In response to ‘Roadblocks to student journalism don’t help anyone.”

J.B. Bird

As communicators at a public university who deeply value our professional relationships with journalists, we take very seriously any suggestion that we create roadblocks to information, as The Daily Texan writes in its April 9 editorial “Roadblocks to student journalism don’t help anyone.”

The editorial raises questions about the accessibility of information on the vital topic of UT’s Title IX policies. There was important information missing from the editorial. 

Over the past academic year, we’ve assisted at least 11 Texan journalists with 20 or more articles on Title IX issues alone and replied to numerous open records requests.

And that’s not unusual — in a typical month, the Texan conducts an enormous number of interviews with University administrators, faculty and staff. In October 2018, for example, the paper wrote 88 articles that featured interviews with the University.

The Texan plays a valuable role on campus in holding the administration accountable and ensuring we remain transparent. We understand and welcome this. If we can do better, we must and we will.

But we can only respond to concerns based on facts.

In discussing UT’s response to shifting federal Title IX policies, the editorial board writes, “We wanted to find out how UT will respond. And we couldn’t.”

But they did.

As the editorial acknowledges, the board conducted the interview with the Title IX coordinator last Wednesday, just as it sought, and was provided with all of the information requested.

Here’s the background: In February, University Communications had also arranged for the UT System’s vice chancellor/general counsel and UT-Austin’s Title IX coordinator to conduct an in-person interview with the Texan, which resulted in a front-page story on federal changes to Title IX policies.

When Texan writers reached out for another interview on the same topic last week, we asked what additional information could be provided and had several email exchanges back and forth. After the Texan explained their reasoning in a phone call, we heard their frustrations and set up another interview immediately.

The editorial also criticizes University Communications for requesting interview questions from reporters.

With the high number of media requests the University receives (including from the Texan), we often ask for the topics or questions via email to help prepare for interviews. We always remain open to additional questions. Moving forward, we will make clear to the Texan this is a request and not a requirement.

We work with Texan journalists on a daily basis throughout the academic year and during the summer. Their coverage makes the University a better place and we will continue to do all we can to help them pursue that mission.