10 Questions I Still Have About the Oregon State Journalism Stonewalling Controversy

The first mini-controversy within collegemediatopia in 2014 quietly concluded earlier this week with a job switch.

As I previously posted, veteran journalist Kate Willson, a student media adviser at Oregon State University, recently found herself ensconced in an odd fight with university officials over public records she was requesting to help her lead journalism workshops for OSU students. Administrators stonewalled her via increasingly cringeworthy rationales and related behavior. Alluding to OSU’s official color, the Corvallis Gazette-Times called the whole shebang the “Orange Hush.”

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Well, Willson has decided to leave the hush behind, landing a new gig as a staff writer at Portland’s Willamette Week. Given the apparent tenseness of the standoff with OSU, it plays on spec like the happiest possible coda to a sorry state of affairs.

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But even with the strange saga seemingly now in the rearview, I’m filled with confusion and a healthy dollop of skepticism. To that end, here are 10 questions I humbly contend OSU still should answer publicly ASAP:

  • Why were you so loathe to pass along the seemingly basic info on staff pay that Willson requested? Even a beginning journalism student who stumbles across this case would have the wherewithal to wonder right away: So what’s in the data — is it something you don’t want people to see?
  • What does it say about your system of governance that a suitable compromise could not be reached without lawyers, veiled intimidation and silence orders? And in a larger sense, how do you explain losing such a respected journalist so quickly and in such a publicly ugly way?
  • Why did your legal counsel believe it had any right to order Willson to stay silent about her dealings with them — considering they didn’t represent her and lawyer-client confidentiality doesn’t apply to the client?
  • Why hasn’t your student media director either publicly supported Willson or fully explained why she’s siding with the school?
  • And how does your student media director justify this email message sent to Willson last semester during the controversy: “OSU Student Media hired you to perform as an educator, not as a journalist”? How can she not realize that sometimes teaching and advising journalism sometimes requires PRACTICING journalism?
  • Why don’t you understand that censorship of any form in the modern media age often makes a mess and brings MORE attention to a situation you are looking to keep quiet? It’s PR 2.0 101.
  • And what exactly will you say to candidates applying to replace Willson when they ask how the position became available? (I’d avoid something like “Let’s just say she asked too many questions. We don’t want that from our journalism hires.”)

Related

Oregon State Strangely Stonewalls Student Media Adviser’s Records Request

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