Saturday, September 4, 2010

The fourth estate

My university has been getting the wrong kind of press for the last two years.  After the president was involved in a financial mismanagement scandal and forced out, the institution's relationship with the media changed.  That president had been the subject of glowing editorials in the state paper during his six-year tenure, but unfortunately, there was a marked willingness on that same paper's part to take him at his word when he reported robust growth and a twenty-four-karat future.

All that has changed now.  The new administration didn't get any honeymoon.  As if to make up for its previous credulity, the media is now scrutinizing every aspect of university operations, from extra spending on decorative sidewalks to inappropriate comments made during non-FOIA-able segments of trustee's meetings.

Understandably, perhaps, there's a certain amount of exasperation on the part of university personnel about being under a microscope.  But it's important to remember that we lived through the opposite -- when nobody in the media was checking to see if the emperor had any clothes.

Yes, it's annoying that the paper is filing dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests on fishing expeditions to find anything and everything that might not be precisely according to Hoyle.  Would we really rather the media err on the side of leaving us alone?  I'm grateful that somebody's finally watching to make sure this public institution is being run the way the law requires, and with the transparency and accountability that the taxpayers who still foot a portion of the bill, and in whose interest the school is chartered, deserve.

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