An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

Contact Information
Friends of The Daily Texan, Inc.
1401 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701

[email protected]

Work under way at The Daily Texan

Editor’s note – Below you’ll find an update from Media Advisor Peter Chen, who works daily with the journalists at The Daily Texan. His note describes the real-world experiences Texan journalists are receiving, and how they rise to the occasion.

By Peter Chen

Media Advisor, Texas Student Media

I’d like to update Friends of The Daily Texan on what your successors recently did that I feel y’all would be proud of.  How they worked tirelessly to nail down a story of a Student Government (SG) elections code violation, the pushback they encountered that is so similar to what journalists are facing today and the courage they showed to push on.

Will Clark, a news desk editor, received a tip a SG presidential campaign used a SG group’s email list to solicit campaign workers before the official start date.  At issue is if the other candidates do not have access to this group list, this could give them an unfair advantage.  In addition, candidates can only contact students they know personally and on individual basis before the deadline, so emails to a large SG group could mean some of the recipients would not know the candidates personally, thus a violation of the rules.  So that was our working theory.

Will, Kayla Meyertons, our campus reporter and lead writer of the story, and Ellie Breed, our news editor, started with two details of the story to nail down:  Did the campaign in fact use this group email list?  And if they did, just how many students did they contact this way?

They didn’t have access to the list so they did what any reporter would do:  They started with just one or two students, then after the interview, they asked if the subjects knew anyone else who received the email?  And can they get their numbers so they can interview them?  Through this laborious method, they tracked down and interviewed around 30 students!  During this process, after talking to around 25 of them, they realized the campaign did not use the SG group list that Will was initially told.  But there was still a story there so they continued reporting.

Let me brag for a minute.  Twenty-five (!) interviews to eliminate our initial working theory.  I’m just so incredibly proud of them for putting in the time and effort to do that.  If they had stopped after just a dozen interviews, which is more than sufficient for most stories, they would have written an incorrect story.  And even after that, they conducted additional interviews to be sure.

While reporting the story, Kayla and Will encountered pushback.  A representative from the campaign accused them of lying, and of shoddy ethics.  The head of the SG group they were looking into accused Kayla and Will of harassing his members (all they did was call the students, identified themselves as Texan reporters, and asked if they’d mind answering some questions.  Those that talked all did so voluntarily.  If anyone declined, that was the end of the call.)  Another member of the group was mad they didn’t go through her to interview the students on the list.

As Kayla, Will and Ellie were finishing up with the story, they called the candidate for final comments (they interviewed him once before at the beginning of the reporting process.)  Kayla said she was physically shaking during the call because she was so nervous.  She said because the candidate is high up in SG and knows a lot of people, and he feels we’re attacking him personally.  But they did it anyway because they know it’s the ethical thing to do.  Ellie said the candidate made veiled threats against them by saying while he personally had no problems with the Texan and isn’t going to file a complaint with the University, he knows all these people who are going to, and who will write editorials in the Texan about how Kayla and Will screwed up.  They were shaken by what he said.

The similarities between the pushback Kayla, Will and Ellie experiences is so eerily similar to what’s going on in the real world!  I felt compelled to write to the Friends because I’m just so proud of their bravery and dedication to the ethics of responsible journalism.  These 19- 20-year-olds were scared of the social consequences of holding others accountable, of being made out to be irresponsible bad guys, but they pushed on anyway because they believe in what they’re doing.  I’m just speechless and in awe.

P.S. Three students filed complaints with the Election Supervisory Board (one citing our story) against the candidate on the issues we wrote about.  The ESB ruled yesterday the candidate did violate the rule and fined the campaign $27.50 and imposed a 24-hour moratorium on campaigning.

I’d like to add a recent development:  So this candidate we wrote about and another campaign are going into a runoff election because neither received a majority of votes last night.  When Kayla went up to him for comment, he wouldn’t talk to us.  Again, so reminiscent of what’s going on in the real world.  But again, I give Kayla real credit.  She knew it would be uncomfortable, but she did it because it was the right thing to do.