Grizzly Editorial Staff
In this issue, The Grizzly contains a report on a lawsuit filed by former Ursinus Dean and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Terry Winegar, alleging that his termination resulted from age discrimination by Ursinus. WHYY broke the story in December, and The Grizzly was alerted to the lawsuit anonymously a few weeks before that. We would like to use this space to address some issues related to that tip and remind the Ursinus community about our goals and mission.
The original note we received, which was addressed to editor-in -chief Brian Thomas and signed anonymously by a person or persons claiming to be “Two troubled and tenured faculty members,” urged The Grizzly to report on the lawsuit, and provided a paper copy of Winegar’s publically available legal complaint. Despite being received in Ritter over the weekend, The Grizzly staff did not see this note, sent via post in an Ursinus envelope, until the night that our final issue of the fall semester was going to press, preventing us from any responsible coverage of the suit. We vowed internally to report on it in our next issue, which we have done.
Late last week, however, our advisor, MCS professor Nick Gilewicz, received another anonymous note with the same signature, expressing “disgust” and frustration that we had not yet printed a story about the suit. The final paragraph of the note threatened Gilewicz by saying that if he did not insist The Grizzly report on this story, they would “hold him responsible” and “ask [their] colleagues in Media and Communications Studies to replace [him].”
We want to make it clear, in no uncertain terms, that The Grizzly is not publishing this story because of this threat. We make all editorial decisions independently, and we will not be bullied by anonymous letter-writers with unknown agendas. We also want to make it clear that our decision to wait until now to publish this story resulted not from an aversion to something that may reflect negatively on the school, as the second letter to Gilewicz implied when it referenced the perceived “failure to do tough stories about the College’s administration under our new president.” It stemmed solely from the inconvenient timing of the original tip and a desire to not rush such a sensitive and multifaceted story. This newspaper serves the Ursinus community as a whole, and strives to provide balanced coverage of the events happening on campus. We stand by our work.
With the goal of transparency in mind, we would also like to share some information about our process that members of the Ursinus community may find useful. Our publication schedule is rigid, and dictated in part by the schedule of our off-site printer, whom we contract each year. We hear pitches from student reporters every Monday evening. They report these stories throughout the week, and then we edit them over the weekend, re-reporting when needed. These stories comprise the print edition of The Grizzly the following week. After hearing pitches for the future issue, we lay out the issue for that week, and send it to press late Monday night. Copies typically arrive on campus the Wednesday after we lay out. All of this is to say that, more often than not, it takes until the next Monday for a tip to be assigned to a reporter, and then another week until it is printed. It is not instantaneous, and it is driven by practical realities, not editorial indecision.
We hope that all members of the Ursinus community feel free to reach out to us with concerns or possible stories. We want this newspaper to be of the community and for the community, and that can only happen if people trust us.
Additionally, we would like to re-assert our purpose on this campus. The Grizzly is indeed committed to reporting on issues and events of interest to the community. That said, it is also an educational endeavor. We intentionally operate as a space where students interested in journalism can gain first-hand experience, build a portfolio, and learn from their mistakes. It is a space where students can learn how to interview, write clearly, and hone their instincts. It is a space for learning as well as for reporting.
This message should not imply that we view ourselves as a perfect operation. We eagerly hear constructive critique, and move as swiftly as possible to rectify errors in our reporting when they are pointed out to us. We understand, like any newspaper, that mistakes get made, and learning how to mend them is part of the educational experience. We appreciate when people helpfully point out things we have missed, or topics we should focus on.
We hope the community understands that our goal is never to mindlessly promote the school’s initiatives, nor is it to vindictively churn out criticisms of the administration. Our goal is to provide insight into life here, give space for members of the community to share their experiences, and help students learn proper journalistic practices. We hope that the Ursinus community will aid us in this endeavor moving forward.