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Thursday, Mar 23, 2023

Patton Interview Was Delayed at Spokesman’s Request

College spokesman Bill Burger requested that the editors of this paper delay publication of an interview with President Laurie L. Patton, which The Campus had originally planned to publish in the Feb. 15 issue, after confusion and disagreement between Burger and Ethan Brady ’18, the paper’s editor in chief, regarding the nature of Burger and Patton’s role in reviewing and influencing the article’s content.

Burger’s request for the delay came twenty-four hours before that week’s issue was sent to print, and after the editors had planned to dedicate more than a page of the paper to the interview and a related news report. Brady agreed to postpone the interview and, as a result, The Campus published a blank page with the text, “This page was originally reserved for an interview,” printed in the center of page A3.

“Laurie and I would like you to hold the interview until the issue that closes next week,” Burger wrote in an email to Brady and Will DiGravio ’19, The Campus’ managing editor. “I have real concerns about ensuring the integrity of the various versions of the Q&A that we’ll need to review. My schedule tomorrow leaves almost no time for me to do this work.”

Brady and editors Amelia Pollard ’20.5 and Elizabeth Zhou ’18 interviewed Patton during winter term on Wednesday, Jan. 31. The editors planned to publish the interview in the first issue back from break, until Brady and DiGravio received the email from Burger quoted above.

The Campus finalizes print editions on Tuesday evenings, and the newspaper is distributed every Thursday morning. Brady and DiGravio received Burger’s email at 10:50 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 12, disrupting the paper’s plan to publish the interview that week. Brady agreed to delay the article’s publication in an email to Burger that night.

Brady and DiGravio first requested an interview with Patton in a Jan. 19 email. Patton replied on Jan. 23 with a directive to discuss terms of the interview with Burger.

“My guess is that we all would want the interview to be fair, accurate, and thoughtful in both tone and content,” Patton wrote. “In that spirit I’ll turn it over to Bill to discuss terms.”

That evening, Burger, Brady and DiGravio settled on a time to discuss the terms and timing of the interview. They settled on terms and scheduled the interview for Jan. 31 at 1:30 p.m.

At the end of the interview, Burger reiterated the previously agreed upon terms, and the reporters again agreed to them.

“Just to review our ground rules for this,” Burger said. “So you’ll transcribe this, I’m presuming, you’ll send it to us for a clarification, any clean up, if we need to expand on something, but not to fundamentally change the meaning of what was said.”

“Does that sound reasonable?” Patton asked.

Brady and Zhou responded in agreement.

On the Wednesday following the interview, Brady sent Patton an email with remaining questions that the editors had run out of time to ask, per an agreement made before and during the interview.

“We will send a transcript of the interview along in the next few days as discussed,” Brady added in the email with the additional questions.

On Feb. 5, Brady emailed Burger with the transcript of the interview. Burger replied on the same day that he expected the editors to compress the interview due to its length.

“No one wants to inflict an unedited 9,000 word transcript on the reader; its of almost no value,” Burger wrote.

Though Burger made some suggestions as to the type of editing Brady should do to the interview, he made no explicit request for an edited version of the transcript.

Brady received no further correspondence from Burger until Monday, Feb. 12., the first day of the spring term, when Burger inquired about obtaining an edited transcript of the interview. But Brady had sent the full, unedited transcript on Feb. 5, and had not finished editing the interview.

Burger expected Brady to send him the edited transcript of the interview that he would read before publication, and to allow him to approve each of Patton’s quotes to be included in the article.

“We will need to approve every quote — and of course the quotes in the piece will need to match the quotes in the abridged Q&A — and the full Q&A online,” Burger replied.

At 10:50 that evening, Burger emailed Brady and DiGravio and asked them to wait to publish the interview until the following week, citing “concerns about ensuring the integrity of the various versions of the Q&A that we’ll need to review.”

Brady agreed to delay publishing the articles. The next day, Burger emailed Brady, again asking for the edited Q&A and article.

“I hope you can get me the edited content (interview and written piece) by Sunday noon so I have time to look at it Sunday,” Burger wrote. “My Monday is pretty booked.”

On Feb. 14, Brady sent Burger an abridged transcript of the Q&A as requested, but did not attach the additional article. Brady said that he perceived Burger’s wish to approve the quotes included in the story as a violation of their original terms.

“The terms of the interview were that we would send you a transcript for clarifications/additions, not negotiate which quotes can or can’t be used in an article,” Brady wrote in the email.

Burger denied wanting to influence the quotes The Campus included in the article, and stressed his desire to instead protect their “integrity.”

“We have no interest in influencing which question/answers you want to touch upon in an article; our interest is in the integrity of the quotes themselves,” Burger said.

Patton sent a document with edits for clarification to The Campus on Monday, Feb. 20. Burger did not ask to approve quotes or view the articles prior to press time.