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The Northerner

Staff stands by recent controversial article


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A recent story published by The Northerner has caught the eye of many people, including journalism professors, the department of communication chair and even the dean of the college of informatics. Critics are calling “Student voices discontent with professor” “unethical,” “sloppy journalism” and “unbalanced.”
To address everyone’s concerns, The Northerner wants to take the opportunity to put these concerns to rest once and for all, and to explain the work and research behind the story and why the editorial board decided to run the story.
This was not sloppy journalism or a personal attack on Department of Communication Chair Rachel Lyon, the professor with whom the anonymous student is unhappy.
Though anonymous sources are generally frowned upon, The Northerner kept the source anonymous to protect the student. He did not want the article’s publication to affect his grade or his reputation in the class. Of course the article would be stronger with a named source. But should anonymity really keep a department from responding to and counting a complaint about the education for which the student is paying?
Trust issues went further than just in the news story. The student also reached out to Dean of the College of Informatics Kevin Kirby in an anonymous email. Kirby would not help the student unless he revealed himself, but the student said he did not trust the dean with his identity.
Only one student’s voice was included, because no other students would come forward. The writer approached two other students in the class in person, after talking with the anonymous student, giving them the opportunity to provide differing or similar opinions on Lyon’s class.
To balance the story, both Kirby and Lyon were given opportunities to comment. After a series of nine emails and one unreturned phone call to Lyon days before the story was scheduled to run, she declined comment. Instead, she requested the story be held for one week. As the story was on the editorial calendar and scheduled to be published, The Northerner does not acquiesce to requests to hold stories.
The credibility of RateMyProfessor.com, from which a comment was taken in the story, is also in question. NKU has used comments from the site for advertising purposes, specifically in billboards on I-471 and at the U.S. Bank Arena. Because of this, The Northerner decided to use the site in the article as a source describing Lyon’s teaching.
Although the comment has been deleted from the site, a copy was posted onto The Northerner’s website on a previous article. The Northerner is also in possession of a screenshot of the original post.
With the evidence piling up, after long debate and many discussions about the article’s importance, The Northerner decided to publish it March 28. This is a student who was so unhappy with his education and with the chair of the department that he came to us, the only people who would listen. We did not actively seek him out or pressure him in any way to come forward; he approached The Northerner in person.
It should also be reiterated that The Northerner could not discover that the student has a grudge or motive against Lyon that would cause him to speak out. He openly admitted he is receiving an A+ in the class but does not deserve it.
When students are unhappy with what they are paying for, administrators should listen and try to make it better — not discount it.
The Northerner’s editorial board believes this article is ethical, balanced and should have been published. The university and its students deserve to know how others are feeling, especially if no one else will listen.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Staff stands by recent controversial article