By Rachel Kimbrough
A former Ledger employee is suing the college for excessive fees for open records requests, as detailed in a report by Tasha Cook on page three of this issue.
You’ll notice my name is in there. If you didn’t, I’ll just tell you now that it is. In fact, I started this whole thing—but I stopped.
Part of being a journalist, even a student journalist, is recognizing the fine line between pursuing a story for the benefit of the publication’s readership and pursuing a story for the benefit of the journalist.
So, in the interest of full disclosure, here’s a little background from my perspective: I made an open records request for emails sent and received between Carmaletta Williams and Jason Rozelle over the course of seven months. The cost of that request was beyond our budget.
Then I did something stupid. I involved other staff members rather than pursuing my own story independently. That was clearly a mistake.
We revised the requests that had gone from mine to ours and resubmitted them with surgically precise search terms. The cost was still beyond our budget.
For my part, that was where I ended my own involvement in that avenue of inquiry. It was a method that clearly just wasn’t going to work, and the college’s reasoning behind its cost projection made sense to me. I can’t speak for anyone else involved.
But I can speak for current staff members. Ledger staff changes every year, if not every semester. The current Ledger staff has made a particular, pinpointed effort to rebuild formerly burned bridges, connections that disintegrated as a result of shoddy practice on the part of past Ledger employees.
And I’m not referring to any one former Ledger staff member. We are, after all, a student-run newspaper. We are not industry-worn professionals. As such, there have been many wrongs committed by unprofessional student journalists over the course of many years. The concern of professionalism in dealings with sources and objectivity in reporting has apparently been sitting on the backburner, unimportant in the minds of a few former staff members and editorial board members alike.
This Ledger staff is different.
This Ledger staff distances itself from past personnel woes, from white-knight delusions of grandeur, from the fall-back muckraking mentality, from stale rivalries whose origins are long since forgotten.
Something we’ve not done (outside of my pointing it out in this particular column) is compare ourselves with past Ledger staffs. We simply made a new system for ourselves, wonderfully simplistic and easy to maintain: show respect to everyone we talk to, but maintain an objective distance. We will cover the tough stories, absolutely–but we’ll not create them out of thin air.
Regardless of anyone’s personal pursuit against the college—whether formerly associated with the Ledger or not—the current Ledger staff will continue to pursue stories in a professional manner in order to serve the college’s students, faculty and staff as well as we can.
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns you have, and thanks for reading.
Contact Rachel Kimbrough, editor-in-chief, at firstname.lastname@example.org.