The week before thanksgiving I came into the newsroom somewhat relaxed. Big mistake.
By now you think I would know to expect the unexpected with news. But I think that is one thing that will only come with experience. At least I know I’m supposed to know it.
After more than a full day’s work, I was able to crank out a story about fraternities and new alcohol policies.
This was a story that was really blowing up by mid-week after a Tribune and AP story were both published on the policy. By the time I was getting on it, the Office of Greek Life was inundated with calls from media outlets. I was forced to continue leaving messages with what I knew were almost empty hopes of receiving a call back.
Greek Life and especially fraternities are heavily stereotyped and when a situation like this one arises, they want to do their best to maintain a positive image. However, with a policy like this being passed, stories surfaced that some felt played negatively to fraternities. Now it is certainly not my position to comment on this policy or the stereotypes of fraternities. What is important to take from here is the difficulty in finding the truth with a heavily protected group such as Greek Life.
At first, no one wanted to talk with me about the policy. After a few hours and I’m guessing some thoughts being collected, I was able to get through to sources.
It was one of the most stressful stories this semester because I had to turn it in a day, but yet another valuable learning experience. I especially learned how to get in contact with sources who want to avoid reporters. Let them know you’re human and you’re “not out to get them,” as some tend to believe.
Also being a member of the Greek community helped tremendously. After sources knew this, they were much more open to talking about the new and old policy with me. They refused to let me print some things, but without being a member of the Greek community, they probably would not have told me this in the first place.
The new policy didn’t pertain to me as I’m not in a chapter with a house. I think this is just one example of many for how journalists have to balance conflicts of interest. Some situations can significantly cloud your judgement and they should be avoided, but we determined I could do this type of story without a significant conflict of interest. Other than my last name being spelled wrong in the print version of the paper, I couldn’t have been happier with this articles turnout.