Pitt News Secret Society Investigation Reveals One of Its Own Editors as a Member

OK, so here’s the thing: Some serious secret society shizzle is going down like whoa at the University of Pittsburgh.  The Pitt News, increasingly one of my favorite student newspapers, has been covering the heck out of it and is currently making the secrets public– including one that has caused internal editorial strife.

In the first part of a two-part series and a related editorial, the paper provides context: “The Order of the Druids, originally founded in 1920 as an honorary society to recognize ‘the University’s outstanding men’ . . . has generated everything from admiration to suspicion among the general student population. . . . [T]he Druids has not been seen congregated on campus in their trademark black robes in almost 10 years.  But that hasn’t stopped the group from gaining a disproportionate amount of political power at Pitt.”

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This disproportionate political power is the problem, for the campus potentially and for the Pitt News.  In the midst of an investigation so spirited and comprehensive I’m admittedly jealous I was not on staff to help with it– involving “months of research and interviews by multiple reporters and editors”– TPN discovered one of its own editors is a Druid.

The paper’s assistant opinions editor Nick Stamatakis had not previously revealed his Druid-ness to EIC Amy Friedenberger, a violation of the paper’s code of ethics that requires staffers “to disclose any organizations they are affiliated with.”

Doubly troublesome: “After the discovery about Stamatakis’ affiliation with the secret society, it immediately came to the Pitt News’ attention that he penned the endorsement editorial supporting [fellow Druid] Gordon Louderback in his bid for Student Government Board president, which Louderback succeeded in winning. . . . Stamatakis wrote the persuasion of the editorial board, whose members reached the majority opinion that they supported Louderback at the time.  However, had the Pitt News known that Stamatakis was a member of the Druids, the editorial board would have barred him from writing the editorial in the interest of avoiding a perceived conflict of interest.”

In an editorial addressing the matter, Friedenberger confirms Stamatakis’ past work was immediately vetted for Druid-related red flags and his future work will not include pieces related to the student government.  For now, he remains on the job.

So, yeah, wow.  Secrets.  Elections.  Codes of ethics.  Real and perceived conflicts of interest.  Creepy robes.  This is truly the definition of an uber-complex story.  The swirl of related emotions for the paper’s staff and readers no doubt resembles the emoji faces featured atop all TPN story comment boxes (screenshot below).

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