Robert's House of Hamsters

Somewhere between Sacramento, the Oregon border and that tingly feeling in your toes.



How many cynics does it take to change a lightbulb?
Why bother? It will just burn out, too.

How many apathetics does it take to change a lightbulb?
I don't care.

How many children with ADD does it take to change a lightbulb?
Let's go ride bikes!

How many deep thinkers does it take to change a lightbulb?
Just one, but could the lightbulb really be changing them?

How many pirates does it take to change a lightbulb?
However many there arrrrrr.

How many ninjas does it take to chagne a lightbulb?
*flips out and kills everybody*

Hw mny sknks does itttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt tke to change a lighbulb??/
Note to self: don't write lightbulb jokes when drunk.

How many compulsive gamblers does it take to change a lightbulb?
Just one, but I'll bet you two.

How many people with no sense of humor whatsoever does it take to change a lightbulb?
One. If it's high up, they'll need a ladder of some sort.

How many indecisive people does it take to change a lightbulb?
I'll say two--no, three--actually, one--no, wait...

American Trivia!!!

This Thursday, I became the final entrant into the American Trivia Final Four on a second-chance attempt and correctly answering that Beirut, Lebanon was the location of a large bombing in 1983 after correctly answering that Mark Twain was the pen name of Samuel Clemens.

So, it will be yours truly, Luke DuVal, and the brothers Scott.

Allen called in to County Road 100, to give the three of us a chance to drop out. Cute.

But, my readers (maybe that should be singular instead of plural, Mr. I Heart the Synthesis) can catch all the action this Thursday at 9 p.m. Pacific during Country Road 100 on Radio Free Humboldt

My Schedjumahull

So, Chico State decided, in honor of my final semester (nah, not really) to renumber all the classes to totally screw up every students that's already been enrolled in school. So, there is no longer the old system of classes numbered under 100 being intro classes, classes in the 100s being major-oriented, classes in the 200s being advanced major-oriented, and classes in the 300s being graduate courses. Nope, now the first number denotes what year you should take the class-100s are for fresh--er, first-year students, 200s sophomores, 300s juniors and 400s seniors.

So, of course that's going out the window with me. :D Here's what my schedule looks like at the moment--what I'm taking. But this schedule is going to change.

ENGL 353 (Multicultural Literature)
JOUR 355 (Internet Newspapers & Magazines)
JOUR 428 (Politics & the Media)
KINE 296 (American Sports in Film)

The kinesiology class is on there just to give me 12 units until I'm enrolled as an Orion editor, which will be 3 units plus the cash (*grin*). I'll be dropping that because I don't want too many units and I hate night classes.

I hear good things about the Multicultural Lit professor. The Internet News professor will be new here after being a grad student at Purdue, but she did come in an teach one of my Public Affairs Reporting class this fall when she was applying for the position, and she did a pretty good job. The Politics professor is pretty popular, but I've told he's a wee bit of a hardcore liberal.

Me. And a liberal professor. In a politics class. There's a chance we could wind up getting along really...[sarcasm]GREAT!!!![/sarcasm]


The dilema...

...So, I interviewed for Internship #1 today. Drove an hour in the morning, wore some sort of pants besides jeans or jean shorts. Didn't have dress shoes though, those got left up in The HC. Internship #1 is at a small 6 days a week publication in a city of 13,000. That's the population of the town, not the circulation. Lasts six weeks, 40 hours a week, pays a $500 stipend, plus mileage when on assignment (for you math gurus, that'll be just over $2.08 an hour). I'll write two stories a day, shoot my own photos, do some pagenation, and maybe even get to tinker with some Web work.

I also applied for other Internships. Internship #2 is the shortest drive, 7 days a week, lasts ten weeks, pays an hourly salary, and will have me filling in on different beats every day.

Internship #3 is a drive distance in-between #1 and #2, a 3 day a week publication, no clue what it pays or what I'll be doing.

Now, I haven't heard anything form #2 or #3. But I did interview for #1 today. They offered it to me on the spot. I have one week to hear back from the other papers before I have to give my decision to #1.

So, this will be fun.


Things that make you go "Cool!"

The Lahue Physical Education Center at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Mass.

I don't think they named it after me.


The Plot Thickens...

So, Eric Slater was quoted in the Washington Post today (scroll down a wee bit past the stuff on Drudge and Albom) about how he never made up a source. I have a couple bones to pick with what he said:

In dismissing the 11-year veteran, the Times said an editor had gone to Chico and concluded that "the quotations from anonymous sources and from two named sources, a Mike Rodriguez and a Paul Greene, could not be verified."

"I got lazy," Slater says, adding that he conducted the interviews in bars and did not have phone numbers for Rodriguez and Greene. He says he could not prove he was in Chico because he slept 30 miles away on a side trip to pick up a BMW motorcycle. He also says the story "morphed, evolved and devolved" during a torturous editing process but that he takes "full responsibility" for the mistakes.

Well, that's all fine and dandy, except for a few details.

First, if he was spending the night somewhere other than Chico on this side trip to pick up his motorcycle ("a town 30 miles away?" Red Bluff and Marysville/Yuba City are both further than that, while Paradise and Orland are both closer. Maybe Oroville, Gridley or Biggs?) why the heck did he have all these bar quotes? The activity at bars in Chico doesn't pick up until later at night, and as improbable as it is for a 19-year old to come out of the Crazy Horse stumbling drunk anytime, the odds diminish even more during the middle of the day or early evening, especially in a bar where bouncers have flashlights, there are black lights all over the place, and there is a scanner to run the ID. I'm not talking on off-hand, drunken-haze observations from across the room. I have a friend that was just hired as a doorman at the Crazy Horse.

How can he paint all these nighttime scenes when he would have been staying the night in a different (and much smaller) town 30 miles away?

Not to mention, if he bought this motorcycle, wouldn't he have some sort of paperwork from the transfer, assuming he bought it used from someone else? If the motorcycle has a license plate, Slater has to become the new registered owner. Just speaking without personally looking into it, that would require the name (and address) of the previous owner, right?

Second, he now interviewed Mike Rodriguez at a bar? That's different than what Slater wrote in his story:

At least one student left town to escape that reputation. Outside a quiet coffee shop in downtown Chico, Mike Rodriguez, who studied computer science at the school for two years before moving to Sacramento and graduating from college there, sipped black coffee alone and explained why he left not only the school, but also his hometown, for two years.

Sitting down and having a conversation with a person at a coffee house (or bar, we really dunno now), alone even, and no phone number gets exchanged? That seems sketch.


How 'Bout Dem Cowboys?

The Big Update

So, here's what's been going on.

*Eric Slater is still fired.
*The Synthesis still sucks.
*Next fall, I'll be The Orion's online editor.
*I go up for an interview in Red Bluff on Friday.



New term I saw on The Orion feedback recently from some of the more vocal, abrasive, and strangely anonymous critics of The Orion: "fish wrap."

Now, before anyone feels moved to give me a stirring lecture on British culinary traidition ("Wow, you can boil those, too? I had no idea!"), I know what the hater-oners mean by that, and I know it's intended to be insulting. But come on folks, this is America! Fish and chips are served in plates or plastic baskets here, just like everything else.

Although, I do remember when I was back at College of the Siskiyous, one of the many chefs that wound up running the food service served fish and chips in newspapers. I actually did read it, but I can't remember if it was comics or classifieds.

Anyways, just found it funny. But let's be serious. If you want fish wrap in Chico media, there's plenty of copies of the Synthesis to go around.


First, here's an LA Times editor's note:

The writer of both articles, Eric Slater, has been dismissed from the staff.

Then, this is in the Chico Enterprise-Record. Melissa told me Slater was calling her, guess so. Interesting details to keep coming it seems, if Melissa's story says anything:

Monday afternoon, Slater indicated he'd likely soon be making a response to the Times.

"After the Times prints the report on its investigation, I will release a statement as well," Slater said. "You will expect my statement to differ."


Or, something could happen...

The LA Times is supposed to have some sort of an announcement on Eric Slater by the end of the week, giving some sort of confirmation or denial to the rumors floating around that he's been fired.

Editor & Publisher has this story on it.

One quick gripe--always saying "local Chico media" or something to that extent. Is it that hard to look up names like The Orion or Chico Enterprise-Record? Give the name of a city or a school and a Google search will have the name of its newspaper in five minutes, likely less.

Also, a big thumbs up to Teague for having her story on Jim Newton's trip linked on places such as Romenesko and Slate.


3 Arguments to Save the Greek System--and 3 Arguments to Disband It.

The Greek system at Chico State is in a fight to stay around. In Orion postings and letters to the editor, people propose both keeping and getting rid of the system. And there are valid arguments for each.

Before I go any further, let me explain I don't have a stance on whether the Greek system stays or goes. I honestly don't really care either way.

Now, the Greeks at Chico have both redeeming and retracting qualities. So, first, here are three arguments for keeping the Greek system:

Disbanding the Greeks creates more trouble. The most troublesome fraternity around Chico for many years has (or, I guess it's more of a "had" now) been Chi Tau, which was kicked out of the Interfraternity Council and lost university recognition years ago for repeatedly violating the school's alcohol policy. After being kicked off campus, the fraternity just changed its name and started acting independently. If the university were to kick all Greek organizations off campus, you could have a lot of new Chi Taus running around Chico raising hell. And that would be one gigantic headache.

The university will lose out on the positives. When Greeks operate the way they are supposed to, the system is a real feather in a university's cap, with community efforts and philantrophy. That's why the elimination of the Greek system is (or should be) a last resort for the university. Without a Greek system, there is no chance whatsoever for Chico State to reap the benefits of a Greek system that's actually functioning well.

Punishing the many because of the few? There are hundreds of students in the Greek system. The stupidity has been done by a few dozen. Most Greeks wouldn't fathom forcing friends to drink gallons of water, chugging vodka like it was water, getting behind the wheel of a car with cocaine in their system, strangling a newborn, or inviting porn stars in their house with cameras rolling. It would seem strange to allow the actions of a few to punish such a large number.

Now, there are also very valid arguments for eliminating the Greek system. Let's look at those:

Greek philantrophy isn't that great, once you think about it. You're essentially having to twist arms to get the philantrophy to really occur. And the philantrophy being done in Chico's Greek system is really marginal. In MySpace discussions, there is boasting going on about an $800 canned food drive and $2000 raised for Ronald McDonald House. Sounds great, but let's look at Greek dues. Can't find Chico State dues, so this may be off, but at James Madison University, Greek dues start at $125 a year, but most are more. So let's say all Chico Greeks pay $125 in dues, and there are (just throwing a reasonable number out) 800 members. That's $100,000 raised in yearly dues. True philantrophy would raise more money than it costs. So $2,800 for a couple events isn't that big of a deal in the face of $100,000 in dues. Other campus groups do a much more noticable amount of fund-raising as compared with the money being poured into it, and don't create as much possible tarnish on the image of Chico State.

There is such a thing as bad press. And Greeks have contributed to a lot of it. And for more than just this semester. We're talking about this semester, last semester, the semester before that. All three of the past semesters, there have been deaths that are, in some form, related to Chico's Greek system. That's not "isolated incidents." That's a track record.

One bad apple can ruin the whole bunch. Sure, only a few Greeks have been perpetrating the negative incidents. But, are they exceptions to the norm, or just the most prominent symptoms of the disease? Why not play it safe and make sure more diseases don't pop up under the university's watch?

So, there you are. Three arguments for the Greek system, and three arguments against. Take it from here.


Now you see it, and now you...


Try to find "Hazing Death Highlights Chico's Greek Life" on the Los Angeles Times' website.

The article has magically and mysteriously disappeared.

Kudos to fellow Orionite (and former fellow opinion columnist) Kyle Buis for catching this.

Back to Slater...

San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius talked about the whole Eric Slater in Chico incident in his column today:

A textbook case of bad reporting

In it, he talks to Dr. Bleske, and refers to the letter and documentation that he, myself and Dave Waddell put together compiling Slater's ethical lapses and factual errors that was sent in to the Times.

They got some really good quotes from Dr. Bleske, too:

Journalism Professor Glen Bleske compiled a list of suspicious circumstances in the story and sent it with a letter to the Times; it was not published, nor did he get a response. "If he was (here), he didn't do much reporting," Bleske told me.

*skipping ahead*

"I know this,'' said journalism professor Bleske. "I am going to use this story in my class for at least the next decade. He's given me a great teaching tool."

Having taken News Editing and Copyreading with Dr. Bleske (although, if you read this blog, it will be hard to tell because I try to type too flippin' fast. My fault, not his.), I can just imagine how that class is going to go.

Beyond Dr. Bleske, there was something of interest in here from Connie Huyck, the Greek advisor:

In fact, it is hard to find anyone Slater spoke with. He certainly didn't talk to Zingg -- who is still steamed -- until after the story appeared, when Slater called to apologize.

The exception seems to be Connie Huyck, the program coordinator for Greek life on campus. Huyck says Slater called her on her cell phone but when the interview started badly she suggested they meet in person, assuming he was in Chico.

"I can't,'' she said Slater told her. "I am working on another story.''

...W...T...F... (grammatical technical foul on LaHue for improper use of ellipses, but I think it looks better, and this my blog, so neener neener neener.)

This is really interesting (I should also note the competative reporter side of me is kicking myself for not event thinking of talking to Connie). If Slater came all the way from Los Angeles to Chico (472 miles apart according to Yahoo! Maps, I would personally push it a little closer to 500) to work on the story, why would he be working on another story simultaneously while in Chico?

I'm not throwing that question out in a sarcastic manner. I honestly want to know why he would come all the way to Chico and spend the time working on something else. I mean, I've worked on multiple stories at the same time. But I'm under the impression if you go on a trip from your home base, you're going to be setting some priority on the story that neccesitated a trip that long in the first place.

It's also important to note that it takes some effort to get from L.A. to Chico. The drive will be a good 8 hours, even on Slater's new BMW motorcycle (likely much more, never made that drive since I'm from up north). He could also fly, but even that takes genuine effort, since there's no direct flight between Los Angeles (LAX) and Chico (CIC). United is the only airline that goes into Chico, and every flight out of Chico goes to only one airport: San Francisco (SFO).

So that conversation with Connie definitly adds a new wrinkle to the whole thing.


UHFS doesn't like reporters...

My coworker, Brea Jones, is taking a wee bit of heat on The Orion website for--of all things--reporting.

After her story on the ninth-floor fire at Whitney Hall last night, some resident advisors have taken Brea's performance on writing the story to task. Among the things they're accusing her of are that she got into arguments with the RAs over her right to be in certain locations reporting the story and was overaggressive.

They might be getting away with saying these things too, if it weren't for the fact there was not one, but two Orion reporters there at the scene of the fire last night.

Give you one guess who the other one was.

Actually, come to think of it, there was Brea, myself, an editor who's going to be a photographer next semester taking photos, and three other photographers taking photos. So there was a pretty solid Orion crew out there.

Now, I wasn't with Brea the entire time she was there. I showed up much later than she did, and wound up doing a supporting role (making physical observations, listening to scanners, CQing names, checking weather, etc.) But did I observe her at times last night, and here are my thoughts.

UHFS personnel and RAs were put in the difficult task of having to attempt to get Whitney Hall residents to a safe location while the fire burned, which ultimatly ended up being on the opposite side of Warner Street and off Legion Avenue. But, they overstepped their bounds when they attempted to then push around the media in the same way. The press does have the right to be there. Brea wasn't the only reporter UHFS was attempting to boss around in such a manner. In the first example I saw of this, the media members were standing on the sidewalk of Legion Avenue--a public street.

It's also my opinion that UHFS personnel, in dealing with the media, did not any have any idea whatsoever about the rights and abilities of the press to be in the places that a regular spectator cannot. I imagine that wasn't really something that's covered when RAs and staff are trained for a situation like the one that happened last night.

At no point was Brea or any other reporter trespassing. Brea's also a student, and had the right to be on university walkways and university lawns that the police or fire departments had not blocked off. Warner Street was blocked off from the stadium parking lot entrance down to First Street to car traffic.

I can understand why UHFS might be frustrated with Brea's actions. She knew her rights (which they didn't) and she has the legal knowledge to defend them well (which she did). I really admire her for being willing to defend her legal rights in a highly volatile situation. But now that this fire has occured and these altercations (which weren't even that bad, IMHO) occured, UHFS can now add press interaction into RA and employee training so that in any future situations, staff and press will not wind up being so abrasive with one another.

I also want to commend UHFS for doing a solid job making sure all dormitory students were safe and unhurt. With that aspect of the job considered, and the headaches dorm students can cause (as a former dorm resident myself, both in junior college and at Chico State), they were a tremendous assest to the police and fire in what could have wound up being a very bad and tragic situation.

(*various grammar and clarification edits)


...ever had one of those days where no matter what, your typewriting skills revert back in time to when you were about 3 years old?

I think I'm having that week.

So, skydiving is out...

Maybe my fear of roller coasters isn't a point against me after all...

Daredevil Behavior Holds No Sway With the Ladies

Just when things couldn't get crazier in Chico...



These are among pickup lines that, thankfully for every girl in the universe, you will never ever hear me say.

Are you a parking ticket? Because you got fine written all over you.
What does it feel like to be the most beautiful girl in this room?
Do you believe in the hereafter, because if you do, then you know what I'm here after.
If you were a booger, I'd pick you first.
Hi, I'm Mr. Right. Somebody said you were looking for me.
When I saw you across the room, I passed out and hit my head on the floor, so I'm going to need your name and phone number for insurance reasons.
Do you have any raisins? No? How 'bout a date?
I hope you're religious, because I'm the answer to your prayers.
Can I get your picture, because I want to show Santa what I want for Christmas.

It's Just One of Those Things.

Evidentially the PTB don't want me to get the Red Bluff job all that much.

Last night, my internship application was mailed back to me for failing to have the right address.

So, I ask Teague what's up, and she makes me aware that I have to send it to a post office box and not a real address.

So, I grab a new envelope, write the Daily News' P.O Box in it, slide my packet in, and mail it off.

Note to self, which hit me about five seconds after I dropped the application in the big blue mailbox: REMEMBER TO PUT A STAMP ON THE ENVELOPE.

So I'll try again in a couple of days.

When your hopes get turned upside down...

I built my life like my bike on a rigid frame
nothing bends, only breaks into pieces and pieces
I wait for hope to arrive but it never came
Leaving me with pain inside
I'm going off the deep end.
-"The Deep End" by Crossfade

Teague wrote up this story on Jim Newton's trip to Chico.

I still have my doubts that anything real is going to come out of this.

Maybe I'm not so much frustrated in that people aren't picking this story up, or that is being ignored in favor of ripping on Mitch Albom's issues as in the real "what's the big deal?" attitude most people in the journalism community are really giving this.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about the things I've seen written on this by journalists around places like the letters written to Jim Romenesko. Here are a couple highlights:

From afar, and after reading the LA Times correction regarding the Chico State hazing story, I have to say that the reporter in question is, perhaps, taking it a little too hard; and whatever national media is criticizing the story, is, well, overdoing it. Then again, it is LA, one of the two centers of media in the United States, so I guess fishbowl treatment comes with the territory. Still, the mistakes pale in comparison to some of the boneheaded mistakes I'd made in the past -- to wit, naming the WRONG dead guy in a fatal car accident -- and thank my lucky stars that my most aggregious errors occurred while working at relatively obscure little papers in the Midwest. The errors were painful, of the kind where at least one person wanted to string me up. They were also, in some ways, necessary evils -- they helped me become a better, more detail conscious, fact-checking, discerning reporter. But I remember the gut-turning feeling of making those mistakes, and can empathize.

Yeah, his gut is really turning. Read his mea culpa. If you can find an actual apology, email me at and point it out. Because I can't seem to find him admitting where he screwed up and in what ways he screwed up. Mea culpa letters tend to have those things clearly defined. You also don't release them via email through your buddies.

Be a journalist and fess up.

Actually, I think what's happening in this situation is frustrating me as much as scaring me. That I'm going into an industry where making both a vast number and horrid mistakes is no big deal.

Seriously, whatever happened to accuracy?

Since when did papers start needing their arms twisted into a knot to print a correction?

I grew up with my dad harping on me for trying to cut corners. He taught me there wasn't any purpose to trying to get through with a half-hearted job the first time, because then you'll have to go back and fix your mess, which will wind up taking more time and effort than if had just done the job right at the start.

This is my first touch with so-called "big time" journalism. And what I'm seeing--slipshodness, snobbery and elitism--doesn't exactly thrill me.

This is an industry in danger. The old guard might try to deny it, but it definitly is. The only way journalism is going to survive in a world where electronic communication is getting faster and faster and making it tougher and tougher for information on paper--pulp paper at that--to compete is to cut down the mistakes. Whether it's viewed as necessary or not, these evils have to get the boot.

I'm definitly thought about quitting. Worked through my arguments about why I'm going to need to stay in college another two years because I'm changing majors 12 units short of a Bachelor's degree. Pictured how to answer my friends down at The Orion when I pull out of the editor interviews and tell them I'm not coming back in any way, shape or form next semester.

I came in here because of the demand for details and accuracy. I came because I could be successful in a business and profession that not everybody can thrive in. As I've come to learn, if you've achieved some success (which working for the Times is), you can half-ass a story and not do your homework beforehand and have it be wholly acceptable. Details and accuracy go to the wayside for word writing that belongs in the script of an Aaron Spelling drama.

My first drafts suck (read through this entry and you'll probably discover that). Senior year and I can still get back copy that looked like bled ink and died. I haven't bought a new edition of the AP Stylebook after my copy disappeared down at the office one day. It wasn't until my tenth week that I learned what a "nut graph" is. I've caused more than one headache for editors because I'm not as aggressive with the telephones as they want me to be. I miss an obvious question at least every other story that requires an immediate callback.

How damaging would it be for this industry if I were to just get up and walk into the sunset right now, middle fingers raised in the air over my head? Not at all.

But, (I hope) thankfully, typing that out above has been about the longest that those thoughts have come into my mind.

I'm in journalism not because of what it is. If I was, I would have never gone into a manipulative, power-mad, liberally biased industry to begin with.

I'm in journalism because of what it is supposed to be.

Those times I've called back and double-checked with people about information that I started having doubts about weren't unnecessary and in vain.

There still might not be a thing as "over-researching a story."

There's still some value in not using statements like "orgiastic apogee" in a business where you're supposed to write clear and simple.

Just because stories with a horrid number of fact errors getting printed "happens all the time" and there's never been a true correction doesn't mean I have to do it.

This doesn't mean I'm letting this whole L.A. Times Chico story incident fall by the wayside. I still think Eric Slater should be publically whipped for writing that garbage (figurativly, not literally--getting that out of the way before anybody asks. I mean, at the very least, he should write an actual apology that goes in the same spot as that story ran in the California section). But any thoughts I might have thrown about before about potentially quitting journalism because such fault is so accepted are gone.

I mean, if pulling stunts like this means you eventually get hired at a big-time paper, imagine what can happen if you actually do things right.

This hick's still planning on raising some hell over the next few years. Stay tuned.


It's bits and pieces like this that are among the few things that have kept me from going "f*ck journalism" in the past few days. This is a from a letter to Jim Romenesko

For example, a friend of mine at The Virginian-Pilot wrote that beach erosion was greatest in one spot because there the water was "deeper closer to the shore." Unbeknownst to my friend, a helpful copy editor inserted an "and" between "deeper" and "closer," so my friend read in the morning paper, under his byline, that the water in one spot was "deeper and closer to the shore." Silly him, he'd always thought that water came clear up to the shore all along the beach.

(Of course I once wrote that a person always went for the juggler, and an editor saved me embarrassment by changing juggler to jugular. Admittedly, editors are necessary evils and occasionally forces for good.)

This is, of course, much funnier once you've done some sort of newspaper copy editing.

Dude, more people need to read Jack Comic...

The latest Jack Comic. I'd really like to get a website started for it one of these days, but I just don't feel like I have the time or motivation to actually do the work.


PETAphiles get dumber by the second...

It's hilarious that I'm STILL getting hate mail for that PETA column I wrote back in October. The latest:

I do not like your slandering of PETA as an organization. They have saved billions of animals..and I think you should bite your tongue..this world is full of ignorant assholes like you that do not know what the hell they are talking about..
what can you say about yourself as to what YOUVE done to change the world like PETA has?
Shame on you.
Deanna NY USA

Considering the number of rambling, incoherent Emails I've received, I changed the world by penning a column that pointed out how pointless, stupid and twisted PETA is.


Extreme Disappointment

So, the Times sent up an editor to investigate this Eric Slater story. He never talked to me about what I found.

This whole deal--both how the story ever managed to get printed in the first place and the Times's subsequent (lukewarm) reaction,--has placed a real dent into by love of journalism. These high and mighty paper like the Times are the goals students like me are supposed to be reaching for, then they turn around and print crap like that, then don't even acknowledge when they screw up? Everybody in Chico knows that the correction they ran was putting a band-aid on a severed leg. But he's going to get away with that and his "apology."

Letting Slater slide with journalism like this is just a prime example of why the public at large hates journalism. Because they're not really disliking journalism, but the pseudo-journalism that throws common sense and ethics out the window because it decreases the sensationalness of the story are what they see. The only way to clean journalism up and get people to understand journalism is to get journalists that write things like Slater wrote either out of the game or make them stand up in front of the world and say "I screwed up" instead of sliding off an email that doesn't even say what he did wrong, and talks more about a damned motorcycle and filing a story in Afghanistan with tracer rounds being fired off (big whoop. You and thousands of other journalists, dude). Letting them slip through the cracks--no matter how long they've wrote, or how many awards they've won--just gives the haters justifiable reason to hate.

There's been some points over the last few days where I've seriously considered giving journalism up. Maybe Prof. Nuwer was right when he told me to find another profession while I was fact checking that Times story. Not because I'm bad at it, because I honestly feel I'm not, even at this early point in my life. But because this profession is going to hell in a handbasket, and nobody in a genuine position to do anything about it is willing to lift a finger. Chico can only do so much, because Chico is Chico.

What the Los Angeles Times decides to do over the next few days in response to this story is going to have a significant impact on what I do with the rest of my life. I doubt that will have any influence in their actions, it's not like I'm pulling advertising like GM just did. But, I'd thought I'd just let it be known.

Context information:
Read "Hazing Death Highlights Chico's Greek Life" printed in the Los Angeles Times on March 29, 2005, written by staff writer Eric Slater.
Fact error list in that story I compiled, printed in The Orion



For some reason, I just have this really sinking feeling the LA Times is going to just let this slip away.

Errors? Ha! We are mighty Times!

But, if you want to see a mea culpa for journalistic errors that includes an actual apology, look at Mitch Albom.

*sigh* No wonder the public hates people in this profession.



Stomach's jumping. Don't feel like I can really breathe comfortably. Palms are sweating like crazy. I can't sit still.

Is this how David felt when he first stepped out to face Goliath?

Very Rarely Do I Get Ticked Off Enough to Rant...

Cruising around the Chico State message boards on MySpace, I came across a board where a guy who I actually interviewed for a story in the paper three months (and, coincidentally, thanked me for doing a good job with the story a little later), had this to say about The Orion, putting up the copy of a letter he sent in to the editor:

The March 30th 2005 edition of The Orion opens with the headline, “Porno Stains Greek Image.”, when really it should say “Orion Stains Greek Image.” Every week The Orion has nothing positive to say towards the Greek Community and rarely runs any positive stories. In the same issue as the headline there are two other stories about the Greek Community, but are they positive? Do I want the front page of my school newspaper proudly displaying “Porno Found!” No! My parents read this paper and though the story is interesting is it front page worthy? It seems to me that in the past few weeks The Orion has turned into the Jerry Springer of newspapers slandering and digging up dirt on anyone. Must the news be so negative? Why cant The Orion cover the food drives or community services or any other positive attributes the Greek Community offers? This blatant disrespect and poor journalism makes me ashamed to call the Orion my own paper. It’s hard for anyone to view the Greeks in a positive light when only one side of the argument is shown, the negative. People forget that Greeks are Chico State students too and the paper alienate us from that fact. Let’s stop trashing the Greek system or anyone else and get some real news in this paper that’s interesting and relevant.

Well, about the only thing I could think of that could be put there besides "Porno Stains Greek Image" is "Greeks Stain Greek Image."

Let's see...what could have happened that might stain the Greek's image?

Oh yeah, a Sigma Chi pledge drinking himself into a coma.

Chi Tau killing a pledge by making him drink so much water his electorlytes diluted and he had an irregular heartbeat.

Phi Kappa Tau deciding to turn their house into the set for a porn film.

Go back to this fall, and you had a Zeta Beta Tau pledge get killed in a car crash, where the driver was his fraternity brother that had cocaine in his system.

Go back to last spring, and you had a Kappa Sigma Delta sorority member conceal a pregnancy, give birth to the baby in the sorority house--while a social was going on. Then, she strangled the baby and hid it in a coffee can.

But, evidentially, by The Orion actually saying this happened, we stained the Greek's image.

Nationally and internationally, this story made it's way into the Associated Press, Reuters, and AFP, the three major news wires of the world. Rush Limbaugh and Drudge were all over it, too. Not running on this story on the front would have been ridiculous.

Also, let's look at the other local media: The Enterprise-Record ran multiple stories on multiple days about the Phi Kappa Tau porn incident. Are they getting a letter sent to them, too? The Chico News & Review wrote about the Phi Kappa Tau porn incident. Are they getting a letter sent to them, too? The Synthesis pretty much mocked the Phi Kappa Tau porn incident with their entire front cover ("Chico is back." What the hell?) Are they getting a letter, too?

I really hate to break up the conspiracy theory party here, but The Orion isn't out to destroy the Greek system, or to run it's public relations campaign. We're neutral. I mean, by saying that, what kind of a position does that put all the staff members of The Orion who are Greeks, including editors? Yeah, check through the lists of fraternity and sorority members with The Orion staff list, there will be some familiar names. Name some sort of large group on campus, and there's going to be at least one person in that group that's on The Orion. All news-ed majors have to work at least one semester at The Orion to graduate. It's a laboratory class in the journalism department. Why would they be out to stain themselves?

There is a term called "newsworthiness" that determines whether something is in the paper or not. If this is a story being reported not just in Chico, but all over the world, give me one reason why The Orion shouldn't talk about it, and no, that it will make Greeks look bad isn't a good reason.

Don't blame the press for the Greek system's problems. I'm going to refer to Dave Westol here. he's the executive director of Theta Chi, who gave a speech at Chico State last week that Greeks were required to attend. Basically, what he said is that it's up to the Greek system itself to fix its problems. Don't point fingers. Figure out what it's going to take from you to solve the problems, then do it.