Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pandering Misleading Headlines

The University of Akron is a mess.  It has a $60 million budget hole.   To address that budget problem it has eliminated 213 positions including the entire staff of the Akron community's premier performing arts center, EJ Thomas Hall.  

The headline on the front page of the print version of the the Akron Beacon Journal reads:  PROENZA SPEAKS ON UA - former president defends financial record during 15-year tenure in aftermath of current budget cuts.  

That's not a headline that holds a public official accountable.   It's an excuse.  It is also rather misleading.   

A more accurate headline would be:  Proenza refuses to be interviewed; issues self-serving statement.   My, my, he defends what he did.   Surprise, surprise.   With no follow up questions, he's able to say whatever he wants unchallenged.  Another more accurate headline for the front page would be:  Beacon Journal copies and pastes Proenza's press release for the front page.

The Beacon Journal writes, "when asked to respond to questions about the university's current financial problems, UA past president Luis Proenza issued a statement..."

Interview by email is NOT an interview.

Whenever a public official refuses to be interviewed, that needs to be highlighted.  

It's understandable public officials refuse to be interviewed.   They don't want to be held accountable.   They know they can get away with it for a simple reason:  the press allows it. 

As lots of university employees get fired, it's understandable several faculty members are upset that one area that didn't get touched is football, a program that loses 8 million a year. How come?   You don't find any accountability questioning there.  As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, Scarborough said the football program is a "marketing asset that brings in students." 

Where is the follow up question?   Who is dumb enough to believe that statement?

What evidence is there the football program with the lowest Division I attendance in the country attracts students?   The follow up question is essential.   Without the follow up question there is no accountability.

At Kent State where I teach, I give a lot of student tours.   I've never had a student say "gee, I was watching a Kent State (football/basketball) game and decided I want to go to Kent State School of Journalism where I get charged $24 per credit hour to help pay for college athletics "  

Whenever university officials refuse to be interviewed, that needs to be reported prominently.   When university officials refuse to answer questions, that needs to be reported and highlighted.   And when a university president makes a statement that is totally nonsensical, i.e, the football program is a "marketing asset that brings in students," the reporter needs to ask the follow up question.

Copying and pasting a press release is not reporting.  If you're not doing accountability journalism, it's not journalism. 


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