By Kristen Griffith, The Whetstone
I first met President Robert Clark two years ago during the student fees crisis. Students and faculty were in the middle of fighting for student independence over their organization’s finances and resisting the CFO’s attempt to control it, including The Whetstone’s budget.
It was the perfect time for change, and I hoped the new college president could bring it.
However, the administration’s relationship with The Whetstone worsened when Clark began his presidency.
Interviews with Clark were difficult. He disallowed voice recorders, which would have helped capture accurate quotes. He requested significant parts of the interview to be off the record. And perhaps worst of all, he often turned a conversation into a belittling lecture.
His common criticism implied that The Whetstone only wrote “negative” news, that we aren’t “real journalists” and, his latest sneer, we practice “yellow journalism.”
I sympathize with journalists who are trying to cover Donald Trump.
Last year, I wrote, “Whetstone Receives Criticism During Town Hall Meeting” after Clark used his platform to condemn The Whetstone during an event meant for students to voice their personal concerns.
Since his arrival, reporters have struggled to get interviews from administration. He’s claimed on a few separate occasions that students, faculty and staff do not trust The Whetstone since we only report negative news.
However, students pointed out to him during last semester’s Coffee and Concerns, as we’ve made clear in the past, The Whetstone reports what’s happening on campus, it’s negative or positive.
Perhaps it’s Clark who’s biased toward independently-minded students and the truth of what’s happening on campus.
A reporter wanted to write about the progress Clark has made since becoming president nearly two years ago. After agreeing to meet on Feb. 27, Clark, three days before the interview, said he wanted to reschedule for April 26. That’s the third day of finals week and after the last Whetstone issue would be printed.
Clark, however, was available for an interview about Founders Day with a different reporter March 24 – a month before the rescheduled interview about his progress.
Despite this, the administration’s relationship with The Whetstone recently has generally improved.
But I am not convinced Clark respects our jobs as journalists.
Of course, the president of a college is expected to portray himself and the college positively, but doesn’t the president also have a duty to the truth and to enhance the education of students?
The Whetstone consists of student journalists whose education is hindered every time we are shut down for pursuing a controversial story.
Instead of criticizing us for shedding light on a subject that needs light, perhaps we should do something about it.
Instead of trying to convince people our stories are negative, question why the sources of the news allow it to happen.
And instead of rescheduling a story for two months later, have the guts to say why you are or are not interested in an interview about the progress you’ve made since becoming president of Wesley College.