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The Collegian News Blog

Journalism Ethics 101

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Daily Collegian isn't alone in drawing criticism for using information posted on Facebook.com while reporting on the death of University of Massachusetts junior Katherine Sherman.

AmherstWire editor Eric Athas took a bit of heat after writing several blog posts for Masslive.com covering Sherman's passing and using quotes taken directly from the internet:

"can i honestly ask, what the hell is wrong with you taking quotes from a facebook page full of grieving friends and tacking it up as a eye-catching headline? one of the girls whose quotes you swiped is sitting right next to me and personally feels pretty violated that you would be sneaking s*** off of facebook no less in order to composite some sort of bulls*** blurb that doesnt even begin to describe the magnitude of beauty and brilliance that was katie sherman, and im sorry, but if you see that the group says in large letters PLEASE DO NOT SPEAK TO MEDIA TO RESPECT THE SHERMAN FAMILY, why the hell would you continue to exploit this girl's story in the interest of some journalistic accolades? if you knew katie you would know this is the last thing she would have wanted, so kindly remove this tacky-ass write up and leave the eulogies to her friends and family, thanks."

"As a parent reading this article, I strongly agree withe the comments posted above that you went far just reporting the "news" and in fact, shared private information to enhance your story. If you were to maintain true journalistice integrity, you would NOT have utlized these tactics and shared very personal quotes that have no right to be published in the media.

You should have placed yourself in their situation to get perspective before you chose to write such a story and use private and personal comments. I would then hope you would have used better judgement and not shared these statements.

You, personallly and UMass Live 101 should be very ashamed and owe famiy and friends a sincere apology"

Ellyn Angelotti of Poynter.org cuts to the core of the issue when she writes:

"Online network users need to understand that, unless they set their preferences otherwise, their profile will be broadcasted publicly. But many users don't. By default, user profiles on Facebook and MySpace are public. Both online networks have privacy settings that users may or may not be aware of. I can choose who sees my personal information, (only my friends, my network, everyone in the world) but most people don't take the time to do so. Nor do they understand the consequences of sharing too much information. Users can also deactivate their account if they don't want anyone to find it.

Even when you do find a user who has juicy information on their profile page, consider the harm in posting this information. It someone's public space, yet it can still be personal and sensitive."

Read the full article here and for Bob Steele's Guidelines Principles for Ethical Decisions click here.
posted by Derrick Perkins, 9:40 PM | link | 0 comments |

Yankee Division comes home to UMass

After nearly a century away from home, the equipment carried by New Englanders in the First World War have returned to Massachusetts.

Professor Ed Klekowski, working alongside both French and military historians, has explored and recovered artifacts from the sites across the Western Front that played host to the 26th - "Yankee" - Division throughout 1917 and 1918.

Comprised completely of regional national guard units solely from the New England states, the Yankee Division went into combat against the Imperial German Army for the first time in Apremont-la-Forêt in 1918. After the war money collected from the residents of Holyoke was used to rebuild the town and construct a monument to the fallen members of the Yankee Division.

Using a map of German battle lines acquired from French historians, Klekowski located and examined the trenches in the woods where the waves of American attacks were most heavily concentrated. According to Klekowski, even after almost 90 years have passed, rusting barbed wire, equipment and unexploded shells still litter the trench remains.

While the law forbids excavating national battlefields and historical sites for artifacts, Klekowski collected what he could find on the surface - legal under French law. Now the equipment and weapons carried into battle by the men of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts can be seen on display in the learning commons of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at the University of Massachusetts.
posted by Derrick Perkins, 11:49 AM | link | 0 comments |

A question of ethics

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Here are the comments associated with the article reporting the death of University of Massachusetts student Katherine Sherman in today's Daily Collegian:

"facebook.com remark completely unnecessary."

"I agree. Just because Katie's close friends and family are not talking to the media doesn't mean that we should be referring to her facebook profile for information about her life. I understand that facebook is a public site, but as a close friend of Katie's I find quoting it after her death disrespectful and trite."

Both raise valid points and we'd like to throw the question back out to you, our readers. Is Facebook.com a source of information for media outlets like the Collegian? Sound off by commenting below.
posted by Derrick Perkins, 3:35 PM | link | 2 comments |

Campus mourns student's passing

For all those parties interested in the response of the University to the news of the death of junior Katherine Sherman last week, here's the e-mail the dean of students forwarded to the student body on Tuesday:

With great sadness, I am writing to let you know that Katherine “Katie” Sherman, a member of our campus community, died last week while studying abroad in Auroville, India.

Katie, a junior from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, was in the Bachelor’s ofFine Arts program with a concentration in photography. She also worked in the Student Union Crafts Center. While in India, Katie was studying sustainable living, ecology and group dynamics. We extend our deepest sympathy to her family and friends during this difficult time.

Jo-Anne T. Vanin
Dean of Students
posted by Derrick Perkins, 2:17 PM | link | 0 comments |

Cutting through the red tape

Thursday, March 13, 2008

According to several e-mails which have come into the possession of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, graduate student Ed Cutting' s petition to have the results of the 2008 Student Government Association elections thrown out has hit a snag in the road.

Cutting received an e-mail from Jennifer Jean-Baptiste, Chief Justice of the SGA, asking for his petition to resubmitted earlier this week. Here's her response to Cutting's initial objections:

"Dear Mr. Cutting,

I received a petition submitted by you this morning time stamped March 1,2008. Unfortunately you must resubmit your petition for the following reasons: 1. The manner in which you wrote the petition is more like a letter. I'm requesting a new petition void of the extra language so it can read easier. The judiciary needs to be able to clearly understand what was violated, by whom, and how. 2. All petitions submitted to the SGA Judiciary must be in the format supplied in the SGA By-Laws. According to Title 4, Chapter 11, Section 1 of the SGA By-Laws all petitions shall contain the following information: 1. The specific person(s) submitting a Petition for a Ruling, herein denoted the Petitioner.2. The specific person(s) to have allegedly violated the Constitution of the SGA, the By-Laws of the SGA or Act(s) of the SGA, herein denoted the Respondent. 3. The specific parts of the Constitution of the SGA, the By-Laws of the SGA or Act(s) of the SGA allegedly violated. 4. The Manner in which the Constitution of the SGA, the By-laws of the SGA orAct(s) of the SGA, were allegedly violated.

You may have included most of the information necessary if not all, however, the manner in which it was written isn't clear enough. I advise you to sendthe new version as soon as possible due to the nature of the petition and time constraints."

Cutting's response was short and to the point:

"If your body wishes to generate (and publish) specific pleading forms, that would be one thing and I would be happy to fill such a form out. However the SGA Constitution is quite clear -- as long as I include the four specific items (which I did) it is considered a legitimate pleading.I could have written it on a tablecloth and as long as it had this, it would be considered having met the requirement -- there actually is a famous business law case on this where some guys negotiated a contract on a tablecloth and it was considered a written contract. And remember that contract law applies here."

No word yet on whether Cutting will have his day in court (or in front of the judicial branch of the SGA), but for all post-SGA election coverage stick with the Daily Collegian.

For full interview looking back on the the 2008 SGA elections with the Chancellor of Elections, Emma Pfordresher, click here.

Photo of Ed Cutting taken during last month's UMass Repulbican Club rally for decency. Photo credit Caitlin Coughlan/Collegian
posted by Derrick Perkins, 2:44 PM | link | 0 comments |

ESPN love

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

When Massachusetts men's basketball coach Travis Ford came here to lead the Minutemen three years ago, he wanted to bring the program back to the Marcus Camby days of the early 90's.

Ever since Camby left following the 1996 season, UMass basketball sort of fell off the map.

If ESPN is any indication, UMass hoops is back -- and the Minutemen have Ford and Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Gary Forbes to thank.

Coach Ford was on ESPN's 'First Take' on Monday morning discussing the resurrection of UMass basketball and its chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998.

You can see the video here. (disclaimer: the video will start playing immediately on the UMass athletics home page, but once the lead video changes on the site, it will only be available to paid subscribers.)

The Minutemen are 21-9 this season (10-6 in the conference) and head out to Atlantic City, N.J., on Thursday for a matchup with the winner of the Charlotte/Rhode Island game.

Many experts believe UMass is on the bubble right now of the NCAA Tournament. Coach Ford thinks his team should be in no matter what transpires in the conference tournament.

My guess? They need at least one win to assure themselves a bid into the Big Dance. A loss in the first round, much like last year, would likely cost them that at-large bid and sent them to the NIT Tournament -- which would be a major disappointment.

Posted by Eli Rosenswaike
posted by Daily Collegian Sports Blog, 12:58 PM | link | 0 comments |

Cutting brings election into doubt

Graduate student Ed Cutting called the legality of Student Government Association bylaws into question today when he delivered a letter to the Chief Justice of the Student Judiciary - Jennifer Jean-Baptiste - asking for the results of last weeks elections made null and void.

According to Cutting, the SGA bylaws restricting a candidates to campaigning only with materials approved by the elections chancellor violate the First Amendment.

"This is simply unacceptable. It’s an ethical principle for me.," Cutting said. "I don’t care whose in the SGA. You simply cannot tell students what they can and cannot say to other students. That’s fascism. That’s why I’m making this stance."

Cutting said the verbal warning given to Derek Khanna after an unapproved campaign flyer was leaked to the Daily Collegian pushed him to the boiling point.

"The SGA shouldn't have the ability to tell you who to talk to," he said. "This is a free country."
posted by Derrick Perkins, 12:28 AM | link | 0 comments |

Khanna responds to election loss

Monday, March 10, 2008

Last night Derek Khanna released this statement to the Daily Collegian after losing his bid for next year's president of the Student Government Association. Khanna - and running mate Elizabeth Protzman - lost in what Student Trustee Lindsay McCluskey called a "landslide victory" for herself and Malcolm Chu.

Khanna congratulated the future SGA president and student trustee while expressing hope that Chu would move away from his ties to the ALANA Caucus.

"I would like to begin by thanking UMASS, and more specifically all the students who helped our campaign and made my candidacy possible. On February 26th, when I formally announced, I was the youngest student running, facing stiff competition from two seniors and one junior, I myself a sophomore. I was amazed to see the success of my platform on this campus. No candidate has won against the Alana Caucus since they have become powerful, but our campaign is proud ofthe results it accomplished. It appears that we came in second place trailing by 5% of the UMASS campus, doubling the results of the candidate trailing us (although I must say, I liked the Daily Collegian online poll of me at 60% vs. 10% forMalcolm Chu slightly better). To all of you at UMASS, thank you for caring enough about UMASS to show up, stand up, and speak up for change for the future. I congratulate Malcolm Chu, and hope he will not carry on the legacy of the Alana Caucus candidates of years past, but rather forge a new direction, a direction that puts an end to ourmounting fee increases and holds our elected officials to a higher standard of accountability. As I have said, UMASS needs a new direction now more than ever, and as such, we must rise to the occasion. We face a new generation of challenges, challenges that threaten the affordability and reputation of our school— and thus challenges that affect our very future. I am convinced that unless UMASS changes course, we will soon fail to honor our school's mission statement of "affordable and accessible education of high quality." As such, driven by necessity, compelled by reason, our movement of change will march on, undeterred, unfettered in the pursuit of our platform, accountable to each and every one of you. There is much work to be done; running for President was just the beginning. Emboldened by our success, and confident of our ability to make a difference here at UMASS, I can proudly say that the battle has just begun. My allies and I will continue to persevere in the cause of affordability and accountability within the confines of the SGA."
posted by Derrick Perkins, 12:07 PM | link | 0 comments |

Readers sound off on the election

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Here are some of the more thought provoking responses to the news that Malcolm Chu and Lindsay McCluskey ascended to Student Government Association president and student trustee late last week:

"It does seem strange that Khanna's vote count is a little more than what his campaign Facebook group membership is, and yet Chu got close to 5X his Facebook group membership. Granted, that's no basis for a conspiracy but it sticks out to me a bit. I must say, I was struck by the simplicity of the voting system. It seemed like ballot-box stuffing could easily be done, and if people voted multiple times, there was no way to trace those votes to nullify them. I'm just disappointed that we will apparently have another year of SGA leadership putting their personal ambitions of leading strikes and cherry-picking political causes to rally around over the general interests of a student body that is likely much more moderate in their views. "

"In any civilized country, an election turnout below 10% would be considered illegitimate. One of the first acts of the new SGA session should be to make voting compulsory, violations of which would be punishable by a fine."

"Maybe an email reminder from the admin about elections would have helped increase the voter turnout. I mean, all the emails that go out about the men's basketball team surely do wonders for their attendance numbers, right? and word up to grad student, those who neglect to vote can't complain about what SGA does. It's NOT that hard to walk into the SGA office, pick up an informational pamphlet / ask someone what the SGA does / learn a lot about campus politics. That door is always open for interested students."

"Once again we have another year of candidates in office who were chosen, and bred, by the incumbents to continue the nonsense that has become the UMass SGA. Another year of strikes by students who represent about 5% (if that) of the student population simply wasting the time of SGA members who should be doing their jobs by representing ALL of UMass regardless of race or economic background, wasting the time of administrators who have an actual job to do (which includes trying to maintain decent public opinion of this university), and wasting the time of students like myself who's classes, and advising appointments were canceled due to a few hundred students who are really just lashing out because it's 2008 and not 1968. Another year of funding the pet projects of current and past SGA cabinets that put their own interests far before the NINETEEN THOUSAND undergraduate students they are being charged to represent and lead. While Derek Khanna may not have been the ideal candidate...at least he is not part of the ALANA Empire that has hijacked our university government and therefore might have been able to instill some programs that might get the attention of the students such as...fixing the roads, working with PVTA to run later to provide students with a safe ride home, among other things that the community AS A WHOLE could benefit from. Prancing about and disrupting the University because there are police in the dorms (which there aren't, did anyone even bother to contact UMPD? There's some level of redundancy in accusing those who are there to enforce the law of breaking the law themselves), and rolling back student fees, WHICH THE SGA THEMSELVES INCREASED (fyi, the board has increased fees that have been at or below inflation consistently, try taking an economics class) has really accomplished a lot, congratulations. Every shred of hope I had in the SGA to do its job has been lost entirely. .R.I.P. S.G.A."

Got an opinion? Contribute to the discourse yourself, either by commenting below or on the article.

Click here for the most recent Collegian news podcast. Editors Derrick Perkins and Nick Bush discuss the election results with editorial editor S.P. Sullivan.
posted by Derrick Perkins, 10:38 PM | link | 0 comments |

Chu, McCluskey take elections by storm

Friday, March 7, 2008

Student voters handed Malcolm Chu a landslide victory over his opponents Derek Khanna and Devin Ashe in the race for president of next year’s Student Government Association.

took 1,523 votes in total more than tripling the number received by Khanna during the two-day election process held in the campus center and at dining commons across campus.

Khanna netted 475 votes and Ashe took in 213 ballots.

Putting up numbers similar to Chu, Lindsay McCluskey took 1,610 votes in the race for the position of student trustee over rival candidates Elizabeth Protzman and Augusta Mfuko.

Protzman garnered 474 votes and 137 went to Mfuko, the only graduate student candidate.

Stay tuned to the Daily Collegian for more SGA election coverage.

Photo credit Rich Lombard/Collegian
posted by Derrick Perkins, 2:50 PM | link | 0 comments |

The beginning of the end

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Polling for Student Government Association president and student trustee has officially closed for another year as of 8 p.m. this evening.

No word yet on how any of the candidates have faired during this election cycle. According to election officials, the final tallying won't be finished until roughly 4 a.m. Friday morning.

Though the election cycle this year has gone largely without scandal (for past controversies ranging from 2004 to 2006 click here, here, here and here), the process has not gone without incident.

A judicial committee handed presidential candidate Derek Khanna a written warning Tuesday night after several copies of unapproved campaign flyer ended up in the offices of the Daily Collegian. According to Khanna, the posters - displaying a graphic of a middle finger with each digit representing a different minority group on campus allegedly taken from rival candidate Malcolm Chu's Facebook.com account - were never intended for distribution and had been leaked by a member of his campaign.

Chu could not be reached for comment on the matter.

Presidential candidate Devin Ashe also took aim at Khanna this week, criticizing his opponent for claiming he had been the only senator to vote against the latest increase in student fees. Ashe pointed out that Khanna had not been a member of the senate last fall when the last fee increases had passed through the legislative body.

Khanna said clarified by saying he had intended to mean the fee increase passed in the fall of 2006 when he had served as a member of the senate.
Photo courtesy Collegian staff
posted by Derrick Perkins, 7:57 PM | link | 0 comments |

Fees to increase again

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

At the dawn of a two-day election period in which fees have featured as a central component to the campaigns of all the candidates running for office in student government, the UMass board of trustees finance committee approved a 3.1 increase in student tuition and fees.

The Boston Globe reported earlier today that the newest fee hike will cost undergraduate students at UMass $288.00 more to graduate from the University.

"Under the plan, which must be voted on by the full board of trustees March 19, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates would rise from $9,261 to $9,549. If approved, the increase would trail the regional inflation rate for the fifth consecutive year," writes Peter Schworm, a Globe staff writer.

UMass President Jack Wilson released this statement to the media earlier today:

"Our top priority is to keep academic excellence affordable for UMass students by containing costs. We are committed to making sure that UMass students continue to have access to world-class education."

According to the Globe article, while the national average cost to attend a state college or university has risen 7 percent annually, the cost to attend UMass has only averaged a 3.4 annual percentage increase.

Tell us what you think by commenting below.
posted by Derrick Perkins, 12:59 PM | link | 0 comments |

Unapproved campaign flyer leaks to The Daily Collegian

Unapproved, controversial flyers were leaked to The Daily Collegian yesterday, and traced back to Student Government Association presidential candidate Derek Khanna.

The flyer, of which 300 copies were made - but allegedly never distributed by the Khanna campaign - included a picture taken from SGA presidential candidate Malcolm Chu's Facebook profile, and was manipulated with Khanna's handwriting.

The flyer was a screenshot of Chu's Facebook profile, and depicted a crude graph of ethnic demographics on campus in the shape of a hand giving the middle finger. The middle finger was meant to represent the overwhelming majority of white students on campus, which it listed at 14,110. Written on the flyer, in Khanna's handwriting, was the phrase "Should he be president?" The flyer was not an approved campaign material.

At a meeting held last night in the Dukes Meeting Room in the Student Union, a judicial committee in charge of SGA campaigning met and decided that Khanna would be given a written warning for not getting approval for his flyer. Khanna's campaign would be allowed to continue, however, as it was allegedly never his intention to distribute the flyer on campus.

Khanna responded that he photocopied the original but was unaware of any distributive action, and said that it was possible one of his campaign workers may have given copies to The Collegian, though there is no evidence to confirm or deny this claim.

Because of the ambiguity of the situation, the committee was unable to vote on the levels of violation, which were whether or not the material was approved by the chancellor of election, whether or not the candidate was responsible for his campaign workers (there was no evidence to support a vote for this), and whether or not the material the candidate presented wrongfully represented another candidate.

The flyer did not support any specific candidate, including Khanna, and was only negative toward Chu.After the committee voted to allow Khanna to continue his campaign with a warning restricting him from distributing any more flyers, he said in a statement that he apologized to Chu, but asked that he be reminded that Facebook is public.

"My campaign and I speak highly of the elections committee to take issues like this seriously," he said. "My campaign and I still agree, as we did last night [Monday, when the flyers were printed] that we would not put the flyers up. I agree wholeheartedly with the position of a warning."
posted by Holly Seabury, 11:43 AM | link | 0 comments |

Third message found, police respond by e-mail

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Police reported finding a third threatening message in a bathroom in Hills South on Monday in a campus-wide e-mail sent earlier today.

The police investigation into the message - as well as the threatening note found in Furcolo Hall yesterday and last week's threatening message in Bartlett Hall - is ongoing, though police believe the three are connected.

According to police, the language used in all three messages is similar. Yesterday, University spokesman Ed Blaguszewski confirmed that police had found a corrolation in language used in the threats at both Bartlett and Furcolo hall.

A search of campus buildings by police turned up no other notes or messages threatening violence.

Police are urging anyone with information to contact them at 545-2121. The anonymous tips line can be reached by dialing 577-TIPS (577-8477).
posted by Derrick Perkins, 11:46 PM | link | 0 comments |

Second threat found in two weeks

Monday, March 3, 2008

A note discovered in the first floor men's bathroom of Furcolo Hall became the second written threat found on campus in two weeks and may be linked to last week's message found in Bartlett hall.

The discovery prompted University spokesman Ed Blaguszewski to send out an e-mail alert to all students early this morning. According to Blaguszewski, a janitor found the message and alerted the authorities at roughly 6:00 a.m. this morning.

Blaguszewski said the message was not directed to any individual.

"We do think now there is some common language among the messages," he told the Daily Collegian. "There may be a connection and we’re continuing to investigate. We’re hoping we came identify the source. "

Blaguszewski said this was the first that this sort of an incident had occurred during his time working for the University.
posted by Derrick Perkins, 6:51 PM | link | 0 comments |

SGA elections on the horizon

Election season has come into full bloom just a few weeks ahead of the official start of spring -
despite today's sun-filled balmy weather - and the hunt for the office of Student Government Association President and the position of student Trustee is in full swing.

Last Thursday, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian's own Katie Huston moderated this year's Presidential and student trustee debate, broadcast over the airwaves by both UVC-TV and WMUA.

Presidential candidates Malcolm Chu, Derek Khanna, Devin Ashe, and Peter Kuusisto sparred over campus diversity, the cost of higher education at UMass and across the Commonwealth, the goals of the strike, and touted their qualifications for the head position in the SGA.

Student trustee candidates - Libby Protzman, Lindsay McCluskey and Augusta Mfuko - discussed their qualifications for the student elected and held seat on the UMass Board of Trustees.

For in-depth podcast analysis of the debate with the Collegian's SGA beat writer Mike Fox click here.

Check out the candidates platforms before voting Wednesday and Thursday this week:

Chu and McCluskey's platform can be found here on Facebook and for anyone not yet a member of Facebook.com here as well.

Khanna and Protzman's Facebook campaign group and platform can be found here. For more information, check out their campaign Web site by clicking here.

Peter Kuusisto's campaign can be found on Facebook.com as well.

Click here for Devin Ashe's presidential campaign, also on Facebook.com.
posted by Derrick Perkins, 4:54 PM | link | 0 comments |

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