Our Opinion: We still need to talk


The Wood Word, Editorial Board

On Wednesday, Oct. 14, an anonymous letter was delivered to The Wood Word through interdepartmental mail.

The message was written on a print-out of the most recent flyer distributed to faculty by the group “Faculty for a Better Marywood.” The flyer, which The Wood Word subsequently shared on its Facebook page, dealt primarily with the possibility of a vote of “no confidence” against Sr. Anne Munley, president of Marywood and Joseph X. Garvey, vice president of business affairs and treasurer.

A recent flyer was distributed to staff on campus, this time giving information on a potential vote of no confidence in…

Posted by The Wood Word at Marywood University on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The anonymous sender of the letter wrote in red ink on the print-out, highlighting apparent factual issues the sender had with the flyer, going so far as to characterize it as “Lies, lies, lies!!” and asking The Wood Word to “get the facts straight,” instead of reporting “inflated lies that Faculty want people to believe.”

The Wood Word would like to set the record straight on a few things for this and other anonymous writers.

First, by reporting on this latest flyer and the six flyers that preceded it, we were simply doing our job as reporters. The flyers were instances of something unusual happening on campus. That’s called “news” and it is our duty to make the community aware of it.

In the world of journalism, the reporting of information by a news organization does not imply the endorsement of that information. We’re not endorsing the actions of “Faculty for a Better Marywood”; we’re simply letting our readers know what the group is doing.

Similarly, our initial coverage of the flyers as they came out was not an assertion by The Wood Word that they contained accurate statements. The first part of our job was to say: “Hey, these flyers are being spread around campus.”

The second part of our job was to work to verify the information contained in the flyers, and we’ve been doing that since the first one appeared on campus in early September.

We were able to verify some of the information using secondary sources and published an article on Sept. 3.

While we verified some of the material on the flyers based on public records, much of it needed to be verified directly by administration. And in many cases, those administrators have refused to answer our questions.

We were stonewalled for a period of time by Garvey. This means that when we are flatly denied access to information by Garvey or others, our reporting process gets more difficult.

In our editorial board meeting with Sr. Anne, we were finally able to get information from administration on some of the assertions in the flyers, but this came weeks after the original round of flyers. We published a story about our meeting with Sr. Anne on Oct. 7 on our website.

It is important to note here that much of the information contained in the flyers was disputed by Sr. Anne. We reported that in the aforementioned story, which goes to show that we are not simply reporting one side of this story.

In fact, we have been trying and continue to try to report on all facets of stories on Marywood’s campus. If our articles seem one-sided, it is simply because sometimes one side is willing to talk when the other side isn’t. It doesn’t mean we aren’t giving everyone the chance to respond.

As we said in an editorial last month entitled “We Need to Talk,” getting sources has been difficult for some time and has only been getting worse.

Finally, the fact that this letter came to us via interdepartmental mail suggests that it came from a member of faculty, staff, or even administration.

The fact that a professional in the academic world would choose to address students anonymously seems rather backward. The point of higher education is to foster an open dialogue within an open marketplace of ideas. If this professional would rather anonymously send us messages, that does not foster dialogue; instead, it sets back the educational process.

According to Sr. Anne, this fear of an open dialogue apparently stems in part from the belief that The Wood Word is occasionally inaccurate.

When discussing with Sr. Anne the challenge Garvey’s requirement of prior review poses for us as student journalists, she said that it’s possible that he does not want to talk to us because previous stories that have included information attributed to him have been inaccurate.

“I think that the accuracy factor is a factor, and in certain areas, accuracy is really critical, and I think that’s basically some of the concern,” Sr. Anne said. “So if everyone is accurate all across the board, you have true dialogue.”

She seemed to insinuate that she, Garvey, and perhaps the rest of administration believe that there are issues with our accuracy, but she offered us no specific examples of inaccuracy. If we’re not made aware of inaccuracies, we cannot hope to investigate and, if necessary, correct them.

We strive to practice journalism as accurately as possible, but we also acknowledge that mistakes happen, as they do at professional news outlets. We are prepared to correct any mistakes when we are made aware of them.

So to the individual who sent us the interoffice note, and to any others reading, we would like to extend the invitation to write a letter to the editor with your comments or concerns or to communicate with individual reporters if you believe you’ve been misquoted or if there are factual errors in our stories.

We’re open to receiving constructive criticism; that’s how we learn.

We simply ask that you attach your name.