MUNCIE, Indiana – As I mentioned before Ball State’s $8.1 million swindle, or embezzlement, or investment loss, we’ve been working on this article involving how censorship has become a cultural norm. Of course, Ball State administrators and Board of Trustees won’t consider hiding their lack of “vetting and financial controls” from the public as censoring public information, but that is exactly what it is. An arrest was made and conviction rendered. Had it not been for a Google feed we picked up and shared on Facebook, it would have stayed under wraps.
Kathryn Foxhall, a healthcare journalist based in the Washington, D.C. area, would call it censorship. She is an active proponent against censorship through PR offices, working on the issue through the National Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. Her article was published last month in the Editor & Publisher and we’ve wanted to share for several weeks.
So far, the only explanation by Ball State for not sharing this information is to “cooperate with investigators” who didn’t/don’t want to tip-off those being investigated, yet both the president and chief investment officer of the college are talking about it now, so that explanation doesn’t really hold water.
We’ve asked Ball State why they are talking about it now, and why they chose not to hold a press conference, but we’ve gotten no response. I was a little shocked by Jo Ann’s comments the other day since they made it sound like “universities being scammed happen all the time.”
Really? According to Mr. Howard, the scam might not have happened if procedures were followed. So, was it really a scandal where someone scammed the university, or was it a case of sloppy internal controls?
Instead of a holding press conference to answer these questions, Ball State sends a “prepared statement” to one press source in Muncie explaining their silence.
According to Kathryn Foxhall, “PR office censorship is now prevalent in many areas of the country. Local and state governments, businesses, schools, hospitals, and even some universities have the silence policies. Millions of people, in thousands of workplaces of varying moral caliber, are told, in essence, to shut up.”
We’ve reported several times that our federal government ranks 13th in the world for press freedom. We are supposed to be the leaders of the free world.
We now live in the world of information. We can communicate globally in a matter of seconds. The only reason to withhold information is to censor what is being released to the public. If you work in the public or non-profit sector, you serve the public. Why prevent the people you serve from knowing what’s going on within your organization?
Kathryn pointed out in her article, “Education reporters from several states just laughed at the question, indicating they were being stopped at every turn. Some school districts produce policies saying only the top people in the schools can talk to the press. Another survey by Carlson, this one of education reporters, found that 6 in 10 think the controls over who they talk to amount to government censorship.”
What about the case involving Professor Eric Hedin? When four Indiana senators began a public campaign to pressure Ball State, they were immediately whisked away to private rooms and luncheons. A deal was struck and all documents pertaining to the case are private.
Again, Kathryn challenges other journalists, “The people in power are delighted to have a rationale for information control. The public doesn’t understand because journalists don’t explain it.”
We’re trying to explain it.
She goes on to write:
“Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of the Associated Press, says, “Nonofficial news sources are critical to a free press and critical to holding a government accountable. Otherwise you are just going to hear from the official sources and then the public will only know what the government wants them to know.
In the most recent survey of local reporters, more than three-quarters said the public is not getting the information it needs because of barriers agencies impose on reporting. About 85 percent of reporters covering federal agencies said the same thing in a 2012 Carlson survey.
So is it good journalism not to fight these controls or not to report them to the public whenever they occur?”
Of course it’s not good journalism.
But, don’t tell that to the editor at our locally owned Gannett rag or other corporate owned media sources. They’re too busy handing out awards to each other. This was in the Wall Street Journal yesterday:
“Gannett’s commitment to quality journalism in the communities we serve is highlighted by these 11 National Edwards R. Murrow Awards. To be honored with these awards across our Broadcasting and U.S. Community Publishing divisions, in addition to the 64 regional awards won earlier this year, is evidence of the hard work and outstanding journalism we see every day in our local communities,” said Gracia Martore, president and CEO of Gannett.”
We’re sending this article to Ms. Foxhall to get her opinion of the “outstanding journalism” exhibited by The StarPress in this case and whether Ball State University is guilty of censorship.