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An open letter to President Lariviere

Dear President Lariviere,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Oregon Commentator, the twenty-eight year old student fee-funded journal of campus and local opinion. Throughout its existence, the Commentator has provided an alternative viewpoint on campus, providing news and editorial content that differs from other publications — student and otherwise — in the campus and Eugene communities.

The Oregon Commentator strives to be an educational organization, teaching interested students about journalistic writing and reporting regardless of degree program. Since becoming editor-in-chief of the Commentator, I have instituted a draft process for writers, allowing them the opportunity to turn in their pieces a week ahead of deadline in order to receive feedback from our managing editor, a master’s student in the magazine journalism program in the SOJC. Additionally, we have students who do work for us ranging from ad sales to art to operations management to layout to copy editing, providing the unique experience of working in every part of a news room.

The Oregon Commentator provides a relaxed environment where students can learn and work on longer-form reported pieces. While the Oregon Daily Emerald does an excellent job reporting campus news and opinions, students participating in that program are operating under much more stringent guidelines. With a news article due every day and a paper to produce every night, long-form opinion and reported pieces often end up going by the wayside in favor of more informative news briefs and condensed opinion columns.

Current students from the Oregon Commentator have had their work featured on the Student Free Press Association (a national news organization focused on independent campus journalism) and as such, have been linked to by such prestigious news organizations as the National Review, Fox News and The Atlantic. Indeed, a piece written by an OC staffer received the most traffic on the SFPA website in 2010. The Commentator is also a proud member of the Collegiate Network, an organization bringing together conservative student journalists from around the country. Alumni from our magazine have gone on to successful careers in journalism. 2006-07 editor-in-chief Ted Niedermeyer, is the editor-in-chief of a well-read automotive industry blog called The Truth About Cars, and 2007-08 editor-in-chief Philip Ossie Bladine is the editor-in-chief of an alternative weekly in Vancouver, WA called the Vancouver Voice.

I understand you have denied our request to conduct an interview with your office, citing our “lack of serious content” as a concern and worrying about appearing not suitably “presidential” within our pages. The issue in which your interview would have appeared, The Interview Issue, will include printed interviews with Dean of Students Paul Shang, Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, Oregon University System Vice-Chancellor Sona Andrews, University Health Center Gynecologist Colleen Jones, and various other notable members of the campus and Eugene communities. If you don’t feel that appearing next to these individuals in the magazine is presidentially suitable , I would appreciate a list of individuals we should be interviewing instead.

You know just as well as I do how integral student programs are to student success in university communities. Students who are engaged in extracurricular activities tend to do better both in school and beyond graduation insofar as grades, job prospects and career development. But students are busy. We take classes, we have personal lives and many of us have jobs in order to cover the rent (and consistently rising tuition). It is much more likely for a student to join an extracurricular activity that will assist in career development with such limited time, and we at the Commentator believe we provide that career development for aspiring journalists. As part of the OC, students receive access to internships and fellowships across the country (by virtue of our relationships with the Collegiate Network and the Student Free Press Association) that they would not have access to simply by being a student in the journalism school. While we as a student program are eligible for stipends, we choose not to receive them. Students work for the Oregon Commentator because they care about what we stand for and are interested in learning about what it means to work for a publication.

Your comment regarding our editorial content insulted a publication that is written, produced and read by many students. Students appreciate the Commentator because it provides alternative viewpoints to the pervading culture on campus, and we feel those alternative viewpoints should be respected and given space to exist. Based on our (almost) consistent funding from the ASUO, student government representatives agree.

At this point, you have returned to us with a counter-offer: we send you questions ahead of time, and you(r public relations staff) answer(s) them for us. This is not a legitimate counter-offer (ask anyone in the SOJC about this and they will agree); if we wanted to read a press release, we would read a press release. Mr. President: when you entered your office a year and a half ago, you stated that transparency was going to be a priority for your administration. What could be more transparent than sitting down with the students you are charged with serving to answer our questions?

We are forced to wonder whether your reluctance to be interviewed has more to do with a desire not to be questioned by the very people whose futures you hold in your hands than with the editorial content of our magazine. Since you came into office, we at the Commentator are not the only ones who have been impressed with your forthrightness and honesty. It is my opinion that if you continue to refuse our interview requests we will likewise not be the only ones whose faith in that honesty is diminished.

Sincerely,

Lyzi Diamond
Editor-in-Chief
Oregon Commentator

  1. Billy Big Balls says:

    WHAT A MAROON!!!!!

  2. Lyzi Diamond says:

    @Gower
    My thoughts exactly!

  3. Gower says:

    @Former Pres Sam DK
    “While I have been known to have only the most positive interactions and feelings towards ASUO Senators…”

    Bahaha!

  4. Former Pres Sam DK says:

    While I have been known to have only the most positive interactions and feelings towards ASUO Senators, this Evan Thomas character seems to be a real douche.

  5. Billy Big Balls says:

    Someone thinks he’s Billy Big Balls.

  6. atthecoast says:

    My, my Evan. Just FYI, a question neither makes an assumption nor does it equal a conspiracy. Actually, the first thought you had “You’re kidding, right?” was the correct thought. That was quite a leap you made to the conspiracy theory. Where did that come from? (Oh, and that is actually a rhetorical question, not a real one.) I don’t think I did any spouting about your intentions. Just about what you said. Although I don’t believe I spouted nearly as much as you. I’m glad you are done, as is Melissa, I believe. This is exhausting.

  7. I’m going to laugh if your “O RLY” invokes another three page response.

  8. Evan P. Thomas says:

    I haven’t “berated the OC,” I read the OC all the time (which is why I’m on the blog). I disagree with the letter, not the publication.

    And, are you seriously wondering if I have some sort of “inside connection?” You’re kidding, right? I’m not even close to being allowed into the administration’s politics. Like I said, if I were somehow given the ability to make him interview or not, I would choose him to interview. But I don’t fault him for declining such an interview, and the whining letter that followed proved to have much less integrity than the declination of a interview, in my opinion.

    I’m not making any assumptions about Lariviere’s motivations. I’m taking it precisely at face value: that he literally just did not want to interview with a publication that he doesn’t like. Lari’s perception of the OC is not an assumption, he flat out made it very clear (did you even read Lari’s response?). Everyone else around here has made this into some threat of transparency or something: THAT is the assumption. You, for example, questioned my “inside connections” in the same paragraph that you said: “I wont make any assumptions.” Pot, kettle, black.

    Perhaps, yes, I am being defensive. But I’m not being defensive about what could be the content of such an interview (because I have no idea what that content would even be!), I’m being defensive because it’s very common for college-age adults to bandwagon together against some opponent when the opponent hasn’t done something wrong. There’s an eagerness to protest at this age, an eagerness that often outweighs objectivity.

    The article Tomchak wrote essentially saying Lari was being difficult and challenging himself to somehow secure an interview was fine: I agree that Lari’s being difficult, and I commend Tomchak for his efforts. It should have stopped there (often media makes their own comments on being declined an interview, not-so-often do they actually combat the other party). This is a student-funded magazine, a magazine that I vote to secure funds for; so when they do something that I find less than professional, I let them know (and most of them take it with a grain of salt anyway!). Obviously, the magazine partially exists as a learning mechanism for students to enter into journalism, so it’s not like I’m going to be against their funding if they make mistakes. But hopefully next time OC is declined an interview (which will happen again), they’ll have a nice little voice in the back of their head asking them what the responsible reaction should be.

    You can keep spouting your conspiracies about my intentions if you want. I’ve now made my points pretty clear and I don’t want to keep repeating myself to different people who haven’t read what I’ve previously said. So, I’m done. If you want to keep arguing, you can either look back to my previous comments, because there’s really nothing more that I haven’t said, or you can message me on facebook or something.

  9. atthecoast says:

    Evan, yes I must agree your example comparing U of O president with the president of the USA is well, bad. Not comparable on much of any level as far as I can foresee.

    It seems you spend quite a lot of time making quite a lot of assumptions about Pres. L’s motivations. Do you have some inside connection that leads you to continue to spew excuses for the lack of transparency expressed by the refusal for the interview with the OC? I still question whether it was his staff or his own decision. I won’t make assumptions. Regardless, I believe that the refusal to interview with the OC displayed a lack of integrity. More so when you factor in the qualifiers they have attempted to add to any potential agreement to such an interview, since the initial outright refusal. Your arguments and assumptions regarding any possible perception of the OC as a reason for refusal do not present themselves as defensible when one considers the world of U of O Journalistic mediums. I sense a defensive posture in your diatribe berating the OC, and I find it fascinating that you spend so much time on the OC blog if you give it no creed. What’s the point, Evan?

    I believe I was correct in my first summation… you are overly overly defensive. Of what or of whom my now be the question.

  10. CJ says:

    I bet the P in your name stands for Pomeranian, which is my least favorite breed of dog.

  11. Evan P. Thomas says:

    Right, but if you were an official and didn’t like the publication, or didn’t want your article next to an article about someone’s balls (and I really don’t blame him for that; I obviously don’t care about it, I think the article that followed my article in the OC last year was about sex positions, but I don’t fault him for caring about something like that), that’s a good enough reason to decline interview.

    To use a bad but generally similar example: Obama probably declines far more interviews than he accepts. Do you feel he is disregarding the citizens that read the specific publication he declined an interview with?

    I also disagree with your definition of “represents” because I don’t think the OC represents any students outside of the ones it publishes. It’s not an advocacy publication, it’s a commentary. That sometimes advocates.

  12. atthecoast says:

    Evan –

    It is important because the OC represents a portion of the student body he is responsible for and to, and because he was specifically asked for the interview, and he was asked in a sincere and straightforward manner. (He was asked nicely.) From my perspective the way it has been handled shows a lack of integrity, yes – a strong word, but I believe leaders should be held to a high standard. Whether the way this has played out so far has to do with some personal opinions from the Lariviere staff or from the President directly I can’t assume. It looks even worse when you add that “… Lariviere interviews quite often and allows relatively open access to meeting with him in person for brief interactions. He just isn’t interviewing with the OC.” So, the key phrase here is he “just isn’t interviewing with the OC.”

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