Daily Egyptian

Editorial: The Daily Egyptian is not a public relations firm for SIU – it never will be

By Athena Chrysanthou, Editor-in-chief

Stories published the past few weeks in the Daily Egyptian have received blowback that looks to discredit our work, question our morals as journalists and raises concerns about the purpose of the media.

We have come under fire for recent controversial stories about Chancellor Carlo Montemagno.

Some comments below include blaming the DE for the decline in SIU enrollment, being biased in our reporting, lying, creating low morale on campus and being SIU’s biggest enemy.

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“The constant negativity brought on by the Daily Egyptian is a huge reason for the low morale and low enrollment.”

“This is horrible, biased journalism which in my opinion destroys any legitimacy that the DE ever had.”

“Doesn’t surprise me that the press ruins another situation. Just like they’re trying to destroy our president. Everyone should be concerned about the press.”

“If SIU dies, you die. Don’t keep biting the hand that feeds you.”

“The DE is clearly on a mission. Positive news articles could help the university. Set a trend in journalism, stop the negative lies and look and write about the positive things on campus….”

The job of a journalist isn’t to be liked. Negativity from readers is something that comes with the trade, and something we expect.

The Daily Egyptian is Southern Illinois University’s 102-year-old student publication and over the past century it has built a reputation of professional-caliber reporting and being a watchdog for the the southern Illinois region.

Many who came through the Daily Egyptian with the guidance of journalism faculty went on to lead successful, lifelong careers in journalism.

Just because we are the ‘student’ publication of the university does not mean our job is any different from that of journalists in the ‘real world’.

We hold ourselves to the same standards, follow the same code of ethics and operate as a regular newsroom would outside the confines of university walls.

It is frequently mistaken that the DE as the student publication should report solely on situations that will show the university in a positive light.

We, as aspiring journalists, would be doing a disservice to SIU and the community if we followed that train of thought.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental and integral part of U.S. culture. Recent comments discredit the importance of the media and show a disrespect for a right no other country holds to the same standard.

A reporter never goes into reporting a story with the goal of harming an individual’s public perception – their role is to report the facts and shine light on the truth.

As a result of a story we broke on the hiring of SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s family members, SIU President Randy Dunn launched an ethics investigation into the hirings – which was passed to the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General days later.

In an interview, Dunn said he learned about many of the details of the hirings in the DE’s article.

The more our reporters have dug into Montemagno’s past, the deeper the reporting has been, resulting in some community members saying they feel frustrated, angry and have lost trust in the chancellor.  

The community deserves to know who is leading the university. We must hold those in power accountable.

Some of our stories were picked up by regional and national outlets, such as the Chicago Tribune, ProPublica and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

SIU and the community need the DE and rely on us to be the primary watchdog for our area. If we don’t shine the light on certain issues, then who will?

The DE has broken stories recently that do more than touch the surface, but report in-depth the climate of our university.

As commercial newspapers struggle to survive as newsrooms across the country face cuts, college media organizations are critical to filling in the holes by being a voice not only for students, but for the public.

In an interview, Southern Illinoisan reporter Janis Esch asked Dunn whether some part of him was proud of the Daily Egyptian student reporters for their in-depth investigative work despite the controversy.

“The DE has a long, historic record of being able to get stories like this and go after them. Everyone plays their role, and reporters have their jobs to do,” Dunn said, according to Esch’s tweet.

“In this case, the DE did it, they did it well, and they did it with good research on their facts and now the story goes forward and they should be able to wear that as a big point of pride and another feather in the cap for these types of stories they’ve been able to break,” Dunn said.

In continuing dialogue we have welcomed and published numerous letters to the editor and opinion pieces in response to our coverage.

We could list all the positive, community-interest, feature stories we have done in the past year but some seem to disregard them in the midst of a controversial story.

Earlier in the semester I was asked, “Why would parents want to send their children to SIU if all they see is the ‘negative’ stories on the cover of the newspaper which could hurt recruitment?”

We are not hurting recruitment. We are doing what we are supposed to do, and the work we are doing is something SIU is doing right.

Withholding information from the public out of fear of how it may be perceived is unethical.

College newspapers should not be underestimated because they are staffed by students. The public should expect from us what they would expect from any other news outlet and hold us to the same standard.

If the university or the public expects college news outlets to be a public relations arm for the university, they are asking us to poorly prepare ourselves for the working world after we graduate.

Despite negativity and resistance, we will continue to report the facts and shine the light on both the controversial and the positive.

We will continue to do our duty to the public and students to be the watchdog people expect us to be.

The Daily Egyptian provides a platform for student journalists to grow, hone their craft and go on to lead successful and fulfilling careers.

After all, isn’t this type of platform something SIU looks to provide every student?

Editor-in-chief Athena Chrysanthou can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Chrysant1Athena.

To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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25 Comments

25 Responses to “Editorial: The Daily Egyptian is not a public relations firm for SIU – it never will be”

  1. Anne Fletcher on April 18th, 2018 9:39 am

    Thank you for your work!

  2. Anne Fletcher on April 18th, 2018 9:40 am

    Thank you for your work and your professionalism.

  3. gerry king on April 18th, 2018 9:42 am

    Keep up the current DE attitude and SIUC will be toast within two years. You pinkos are pathetic.

  4. Steve Brown on April 18th, 2018 9:45 am

    Very solid set of thoughts. Leadership needs to do better job vetting ideas before letting them fly. Tube dopey stuff.
    Parents will see the smart moves too
    Don’t let them off the hook.

  5. Karen Johnson on April 18th, 2018 10:34 am

    Keep speaking the truth. I have been a follower of the DE since I was a student in the early 70’s. My heart is breaking for SIUC and we need to know what is going on there.

  6. hobo on April 18th, 2018 11:10 am

    Nice story Athena, but it certainly seems that the chancellor is the object of many negative stories either in the news section of the DE or in the opinion pages. I think it has become mean spirited and one sided, especially the cop academy coverage which is wholeheartedly one-sided, and not fact based. The movement against the academy is small, and not proven to be a majority of the campus or community. It is also spearheaded by Sam Beard who obviously has it out for the chancellor. Unfair coverage!

    I don’t agree with everything the chancellor does either, for one I think tuition and fees could be lower, especially with a child in college and another one on the way that I would like to continue the heritage of being a Saluki. I do agree with ending programs of study that cannot support themselves.

    How a bout a story on other colleges that have made changes similar to what Montemango is proposing, and how they are turning around their enrollments, for instance Eastern Illinois whose enrollment is up very substantially?

  7. Ann Albertan on April 18th, 2018 11:45 am

    Freedom of the press is a foundation of democracy. Truth to power is the only solution to the corrupt practices of government, the bureaucracy and civil society writ large. The DE should not be deterred from reporting truth regardless of its impact. Your country is in crisis. Can you not see that this is but a microcosm of greater societal ills. I’m horrified to think that some people would/could support muzzling of reporters.

  8. Kay Allen on April 18th, 2018 11:46 am

    I applaud the DE for in depth reporting, particularly as it relates to revelations regarding the SIUC chancellor. Keep up the good work! The DE is more necessary now than ever before.

  9. Robert McCormick on April 18th, 2018 12:23 pm

    As a graduate of SIUC in 1973 and long time resident of Southern Illinois, I am very concerned about the state of SIUC. What the DE is doing with its incisive and investigative pieces should be applauded. This is journalism at its finest. In addition to articles about the current chancellor at SIUC, the DE has exposed the antiquated system of university governance where individuals with little or no experience in academic governance are appointed to make decisions for a large, multimillion dollar academic undertaking. How can the SIU Board of Trustees continually raise tuition and fees thinking it will attract more students to SIUC? If an airline is losing customers because it is too expensive, it does not raise ticket prices as a means to attract customers. Yet, this is SIUC. Thank you DE and keep up the good work!

  10. Alicia Utterback on April 18th, 2018 12:52 pm

    I have appreciated reading your staff’s work during this troubling time for the University, and your continued examination of the actions of many players. You are students, first and foremost. Your investment in both your publication and your campus is enormous. You are learning, growing as journalists, and will be able to not only say that you received your education, but that you honed your craft, and explored your administration’s ethical short-comings and failures, making the campus better for those who follow.

    SIUC has its struggles. Just as fresh oxygen treats gangrene, your light shining on these issues will expose the rot. It’s up to the SIU administration, BOT, etc. to repair it.

    Keep up the great work.

  11. DP on April 18th, 2018 1:02 pm

    EIU Class of ’09 and Daily Eastern News alum here. Our motto for the paper was, “Tell the truth and don’t be afraid.” You guys exemplify that motto. You’re doing a great job; don’t let anyone discourage you from saying what needs to be said.

  12. Tony Williams on April 18th, 2018 1:53 pm

    Ordinarily, this editorial should be totally unnecessary for a newspaper under very good editorial and journalistic responsibility – for the moment (unless the Chancellor decides to employ another of his many relatives and cronies to run it o!). However, in addition to praising this superb work of journalism I’d like to mention that your editorial is unfortunately necessary for this area, one that former Governor Adlai Stevenson felt skeptical about having a university located here 70 years ago due to its backwardness. Such qualities inform the P.R. brigade, “my country (aka university) right or wrong” obedient conformists,, and those who believe in total submission to the status quo. You have every reason to be proud of your achievements when you graduate and I’m sure you will be welcomed by non-propaganda orientated quality newspapers when you begin applying for jobs in view of the great investigative journalism you are doing rather than the puff PR promotions that many higher administrators expect even when the4y are doing the worst type of organization. Please keep up the good work so that any future administrative DE appointments will find it hard to reverse the tide you have started.

  13. Victor White on April 18th, 2018 2:29 pm

    Didn’t the DE have to beg Chancellor Dunn for financial help a few years ago in order to stay afloat? Interesting. Overall, the staff and Editors of the DE do a good job, but they also tend to exhibit a militant, anti-SIUC agenda no matter how valiantly they try to couch their criticism in “power to the people, democracy deserves a free press”, etc.

  14. Bob Springer on April 18th, 2018 2:37 pm

    Wonderful, on-point editorial, Athena. Journalism is under attack as never before, and the corporate decimation of newsrooms only serves to make the wrong-headed ideological attacks that much more virulent and damaging. As journalism goes, so goes democracy. Keep up the hard work of ferreting out the truth in a muddled world. Do Bill Harmon proud! ~SIU, ’77, DE reporter, editorial editor, ’74-’76

  15. Tom Grier on April 18th, 2018 3:56 pm

    A student newspaper can, of course, print good things about their school also, but it shouldn’t just be a mouthpiece for the school’s PR-Marketing Dept. If the paper finds bad things happening and reports on those things, the place will get healthier and be better in the long run.

    The exposure caused by “bad news” is like an antiseptic: it stings a bit a first, but it speeds healing.

  16. Phil Greer on April 18th, 2018 5:10 pm

    As I say often ,shine the light,stay in flight . The DE this semester has done both . Because of you and your work the university will be a better university . Future students at the university will know they have a strong voice . As one of your instruters I have never treated you as students when you were at the DE. It was not nessery .You are journalist working hard to tell the truth and shine the light . Every day you record history . Years from now students and residence of southern Ilinois well look back at what you have done and will do during your time at SIU . Haveing said this as a old journalist ! What do you have for me tomorrow . Remember when you shine the light people get upset . You are the gate keeper for democracy ,you will work long hours for little pay , you will get hate mail , ,you will experience great joy, and also grief . That means people are reading and you have a impact . I know when you leave SIU these words will go with you ” Every persons owes part of his time to the upgrading of the profession to witch they belong ! You will do that .

  17. Rick carsley on April 18th, 2018 6:17 pm

    I applaud the journalism and the boldness to take on the chancellor. This was not always the case at the Daily Egyptian especially when I went to school during the early 2000s. I did a comic strip for the paper and when I said something unflattering about Quatros Pizza In a comic strip I was fired because they threatened to pull their ads. So the moral High ground hasn’t always been the way that the paper operated. The paper has obviously come a long way and it’s great to hear.

  18. Beth Dcally on April 18th, 2018 6:19 pm

    The challenge with your paper is you use hyperbole in your stories, to the point it is fake news. While you should report real News in an unbias fashion, not in the exaggerated dramatic way. You should be the Daily Egyptian not the Daily Enquirer.

  19. Gus Bode on April 18th, 2018 8:46 pm

    No offense but in my mind someone dropped these stories on your front doorstep. Care to divulge your sources?

  20. Karen Torry on April 18th, 2018 11:34 pm

    I’m a former DE reporter/editor (1981-1984) and I couldn’t be prouder the work you’re doing. The DE always has been and still is one of the things SIU-C does best. Cheers!

  21. Dave Johnson on April 19th, 2018 12:50 am

    In my 20 years on campus, the DE has never been so relevant, principled, and excellent. The fake news trolls are an inevitable part of the media environment these days, alas. If more serious critics have problems with what you are doing, let them call into question the facts you are presenting. I’ve yet to see a coherent attempt at showing that your negative stories about the chancellor are false, save for formulaic responses from the chancellor’s office. If negative stories are true, they fully deserve publishing every much as true positive stories do (and you run plenty of those). Your opinion pieces have run the gamut, so there’s something for everyone to agree and disagree with. That’s exactly what a quality paper should be doing on the opinion front. So keep up the good work, and keep making us proud.

  22. Cully Perlman on April 19th, 2018 8:30 pm

    Keep shining the light on unethical behavior. Don’t worry about the naysayers and trolls. They will be forgotten for what they are. Keep telling the truth, always. SIUC deserves to return to the great school it once was, and with your reporting I’m hopeful it will get there.

  23. Gary Marx on April 19th, 2018 9:56 pm

    Good editorial, Athena. Good newspapers do not buckle to corporate pressure — from advertisers or from within. The DE’s coverage of the chancellor’s office has been commendable. Keep it up.

  24. richmond adams on May 2nd, 2018 11:00 am

    Keep reporting as you have, keep investigating as you have, and keep doing what is necessary: your efforts are helping to prevent our university and culture at large from sliding ever closer to Sinclair Lewis’ world of _It Can’t Happen Here._

  25. Bruce Rodman on May 3rd, 2018 2:09 pm

    I think there is one slight contradiction in this column. In a sense, the DE is a marketing tool for the university. By doing its job well, it shows that students can learn to be hard-hitting journalists by going there. And it also shows student and parents that the university is a community that honors and respects the First Amendment, as well as the free exchange of ideas and opinions. I’m glad to see President Randy Dunn has some appreciation for that, though I was surprised that he learned about some of the details of the new chancellor’s hiring by reading about it in the newspaper!

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