March 11, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Listerve Smackdown

Postings concerning the student newspaper continued through the day ...

Editor's Note: The following appeared on the JCCClist and are not private e-mail conversations.

I don't think you're a bully and an ass, and I appreciate the work you do with the paper. I've never been at a school where the paper did a better job of tackling the real issues on campus.

My concern is for the sake of the student in terms of something that, it seems to me, is a fairly private matter. "Getting it" is rarely as simple as black and white, and maybe it took a little of this flare up to get at what the issues are in terms of continuing to deal with this story.

I am just concerned with why we are keeping her name out there.

Another employee chimed in:
I think it’s shameful that we are teaching our students to ignore good taste and common decency to “get the story.” I guess that’s what they will need to make it in the world of journalism, but it’s still a shame.
A response came from Carmaletta Williams, executive assistant to the president, Diversity Initiatives:
I hesitated and thought about this long and hard and still am hesitant about jumping into the fray, but I really think we are misplacing our anger.

We all watch the news a couple of times a day and become voyeurs into the lives of people we don't know. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are doing it for our own safety, so we can avoid those places where trouble happens.

Well, trouble happens everywhere, even here at Johnson County Community College.

We were eager to hear the news, any kind of news, that gave us hope and helped us feel like we might find Kelsey Smith alive. Just thinking about what happened to that beautiful young woman, someone's daughter, sibling, and friend tears us up inside. I was especially upset and saddened when I learned through the news media that they had found her body not more than six blocks from where I live.

We are still reading the posters and keeping an ear to the ground for any news that Kara Kopetsky might just be a runaway and is safe and alive somewhere trying to teach her parents a lesson by making them worry about her.

We hope that those viscious idiots that stole a woman's purse and car-jacked her van with her baby in the back seat are safely locked away and out of our sphere.

We watch the news and hope that the insane woman, she had to be insane, who left a two-year-old baby girl in the house alone for God knows how long in a house that was burned by arsonists is taught a severe lesson.

But carjackings, kidnappings, child neglect and abuse, and murders happen every day in all kinds of places. We know that because we watch the news and read the paper.

This girl at JCCC we now know was not kidnapped, but she could have been.

My nine-year-old granddaughter/daughter was kidnapped when she was 5 and those were the worse eleven days of my life. I was anxious for news, any kind of news, that would bring that child home to me. I spent every penny I had to find her. Finally, the situation broke and I was able to find her and get her back.

I understand the missing girl's father's angst in thinking that his daughter had been harmed. His daughter could have been victim to all kinds of crimes.

We need to take a lesson from this situation.

We need to be alert to shifts in behavior. When something doesn't feel right, it usually isn't. When someone tells us they need our aid we need to provide it. I'm not suggesting that we become personally involved, which in many cases would be very dangerous, but we can all pick up a red phone in the hallways and call 4-1-1-1 or our cell phones and dial 9-1-1.

I think this e-mail situation worsened with the threat from an administrator of government intervention. Come on. What was that all about? It made us want to know more. Why would the government be investigating people that were inquiring?

We should stop hacking on the people that report the news. We need them to inform us of danger and dangerous situations and we also need them to reassure us that all is well.

Above all, we need to stop threatening people for no good reason. We should focus our talents and our energies on positive aspects like helping, clarifying, and informing.
The adviser of The Ledger stepped in:
Good journalism is about getting the facts, about finding out the "why" of a situation long after the cameras have been turned off and the sound bites are over. Good journalism is about digging for information beyond the surface, and using the information you gather in a responsible, reasonable manner that limits harm while addressing a greater good.

No one, as far as I know, has sensationalized this incident. No one has printed anything that invades privacy or constitutes libel. In fact, no one has printed anything other than the initial story. And if you reread that story, a key piece of missing information is "why." Perhaps, after the reporter investigates, he will find that the initial "why" isn't a story -- a youthful indiscretion. But why didn't the text messaging system work? How, given the many violent acts that have recently occurred on campuses throughout the country, should a campus react to an emergency situation like this one? Did this incident show us that we are indeed ready for such an event? That is the "why" of the story.

The reporter can't decide what to print until he first asks the questions. Maybe it is intrusive, but remember how the incident intruded on the day-to-day life here at the college.

It seems to me that the person who is ignoring common decency is the individual who calls another person an ass in a listserv. Let's not rush to judgment before pen is put to paper, so to speak...

Anne Christiansen-Bullers
adviser, The Campus Ledger
The poster responds to the adviser:

“It seems to me that the person who is ignoring common decency is the individual who calls another person an ass in a listserv. Let's not rush to judgment before pen is put to paper, so to speak...”

I called him a bully and an a ASS Please get it right. I was using common decency, you should have read the first email I wanted to send! My common decency won out!

He should not have made a threat to an JCCC employee who was reminding people that there are Federal laws in place about talking about students and employee privacy.

As and employee I have attended several classes to inform me about these laws. The school takes them VERY seriously. For example, I have 4 people that I supervise. If one of the comes to me and tells me they will be gone 3 days for medical reasons. I can not ask what medical condition is, I have to refer them to HR and have them fill out paperwork. If the person tells me what is going on that is OK but I can not tell anybody what the reason is for their absents. That is a FEDERAL LAW.

Let’s turn this around to something positive. Would the paper be interested in how JCCC has help raise over $60,000, that goes to medical research and scholarships for kids with brain tumors.