George Mason Law School

Staff Editorial: Gazette report misleads

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November 6, 2007

1:38 AM

The Flat Hat is disappointed at the lack of journalistic responsibility shown by the Virginia Gazette this week.

p. A Nov. 3 article by Susan Roberston contains gross inaccuracies pertaining to the ongoing story of e-mail correspondence between former College President Timothy Sullivan and current President Gene Nichol. The author irresponsibly asserts that Nichol lied to alumni and students without proper proof or research.

p. We are further disappointed by the fact that the author bases much of her argument on stories and reporting previously published in The Flat Hat. We certainly are not opposed to other newspapers utilizing our research and reporting, but a journalist at a professional newspaper misrepresenting our work is unacceptable.

p. The Gazette implies that Nichol was aware that James McGlothlin ’62 J.D. ’64 had decided to withhold a $12 million pledge to the College five days before Nichol notified alumni via e-mail that the Campaign for William and Mary had reached its $500 million goal. The Gazette bases this conclusion on previous Flat Hat reports, but it seems the author misinterpreted dates, leading her to misconstrue our reporting.

p. Many alumni and groups advocating Nichol’s removal have argued that he did make such an announcement after being made aware of McGlothlin’s decision, but these allegations have not yet been proven. A professional journalist making the same accusation without confirming dates and sources is irresponsible and lazy.

p. If The Flat Hat’s FOIA request produces the e-mails in question, it is likely that a solution to this ongoing debate will be reached. There may have been a breakdown in communication, or Nichol may have misinterpreted an e-mail warning from Sullivan or another concerned individual.

p. In any event, until the truth is revealed, all people and groups concerned — particularly newspapers that are bound to principles of journalistic integrity — would be wise to do sufficient research and think independently before making accusations. Such shoddy journalism undermines the task facing the Board of Visitors and gives those who practice responsible reporting a bad name.

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