The Chronicle’s View: It’s hard to give you the truth when we’re not allowed to find it

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Recently, Chronicle reporters who have tried to cover public meetings on the U campus have found themselves in difficult situations: outside closed doors.

Some organizations call meetings citing the purpose of “getting the word out” or “announcing new advancements in a field of study.” But when the press shows up to further their words to an entire campus population and beyond, they are shut out or avoided like the bird flu.

That can only lead us to assume that one of three things is happening:

One, something shady is going on behind those closed doors.

Two, organizers are afraid of cameras.

Or three, people aren’t familiar with the laws that apply to meetings.

Because we are a campus that is part of a democracy, let’s skip the first assumption for now.

As far as the second goes, don’t worry. The Chronicle does not exist to make you look bad in front of thousands. On the contrary, we’re here to inform our readership of these important issues. The only way we can get facts is to sit in on meetings and interview organizers and participants for their insight.

So if you don’t want to talk to reporters, that’s your choice. The story will still be written and writers will still have the same legal access to public meetings that every citizen has. But it would certainly help Chronicle reporters attain a higher level of truth if those involved were willing to talk.

If you’re concerned about being misquoted, rest assured there is a way to protect yourself against misquotes.

While it is our policy not to send entire articles to anyone prior to publication, reporters are allowed to send sources their own quotes and offer some context surrounding those quotes before they appear in the next day’s issue.

The Chronicle has needed to run relatively few corrections and clarifications this year, but help us be sure this is a result of us not making mistakes, rather than not hearing about the mistakes we do make. It would be a shame for us to make an error without hearing about it.

Pertaining to the third issue at hand, some campus entities have recently broken state laws by calling for closed meetings, without the press’ presence. They should know, or be warned, that doing so is a direct violation of long-established open access laws, and when the goings-on behind those closed doors are newsworthy, we will not stand for it.

The reason we’re so gung-ho on this topic is that the readers whom we represent should not have to stand for it, either.

Business that involves the campus should not be held in private. Doing so means those in attendance have no one to whom they must answer and be held accountable.

In the post-Sept. 11 world, many complain the government is increasingly engaging in secrecy. Our campus should not follow suit.