Stellar work from the Daily D

Another piece of fine reporting graces the pages of Thursday’s Daily Dartmouth.

Except in feature articles, newspaper leads normally feature the date on which the event being covered occurred. Not only does the article on Trustee T. J. Rodgers ’70 fail to give the date of his appearance (June 11th) and neglect to mention that the press conference was held in the Hanover Inn, it leaves out the reason for his appearance (to see for himself the Dartmouth not presented in glossy alumni office brochures). It does tell us that the “recent” press conference was held “with reporters,” a qualification helpful for those of us who assumed no reporters were present. Lacking key news elements in the lead, it seems patently obvious that the story is not news, so it must be a feature.

The article certainly does not qualify as a feature, either.

In the article, reporter Michael Reeves ’05 discussed a meeting Dr. Rodgers held with faculty. The article then goes on to quote anonymous faculty members based on Dr. Rodgers’ second-hand account, attributing them not to him but to those he paraphrased. This is an extraordinarily poor practice, and was a plain attempt to add legitimacy to the article by having a “second source”; most news article seek at least a second named source to “balance” the story and add credibility, and use anonymous sources only in extreme circumstances.

Despite having 13 days in which to conduct investigative reporting based on the wide array of material he presented, Mr. Reeves did not identify any of the members of the faculty group with which Dr. Rodgers spoke. Though Dr. Rodgers said he would keep their names a secret, the group had decided they would not withhold their names. Armed with this and some other information revealed—for example, that two department chairs were among the faculty—it would be no enormous effort to identify those present.

Some important details Dr. Rodgers mentioned were also left out, notably his meeting with Greek leaders to be held immediately following the press conference. These Greek leaders would undoubtedly be easier to track down and more willing to speak than the faculty members with whom Dr. Rodgers met. Mr. Reeves did not follow up with Dr. Rodgers to ascertain his reaction to his meeting with Greek leaders, which occurred after the press conference, nor did he relate that in a meeting with two of his fellow Trustees Dr. Rodgers was told there were no disillusioned alumni.

The article also neglected to mention the presence at the press conference of the only other alumni Trustee ever elected by petition, John Steele ’54. Mr. Steele’s presence lent not only an air of history to the meeting but also seemed appropriate given it was Dr. Rodgers’ first visit to the College as a Trustee and Mr. Steele’s 50th reunion.

Perhaps most importantly, the article left out the reason these meetings were important in the first place: that Dr. Rodgers was elected on a platform of changing the College. His meetings with those disenchanted with the College suggest he may well carry out at least the beginnings of a reform platform; what that platform might be is not even hinted at.

Other information could have been included given two weeks to research: the last time a Trustee visited campus alone and met in closed-door sessions with students and faculty; and the reactions of other members of the Board to his visit.

It seems like Summer term publication at the Daily D is off to a roaring start.