I have one of my favorite quotes scribbled in green marker on my office whiteboard.
“The only thing you deserve is what you earn,” Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands once told his team after a tough meet.
His words are how I try to live my life, run my newspaper and project my career. In managing The Daily Reveille, my mantra is the same as Brands’ — work as hard as I can to earn your trust.
But I made some missteps last week.
we published a story regarding a 2012 incident where Kenneth Barnes — a member of the task force and current president of the Student Bar Association — experienced a racially motivated verbal attack by a fellow law student, who was white, at an off-campus function. Barnes is black.
In both instances, The Daily Reveille failed in a cardinal tenet of journalism — providing both sides of a story. Law Center Chancellor Jack Weiss, or anyone else affiliated with the Law Center’s administration, was not contacted for the Nov. 4 story concerning Barnes’ incident, an egregious fault that I am still incredulous I did not catch before going to print.
Both stories fundamentally misrepresented the Law Center’s efforts to increase its diversity, failed to adequately and clearly state the Law Center’s actual diversity numbers when compared to other schools, and the final story neglected to highlight fully the Law Center’s response to Barnes’ allegations. For these journalistic shortcomings, I fully apologize.
The type of well-reported, thorough story I expect for my newspaper would have included that, in fall 2007, about 4 percent of the Law Center’s students were African-American. That tripled to 12 percent this fall.
Twenty-one percent of the current student body is not Caucasian, according to a memo Weiss penned when he appointed the task force. The figure was 13 percent in 2007.
Furthermore, 12 of the 36 current Law Center tenured or tenure-track faculty members are either women (8 faculty members) or minorities (4 faculty members).
Southeastern Conference law schools’ average non-Caucasian enrollment is 21 percent. LSU Law Center had 23 percent in 2013, representing the most recent date that has comparative data for use.
Those aforementioned statistics and facts, when coupled with our original story that reported and quoted Robert Alagood’s letter sent to Weiss asking to address diversity, make a thorough, well-reported story.
Unfortunately, this did not occur.
Readers were left not fully informed, and the Law Center was characterized as the “white people law school” in a statement by Alagood. Statistics and facts do not fully back Alagood’s statement, and the Law Center was
Perhaps my worst error came in the Nov. 4 story detailing Barnes’ incident at an off-campus Halloween party. While Barnes told his version of the story and the ensuing actions of the Student Ethics Committee, The Daily Reveille did not reach out to the Law Center or any other Law Center student — aside from Barnes — for comment.
Weiss wrote an email to Law Center students on Nov. 20, 2012, which said, in part, “I condemn unequivocally the use of this hateful word in the circumstance of the Halloween party incident.”
Without comment from Weiss, anyone else within the administration of the Law Center or other students who were present during the time of the incident, the story does not meet my standards and mischaracterizes the Law Center’s response to the incident.
My standards, and the standards of The Daily Reveille, call for balanced, thorough, fact-filled reporting that tells both sides of a story, no matter the gravity of the situation. There is no excuse for this lapse in journalistic ethics, and I take full responsibility for the error of letting these stories print without balance.
It was a momentary lack of control in my newsroom and an error I will work diligently to make sure never happens again. I hold myself and my staff at The Daily Reveille to the highest standard, and it’s clear these standards were not met.