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Editorial

With UFV wrestling suspension, reckless speculation is not the right approach

Storytelling comes with responsibility. If the telling’s not right and you don’t get all the facts, you risk causing harm.

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By Katie Stobbart (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: March 4, 2015

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Storytelling comes with responsibility. If the telling’s not right and you don’t get all the facts, you risk causing harm.

The Cascade is currently investigating a story that could cause a lot of harm if mishandled. From the beginning, the writers working on this have been painfully aware of that responsibility to relay information in a way that is comprehensive, fair, factual, and in service of the public good.

All this while their supposedly professional counterparts fail to do the same. The coverage to date on the same story is speculative and misleading at best; at worst, it’s false and teethskin-shy of slander.

Fact. Four wrestlers from the UFV men’s team have been suspended due to alleged misconduct.

On February 27, the Abbotsford News published an article by Vikki Hopes and Tyler Olsen which is little more than a list of dead end leads. While their approach isn’t ideal, the subsequent “coverage” by CTV’s Jon Woodward eclipses it.

Woodward speculates under the guise of unbiased coverage, conflates footage from scandals at other universities with no publishable evidence of a link, and, frankly, resorts to gossip: “sources say” it all started at a party … an unspecified social media post supposedly alluded to the nature of the misconduct … It’s garbage journalism.

[pullquote]The coverage to date on the story is speculative and misleading at best; at worst, it’s false and teethskin-shy of slander.[/pullquote]

Prior to publishing, both Hopes and Woodward approached The Cascade offering to work together on the “tale” (Woodward), probing for information.

They were wrong to think we’d give it to them.

The Cascade is part of the UFV community, and we’re taking this coverage seriously; when we tell a story, it should be because there’s some good in our audience (fellow students) knowing, not just because we know it’ll get read by a scandalized audience.

If that means waiting a couple of weeks to get the whole story, and to make sure the people implicated in it aren’t unduly harmed in the process, so be it.

On March 2 I spoke with Woodward on the phone. I expressed my concerns and displeasure with the nature of his approach to this story. He brushed me off, made excuses. He tried to suggest we were after the same thing.

“You and I are cut from the same cloth,” he said. (Because we’re in a B-movie, apparently?)

Later the same day my colleague, who is working on the story, spoke with Woodward at his request. He made the offer of working together, and if we agreed, he’d hold The Cascade up on screen.

My colleague told him she did not want to be associated with unethical journalism. He laughed at her.

After all, why would she pass up the opportunity to work on a “major story” with a “major news organization”?

If real journalism means becoming blind to the stories that need to be told and the people whose real, lived experiences they reflect; if it means seeing only the scoop and the profit, financial or otherwise; then I want nothing to do with it.

This kind of sloppy storytelling by journalists in the field is negligent, and it’s appalling.

Woodward appears to be mongering for scandal. He has waited outside homes and ambushed people with questions in their driveway. He has allegedly tracked down their personal cell phone numbers, called their parents where they work, and recorded conversations without disclosure. His tactics are invasive, even predatory.

Until the misconduct investigation ends, policy prevents anyone implicated from sharing the story fully. Meanwhile, we’re aiming for diligent reportage that is properly researched, includes interviews from multiple perspectives, and presents the facts — all the facts.

So with that in mind, please bear with us, because this is about more than a shot at national gold in Edmonton, and it’s a bigger issue than can be properly covered in a four-minute news segment. We owe it to our readers, and to the owners of this story, to tell it right.

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