OU Daily chooses not to cover former adviser’s allegations

Last week long-time adviser and journalism professor Judy Gibbs Robinson posted on Facebook that she is no longer with the University of Oklahoma after her job became “increasingly intolerable” after she requested “equal pay with a male colleague for the same work” and ended up filing and losing a grievance.

She said she shared her story “because I want other women to know the huge cost of seeking workplace equity.” She also said “[none] of this is a reflection on the students I taught or advised, who did and continue to do amazing journalism and brought me so much joy all these years.”

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As you can imagine, those students find themselves in an awkward spot. The same day the post went live, the editorial board of OU Daily posted an editorial explaining why they wouldn’t be reporting on the situation.

In addition to the students being personally connected to Judy, the editorial also said the situation “involves several years’ worth of complicated interpersonal and professional context that goes far beyond any of our understanding. Some of us have firsthand personal knowledge of what went on in those years, but on a professional and official level, we currently have only a piece of a much larger picture.”

Because of the confidentiality involved in personnel decisions, the editorial said all the sources “are not at full liberty to share all of the details with us.”

As you can imagine, folks asked some questions (mostly via Twitter) about why the students weren’t pursuing the story when they said in the editorial “we would normally pursue stories about alleged pay inequity on the basis of gender.”

Emma Keith, editor in chief, was willing to answer some of those questions. She said the staff is willing to tackle the wage disparity issue in a larger context.

“[W]e’re definitely open to reporting on wage disparities elsewhere, and have done so in the past,” Emma said. “We’ve received a lot of suggestions … that we use this situation as a jumping off point into a larger, institutional story, which is likely our path forward.”

She also said that while they feel free to report on their male adviser’s role in the situation, “unfortunately, this situation is not as straightforward as it was presented in Judy’s post.”

Judy worked for student media, but also for the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“There was considerable personal/departmental conflict that played into her experiences and those of our male adviser,” Emma said. “[A]nd the situation was a complicated blend of Judy’s issues within our journalism college and our student media department.”

In addition to the complicated overlap, Emma said the staff didn’t feel they could get the complete story in this situation.

“We understand that there are a lot of personal factors that our student media director, male adviser, and the college are not going to elaborate on,” she said. “[B]ut without [them] the story is not really complete.”

She said she is aware of other college media outlets who have reported on their advisers or decisions that directly impact them, but that the staff determined that this particular story might not be as newsworthy as the Facebook post alleges.

“[R]eporting on ourselves is something we take on a case by case basis,” Emma said.

She further said that after evaluating “the story as presented in Judy’s post, the story we heard from student media (but could not officially report because the department technically cannot speak on its own behalf), and the personal conflicts we knew about within the department” that they decided not to pursue the story.

“We decided that this particular story was not as newsworthy as Judy had presented it to be, based on all the other factors that played into it that were left out of her public post,” Emma said.

She said she wants people to know that the staff carefully considered the situation.

“In sum, we want people to know that we didn’t make the decision not to cover this out of laziness or a choice to look away from a legitimate issue, but out of careful consideration of several years’ worth of personal and professional context that played into Judy’s situation.”

2 Responses to “OU Daily chooses not to cover former adviser’s allegations”
  1. Michelle says:

    I am wondering if the OU Daily could solicit a third party to report on the matter and publish in their paper as a guest writer? It is unconventional, but so is the situation. Could they solicit another college newspaper’s staff? Could they run an AP story?

    When newspaper staffs become part of the news themselves, it is tricky for sure. I commend the Daily for realizing their involvement was too close to be able to objectively write a story.

  2. Judy Gibbs Robinson says:

    Neither Emma nor any member of the current staff ever called to ask me about the “considerable personal/departmental conflict” that she says was the basis of her decision not to publish.

    Had she asked, I would have told her that the conflict began when I asked to be paid the same as the male adviser for the same work — advising the Daily; teaching three classes a year. Until I made that request, there was no conflict.

    By this standard, no pay equity disputes will ever be newsworthy because a dispute is by definition a conflict.

    I would also note that in my original Facebook post (and now) I have made every effort to avoid character assassination of other parties and to focus solely on the pay equity issue. It is unfortunate that they have chosen otherwise.