Communication, interviews will continue to become more difficult

By Editor-in-Chief

When the campus community read The Chronicle’s Nov. 23 Front Page story about the quiet cancellation of Story Week, one of the college’s most prominent literary events for nearly two decades, there was a sweeping outcry among students and faculty.

The week the story was published included ripples of disappointment expressed through conversations in the college’s hallways and through social media comments and online shares of our story.

While some readers have approached Chronicle reporters and written to us that our story was unbalanced, we believe we covered the story to the best of our ability given the time and accessibility to sources we were allotted to report the story under deadline.

The article, “R.I.P. Story Week,” which ideally could have included some additional sources who were not made available, was the product of The Chronicle’s reporters becoming aware of a breaking news story mid-production week.

Some may argue that it is better to wait to share news until every single minute detail of the story is developed and certain, but I stand by the choice we made as a team to inform the campus of this major change, the cancellation of one of its most beloved events.

There are details of the original story that could be developed into a worthwhile follow-up story, but we reported what we consider a completely justified breaking news story that was otherwise going unannounced by the college administration. 

The story we published effectively alerted the campus of Story Week’s end, despite facing obstacles in our reporting process from the college administration and communications officials.

When The Chronicle repeatedly requested interviews with campus professors, department chairs and higher-ups, college spokeswoman Cara Birch rejected the requests on grounds that they came too late in the week and she is not in the office to handle them at all times.

Absurdly, we were told that moving ahead with the story without talking to the chair—who was made impossible to speak with even after our campus editor visited his office—would be “irresponsible” and “inaccurate.”

No alternate personnel were made available, nor were other options, such as email interviews, considered.

While the notion that it is inconvenient for news to break when our college’s communications team is out of the office may be understandable, it is also the nature of the news industry that news breaks and journalists must act as quickly and efficiently as possible to distribute it.

It is unfortunate that The Chronicle has been criticized for not emphasizing the Creative Writing Department’s Reading Series, the “replacement” for Story Week that was not previously announced as such, rather than praised for the reporting of actual news that the 19-year literary festival had been canceled with no notice to the campus.

The Chronicle has since been informed by the college’s News Office that Birch will continue to rule on our interview requests with administrative figures and ask for further “clarification” on our stories before granting interviews. 

We are also being told that any interviews requested after Monday, when we are just starting our work week and obviously have no idea what news might break in the coming days, are not guaranteed to be accommodated.

Rest assured, The Chronicle staff will continue to work tirelessly to report accurate news stories, but we do face increasing challenges from our own college to do so.