Journalism prof & students challenge university’s overpaid PR flacks

That would be at the University of Maryland. The Washington Post reports:

While most of the facts contained in Maryland Today’s posts may be accurate, some articles omit negative facts necessary to understand what actually happened. …

In “University Commits to Follow McNair Report Recommendations,” the author discusses the report’s findings and the conditions leading to [UMD football player] Jordan McNair’s death, but the only quotes are from university officials. Students, athletes, and McNair’s family are completely left out. “President Loh and I are wholeheartedly committed to the safety and well-being of our students,” Athletic director Damon Evans said. “We will do everything in our power to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”

Similar quotes from other university officials are scattered throughout, painting the university in a positive light. In Diamondback articles, by contrast, McNair’s father is quoted, saying “[Coach Durkin] shouldn’t be able to work with anyone else’s kid,” and Student Government Association President Jonathan Allen says, “If, somehow, coach Durkin is reinstated, I think that would be indicative of … instances where athletics department have valued their bottom line more than they valued their student-athletes. If [players] say that they don’t feel comfortable under a coach that had a death [on] his watch, then that should be the only thing that matters.”

The Society of Professional Journalists, an organization representing journalists, encourages news organizations to adhere to its code of ethics, which are not legally binding. Its four principles are: seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and to be accountable and transparent.

“It fails all four tenets of the SPJ standards,” Sandy Banisky, senior ethics lecturer at the University of Maryland said of Maryland Today. “It certainly fails journalism ethics.”

On the matter of independence, OSC’s Seligman, who wrote an Aug. 27 piece on the investigation into the football program’s alleged “toxic” culture, is paid nearly $250,000 per year, according to a salary guide posted in The Diamondback.


Office of Strategic Communications staffers are paid much higher for their public relations publication than the independent student-run news publication, the Diamondback. The paper reports on campus news and the surrounding area. (Chart by Morgan Caplan)

As for “balance in reporting,” most of Maryland Today’s articles do not provide competing viewpoints or facts from a variety of sources. The majority of sources quoted are officials paid by the university. Often stories use just one quote from one official. …

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