Every week, students from a variety of majors attempt to come up with story ideas, mold them into topics of interest and finally collect comments from professionals as expert sources. On top of other commitments including homework, other clubs and employment, these students regularly get it done.
One of the most frustrating things for a writer is being ignored when asking a professor or staff member of the University for a comment or an interview. Here at The Outlook, we understand a busy schedule as well as anyone, but is it really that hard to email the writer back either stating you are not the best source for comment (It is always appreciated when someone suggests who would be.) or that you do not have the time to share your thoughts?
The Outlook does not reach out to faculty and staff members haphazardly. Our writers take time to look at course selections and professor profile pages to find the best sources to participate in our articles.
One might feel it is, actually, an obligation of staff members, professors in particular, to share their scholarly knowledge with the University community and the paper. Our job as journalists is to publish facts and opinions surrounding situations and concerns that are important to our readers.
Some members of the University community, including President Paul Gaffney II, Vice President of Student Services Mary Anne Nagy and Vice President of Administrative Services Patti Swannack are some of the busiest people on campus. However, when The Outlook calls, they are more than happy to help us produce the best stories possible, even on very short notice, which they have done consistently throughout the years.
Some departments have made themselves readily available to The Outlook as well. This year, as the Presidential Election took place, the Political Science Department was always open to answer questions from staff members from a variety of sections. The Communication Department also recognizes the importance of making themselves available for comment, which they do regularly and reliably.
Financial aid, the library staff and the School of Science have also contributed to many of the stories that have appeared in the paper and generally model the type of relationship faculty and staff should have with student journalists.
Some departments, however, could be more forthcoming. While there are some individuals in these departments who are willing to share their thoughts, we are disappointed that, generally speaking, the criminal justice department, psychology department, education department and Leon Hess Business School rarely respond to inquiries for comment. In fact, professors like Dr. Michele Grillo of criminal justice, Dr. Al Caviola of psychology and Professor John Buzza of the Leon Hess Business School is certainly exceptions to this dynamic and perhaps there are others that we failed to list.
Our goal as the school’s newspaper is not to condemn anyone, but merely provide the campus with good information. If The Outlook takes the time to reach out to you, why wouldn’t you take the time to at least respond that you are not interested? Many of those same people, who ignore requests for comment, tend to be the first ones to complain that their discipline is under-represented in the newspaper.
For departments that might feel neglected by the newspaper, we can assure you that we are thrilled to publish stories that discuss achievements, events and issues regarding your disciplines. It would be easier for us to do that on a regular basis, if people in those departments provided the paper with information that we could then pursue and build stories around. Because a department might not be covered regularly is not an indication of a lack of interest on the paper’s part, rather more often than not, it merely indicates that we were unaware of the newsworthy information.
We understand sometimes staff members do not want their opinions in print. However, The Outlook invites views from all sides of an issue. As a newspaper, our objective is sharing facts and credible opinions.
On a college campus, there is always a story to be found. There are always people who want to talk about it, but the paper having a professional opinion from an administrative staff member or a professor really gives an article more credibility and insight. Students can be great sources but sometimes do not have the practical or life experiences to comment on certain issues and they are usually not professionals in a particular field.
Clearly, The Outlook does not escape criticism either. Certainly, some reporters for good or bad reasons might approach a source without as much notice as we would like and as you deserve. The paper makes it a priority to avoid this situation and regrets when it occurs. We would hope, however, that invited sources try to understand that often journalists have no control when news breaks and are sometimes forced into this unfortunate circumstance. We also apologize for overzealous writers who might ask one or two questions too many, but if we are going to make a mistake, we would like it to be that we are too thorough as opposed to being too cavalier.
So next time you see that subject line on an email or a voicemail on your phone from The Outlook, we ask that you do not dismiss it. By doing so, you miss out on a wonderful opportunity to provide good information to readers who will benefit from it.
Education is what a college environment is about. So to those members of the University community that are always there to help us, we thank you for your time and consideration and hope to continue our partnership. To those who would rather not comment in the paper, we invite you to join us and open a new world of opportunity for students and the campus community at large to have a deeper understanding of issues that you may have devoted your life to.