I am writing in response to the letter written by Chris Hall that was printed in the April 4 edition of the Western Carolinian. The letter claimed that an article written by Lee Schwartz contained several mistakes about Mr. Hall’s SGA goals.
I have examined the original article, the letter by Mr. Hall, as well as Mr. Hall’s website from which the information was gathered. I happen to be acquainted with Mr. Schwartz, but that is not why I am defending his article. It appears that, if any, there may be only one mistake in it. If anyone wishes to challenge or confirm my argument, Mr. Hall’s website is www.geocities.com/chrishall4sga.
The first issue I will mention concerns the bill passed by the Senate which would allow student teachers and intern students the ability to forgo a meal plan they aren’t able to fully use. I think what Mr. Hall is trying to point out is that it is not an action that was totally decided by the SGA, but rather amended by the university administration after the bill was passed by the senate. Furthermore, it has not been put into practice yet.
However, Mr. Schwartz’s statement, “he has helped to introduce legislation to make it possible for students interning and teaching to attend WCU without purchasing a meal plan” is only slightly different from the statement on Mr. Hall’s website. The statement does not overtly say the new concept is policy that is carved in stone. As a reasonable consumer, I have to conclude that Mr. Schwartz’s statement highlights the INTENTION of the bill.
Mr. Schwartz’s statement about contributing to the leadership of J.J. Rowe and Joe Cowen is ALMOST a direct quote from Mr. Hall’s website. He only changed “continue” to “contribute,” and Mr. Hall thinks this means that Rowe and Cowen will still be in office. Perhaps Mr. Schwartz could have used a different phrase such as “build on” or “perpetuate”, but the statement still appears to pass the “reasonable consumer” test and therefore did not severely change the original meaning. I would like to add that the statement about “bickering” in the Senate says more or less what Mr. Hall’s original statement said, only in condensed form due to space limitation.
The one statement that may have misled people is the one concerning the appropriation of $28,000 of funding. I am not an expert in financing, budgets, or administration, but I would simply like to point out that Mr. Schwartz’s statement is nearly identical to the one on Mr. Hall’s website.
As a communication major, I have learned the importance of accurate news gathering and reporting. Part of the definition of libel is “reckless disregard for the truth,” and I don’t feel Mr. Schwartz has committed such an act. It’s my belief that this is largely a case in which a reporter writes to the best of his ability about the facts in a concise manner that he deems acceptable.
Mr. Hall, I appreciate your willingness to be clear about the issues. You may have a valid argument on one or two points. However, a reporter has the right to paraphrase any statement he wishes as long as he is reporting the facts and they are properly attributed to his sources. I do not believe Mr. Schwartz’s statements exceed these boundaries, especially in the limited space that was used.
Sincerely, Paul Fisher
P.S. Sorry if this is too long. I tried to keep it to the point.