The recent controversy surrounding Washington Post education reporter Daniel de Vise, who sent a story about UT's use of the Collegiate Learning Assessment test to university communications staffers before submitting it to his editors, should serve as a cautionary tale to journalists on both the collegiate and professional levels.
This tawdry tale, first reported by the Texas Observer, resulted in policy changes at the Post (and a kind of tacit admission that this sort of thing occurs on a regular basis.) It also puts the university in a bad light by having its communications staff appearing to try to manipulate news coverage.
My advice to Daily Texan reporters is to keep your stories to yourselves. Share them with your editors, of course, and with your fellow writers, but never send them to anyone outside the organization. I would be comfortable reading a paragraph of explanation of a complex subject back to a source over the phone to check clarity and accuracy. But that's as far as I would go.
Our readers need to be assured of our independence and integrity. Situations like the one at the Post serve to undermine these essential elements of a free press.
It was hard not to notice the table across the way at Royers Round Top Cafe last Friday night.
With one exception, the seven diners' backs were very broad and their necks only slightly less so. There were smiles all around the table as the hungry crew waited patiently for their meals at the popular cafe in the tiny town (pop. 90) best known for its art and antique shows.
Royers has built a reputation for its idiosyncratic decor and its hefty portions over the years. It must have been the latter that drew the group of UT football players to the restaurant a good 90-minute drive from Austin that evening. At the table were linemen Kyle Kriegel, Mason Walters, Trey Hopkins, Sedrick Flowers, Luke Poehlmann, Josh Cochran and wide receiver Jaxon Shipley. At least, I'm pretty sure it was them.
Their fellow diners were respectful of the players' privacy -- for a while. Then the autograph requests began, followed by the hopeful pleas for photo opportunities. The players were very good-natured throughout, accommodating all their fans of all ages, and they even managed some time to tuck away all the food the Royers staff brought to the table. Except for maybe a slice or two of the cafe's outstanding pie collection.
A single brave Aggie in the restaurant made himself known, but all the exchanges in the ancient rivalry were pleasant ones on this night.
I was most impressed by the way the young men handled themselves and the bond that exists between them and the UT football fans, even in this crossroads cafe many miles from the screaming crowds in the massive stadium. It was a very good night.
The passing today of Davy Jones, the diminutive lead singer of the "Pre-Fab Four," also known as The Monkees, gives me pause, as does the demise of anyone who crossed my path in the days of my youth.
I never met Davy Jones and he wasn't my favorite Monkee -- Mike Nesmith, aka "Wool Hat," was my fave because he seemed smart, allegedly knew how to play his guitar and his mother invented Liquid Paper.
I actually had a connection to another Monkee, Peter Tork (nee Thorkelson), who attended my alma mater, Carleton College, for a time several years before I arrived and shared some of my professors before he gave up education for the music biz. And I was familiar with Mickey Dolenz from his role in "Circus Boy," a short-lived TV show.
But I have a direct link to the Monkees because I'm one of a relatively small (and dwindling) number of people who actually saw them perform "live." It was in the Summer of Love, 1967, at the now-departed Boston Garden, which was filled with screaming teenage girls and my cousin, Maynard McCorkle, and myself.
Here's how we got there: That summer, when I was 13 and gearing up for my freshman year at Brunswick High School in Brunswick, Maine, WBZ-AM was the sound of rock 'n' roll in northern New England. The best music of the period was right there at 1030 on your AM dial. And the 50,000-watt station was powerful and hip, or at least, trying to be. Its slogan that summer was "Love and Purity."
The Monkees were coming to town and WBZ had a contest to give away some tickets to lucky listeners who could complete the following phrase: "I love the Monkees and WBZ, 'cause..." Fill in the blank.
Yours truly got a postcard, filled it out with my entry and contact information and sent it off to Boston. Didn't think much more of it until one day I was sitting in a chair in King's Barbershop in Brunswick (long shuttered) and my father came in saying he'd heard my name on the radio and that I'd won two tickets to see the Monkees!
My excitement was unbounded, but then there was the question of how to make the trip to see the show. I couldn't drive. My father had little interest. So after some negotiation we agreed to make the trip with my slightly younger cousin, Maynard, and his father, Henry McCorkle (also no longer with us.)
The four of us drove the three hours to Boston. Maynard and I went into the cavernous Garden and found our seats. My father and uncle repaired to the bar across the street. Maynard and I watched the short show during which the Monkees performed together and individually with much assistance from a group of backup musicians. The screaming was incredibly intense and non-stop.
After the show, we got back in the car and drove the three hours back up to Maine. It was a long and emotionally draining ride. But entirely worth it. We'd seen the Monkees and I'd won a contest, pretty much the only one I've won in close to 60 years of living.
So, how did I do it? Let me tell you. Here are the magic words I wrote down on the postcard during that summer that now seems like a sun-drenched, half-forgotten dream of long ago: "I love the Monkees and WBZ, 'cause 'I'm a Believer' in 'Love and Purity.' "
I still am, or at least I like to think I am. Rest in peace, Davy Jones.
For those of you unable to attend this morning’s TSM board meeting (and who can’t wait for tomorrow’s news story), my take on the situation is that there is agreement that there was a breakdown in communication about the performance of Gary Borders as TSM director between the University administration and the board (and not much agreement on anything else.) Gary Borders is still out as TSM director. At this time, there are no plans to sell the licenses for TSTV and KVRX. There may be future discussions about exploring the possibility of shifting responsibility for TSM from the Division of Student Affairs to the College of Communications. A search is on for an interim director, who should be selected at a special board meeting on March 7. The interim director will run things while the search is on for a new, permanent director, if such a thing exists. No word on when the search for a digital adviser might begin. Another board meeting is set for March 19, the last possible minute to set a TSM budget for the coming year. I think that’s pretty much it. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
Sometimes you just have to wonder what's going on in the minds of politicians. Watching the Republican debate last night, you saw four white guys in suits all trying to out right-wing the other as they kowtowed to a room full of neanderthal nutjobs from Arizona. Oh, and Gov. Rick Perry was there, too, sitting right next to Callista Gingrich's hairdo!
Anyway, we have our own problems right here on the Forty Acres. If you've been reading the Texan this week here online or in print (as I'm sure you have), not one, but two pairs of candidates for the top posts in Student Government have been disqualified for campaign violations. You can see the stories here and here.
What's up with these people. Do they not know the rules or do they just decide not to play by them? I guess it's a little of both. Frankly, it's embarrassing.
But we aren't the only ones with election woes. Check out the problems their having at the University of Florida here. Go Gators!