Миша Дурак (archangelsk) wrote in lincolnlj,
Миша Дурак

"freedom" of the press

[cross-posted to nebraskans as well]

This is pretty fucked up. Terrible to think that Harvey Perlman would want to claim George W. Bush's legacy as his own. Emphasis added.
Vital voices go unheard as UNL limits journalists' access

Posted: 9/17/08

Dear Daily Nebraskan readers,

You may have noticed that some of our news stories have been missing a few noticeable voices recently. Those voices include University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman, other campus vice chancellors, associate vice chancellors and many more sources you've grown to expect to read in our coverage of important campus topics.

We would like to take this opportunity to apologize to you, our beloved reader, for the absence of these voices.

Let us explain the situation our reporters are encountering: These people, mainly administrators, aren't talking to us. Therefore, we can't interview them. Without interviews, we can't quote them in our stories. Here's why:

At the beginning of the school year, our newly developed projects desk started asking for documents from university officials.

Let's just say our administration wasn't too happy with us asking for documents, and soon some of the most important voices on campus received an e-mail from Susan Poser, associate to the chancellor, telling them that Perlman said to not answer any questions or look into any inquiries or requests for documents from journalists working at the Daily Nebraskan.

The e-mail was sent one day after we met with Kelly Bartling, university spokeswoman and manager of news for University Communications, to address her and Poser's concerns about why we were requesting these documents.

Our answer: Because it's our right.

The documents we've requested are public records by all legal standards, and the press has the right—just as our readers and other citizens do—to see these documents. From the behavior of the administrators, they seem to see things differently.

Documents are as telling as people are sometimes. They keep track of trends from one year to the next. If our reporters find trends from the data in documents showing that the university is doing something great, they'll write about it. And if our reporters find trends that don't look so good or even suspicious, they'll write about that, too. They'll question the information and interview the relevant people to tell readers what's going on, if anything. That's a journalist's job.

And now, it feels as though we're being punished for doing our job.

No longer are we allowed to freely interview the reliable, authoritative and informative sources we're used to in order to bring our readers the most in-depth and unbiased stories we can.

Everything now is filtered through the aforementioned Bartling. Administrators are now required to direct any Daily Nebraskan journalist to her for information or inquiries.

Don't get us wrong. We love talking to Bartling. She has always been a friend to the Daily Nebraskan. She still is. She's on the shortlist of who to call to get more information, and she has always made herself available to our reporters and editors.

While we appreciate the time Bartling has devoted to helping reporters get in touch with possible sources, the situation has become quite burdensome for us and probably for her, as well. Each time we want to interview an administrator, she has to talk to them first because of this new procedure Perlman requested. And now more than ever, stories are not getting put into the paper in a timely manner—or at all—for our readers because of this, and because sources haven't been returning phone calls.

This isn't good for anyone—us, them or the readers.

The administration shouldn't expect us to sit and ignore the situation at hand.

We are, after all, the student newspaper of UNL, not the newspaper of the administration. With this policy, the administration is making it tough for us, and tough for Bartling, to do our jobs. We just want to report the news for students.

Yes, you, the students, the people whose tuition pays for these administrators' salaries.

In the past, the Daily Nebraskan has done its best to make students more aware of their administrators. We interview the vice chancellors and deans on a frequent basis to hear what they have to say. Last winter, we wrote a profile on Perlman for a series of articles titled "People to Know." The idea behind the profile was to get students closer to their chancellor. But now, he's pushing himself away.

We also do not believe that the administration should be treating the Daily Nebraskan any differently than other publications. The Lincoln Journal Star and the Omaha World-Herald would never face this treatment. We know that for a fact. We've spoken with people at those papers. They don't have to go through what we're going through right now. Even though we're students, we still deserve the same respect as other journalists who are doing the same job we are. We're still the working press.

So, dearest reader, thank you for giving us this opportunity to explain ourselves. We will continue to provide you with the best information we can with the limited resources we have been given.

All in all, we want administrators to talk to us, not run away. Our ears are always open, and we look forward to the return of their voices in our paper.

The Daily Nebraskan Editorial Board
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