations? Hardly! It was simply a matter of a busy student journalist trying to do too much in too little time.
I realize now that when one has the great responsibility of covering a story that actually MATTERS to a lot of people, a reporter has to be extremely fair to each and every side -- and if I was too busy to cover the story responsibly, I should have held it for the next week's issue or asked for help from another reporter.
Though I think Fr. Privett's e-mail was a tad harsh, I definitely feel remorseful. Cheesy as it sounds, I learned a valuable lesson from this experience.
Please, read the story for yourself and tell me what you think. And this goes back to my last week's blog post: how do you go about defining bias? And is it always such a horrible thing? Anyway, things to ponder...