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Commentary Coronavirus Letter from the Editor Top Stories

Attack on Journalism

Journalism and all the students studying to be reporters, editors and commentators at this university are under attack by Provost Sue Mattison.

Two weeks ago, the Times-Delphic petitioned for Drake’s leadership to release raw COVID data from campus. We felt it was vital during these uncertain times that we had transparency on campus. Drake refused. 

On Sept. 9, the Des Moines Register wrote an article about our petition drive, and the Provost responded on behalf of the university.

In an email to students about the article, Mattison claimed that it was full of “misinformation” and that the reporter ran the story despite knowing that the administration was releasing “actionable statistics.” 

This cry of fake news was an attempt to bury the story, distract attention from the real issues of COVID on campus, and play into the ugly politics of the day by perpetuating a distrust for reporters.

Mattison’s email is clear: every student and professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication is under attack. Honestly, every student, professor and staff member at Drake is under attack. 

It might not have seemed like a blatant attack just reading her words, but the university’s unwillingness to paint a real picture of COVID on campus is disrespectful.

Perhaps most people have become used to these types of claims from watching how President Donald Trump uses his attacks as temper tantrums aimed at undermining reporters from doing their job and making all of us wonder what is true, and in a similar attempt, distract us from the real issues of the day.

Over the last few years, it’s become normalized for those in power to call journalists lazy, “taking the easy way out” or question their credibility when writing something that paints them in a bad light. 

At least with Trump, he’s candid about it. Mattison’s email is almost more insulting as she tries to hide her bitter response to the administrative call-out. 

It has become evident in the way that they have tried to call out, intimidate and delegitimize The Times-Delphic, and now, media outside of the Drake community that have written stories they didn’t like about the university’s handling of the COVID numbers.

The truth is that they don’t want to be held accountable. 

It’s ironic how they claim to want to train us to think critically and be leaders for ourselves and our communities, but don’t respect us enough to provide the requested information about our school. 

Journalism exists to research, educate, inspire and expose the truth. Ultimately, the role of a journalist is to speak up about what’s wrong and hopefully motivate people to act for change. In this case, journalism is looking to hold our institution accountable for a disease in our community.

And despite this immensely disrespectful attempt on the part of the administration to undermine what we’re doing here in the SJMC, in this paper, in this community, we promise to stand firm in the face of intimidation.

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