Tuesday, November 27, 2007

UConn Daily Campus Rejects Offer of Balance

The following is a series of email relating to the rejection by the editors of the University of Connecticut Daily Campus of an offer by a graduate student to write a guest column. The graduate student wished to respond to a highly inflammatory, error-filled commentary by one of the Daily Campus' regular columnists. The rejected column is posted separately.

*** This email is going to many UConn students and faculty (BCC for their privacy - PLEASE FEEL FREE TO FORWARD) as well as local media networks in order to inform them of a growing problem that is concerning many students at UConn's Storrs campus, but is being denied a voice:

A handful of students who serve on the editorial board of The Daily Campus, UConn's Storrs campus newspaper, have been using the paper to further their own biased agendas by printing non-expert opinions on the conflict in the Middle East, and are doing so by running these pieces as columns instead of the editorials that they are. Despite the fact that many students and faculty have attempted to call the authors of these articles out on their blatant bias and lack of research, this practice is becoming common, specifically on this topic. Students and faculty have submitted articles correcting the misstatements and racist propaganda that has been printed, but only a small sample of these can be found in brief letters to the editor, and have not been given the same place of prestige as the articles they refute. Instead of being open-minded and working with students to make sure all points of view are represented by this student newspaper, articles that have not fallen in line with the emerging agenda of these few editors have been cast aside or ignored. In the meantime, articles by students from other universities who share the same viewpoint as these editors have gotten printed immediately.

The refusal of these editors to correct misstatements by their own reporters and their reluctance to print historical facts is not only dangerous, but also completely counter-productive to peace. Suppressing the truth has never resolved any conflict or human rights issue. It also seriously calls into question their compassion towards the millions of victims who have been slaughtered or persecuted by oppressive Islamic regimes for centuries (including citizens of Muslim nations themselves - just look at the recent case of the Saudi Arabian woman who was punished for speaking out against her rape). And yet Israel - where Arabs live freer than any other nation in the Middle East - is the nation that is the recipient of consistent verbal attacks? Such hypocrisy is irresponsible and wrong, especially coming from people in positions of influence. We are in an environment of academia and learning. With such easy access to information and publicly-available historical documents relating to Middle Eastern history, students should be able to easily educate themselves on the history of the conflict. Yet disappointingly, lies continue to be printed as if they were true. Yes, we do notice. And yes, we are speaking out against it. I know that I speak for many, many disappointed students when I say, "This paper has not represented us. We expect better."

As any advocate of human rights knows, just because something may be uncomfortable to discuss, this is not a reason not to discuss it. There were many difficult human rights issues throughout history that were not popular to speak about at the time, but many brave people did so anyway. Many people die from hate crimes and terrorist attacks every day. Covering it up or justifying it clearly has not solved anything. It just disrespects the innocent victims who have died, and sets further precedent for suppression of truth. People and nations who have historically been at the receiving end of such hateful attacks (like many of the Jewish populations in the Middle East) should not be blamed for defending themselves. What person or nation wouldn't defend themselves against attacks meant to "wipe them off the map"? If a media outlet like our campus paper refuses to be a voice for these victims, who will? What will the outcome be? We can only look at history to see the destructive results that come from suppression of truth.

* For an analysis of the original October 11th article in UConn's Daily Campus (the one that prompted my response which the editors of The Daily Campus ignored for a month, then refused to print) please go to: www.primerct.org/index.php?content=commentsandanalyses/20071011_daily _campus.

* The email correspondence between myself and several of the editors regarding this matter can be found below. Please note how my offers to meet and make potential changes to the article so that it might run as a guest column (as has been done in the past) were consistently ignored.

* I am also attaching my article for your reference.

Sincerely, Laura Gottfried UConn Grad Student, Judaic & Middle Eastern Studies

Original Message

From: Laura Gottfried
Sent: Tuesday, November 27, 2007 12:59 AM
To: 'The Opinion Editors'
Subject: RE: article by Laura Gottfried


Actually I was the one who contacted Rob Casapulla when I did not hear back from a single person after trying to contact the paper by email several times. Rob was kind enough to respond, but after I tried to take him up on his offer to go over my article and discuss what I would need to do make it column-ready, I never heard back. For your convenience, I have listed (in chronological order) every email correspondence I have had with an editor or assistant editor at your paper (as I mentioned, the last two to Rob Casapulla went unanswered).

You are correct that I did ask your colleague Aaron Igdalsky (it's spelled with a "g") to inquire about the status of my article. Since I had initiated the submission process on October 18th, it is frustrating that I (as well as many students and faculty) have waited until now for the answer that you are not open to printing my article. As you can see in the correspondences below, I have offered on several occasions to edit the article into two or three sections in order to run it as a guest column (something which your paper has done in the past). I also said I would be more than willing to meet with someone from the paper to make any necessary modifications in order for it to run as a column. And I did, at Mr. Casapulla's suggestion, take all personal names out.

Despite all of this, my request to be a guest columnist has been ignored, with no explanation as to why. Other articles from students from other universities that do not contain nearly the amount of accuracy or historical context have been printed in the Daily Campus in the last month (like the recent one from the student from Brown University). I apologize if I am wrong, but your editors' suspiciously-biased choices seem to show that the Daily Campus is not as open to printing articles that contain historical context and documentation as it is to printing non-expert opinions that lack both.

If we can learn anything from history, it is that suppression of truth for the sake of justifying violence is irresponsible and dangerous. Yet, here in our very own academic setting of UConn, our campus newspaper that claims to represent the students has decided that it will not give equal representation to all viewpoints. While articles replete with verifiable facts wait in the wings for over a month, The Daily Campus has allotted a disproportionate amount of space for articles containing propaganda that only serves to blur the context and derail the peace process even further. Why print so many misstatements? Who benefits from this? Aside from the personal implications such responsibility must inflict on one's conscience, such a biased track record just decreases the credibility of the paper. I know that I speak for many, many disappointed students when I say, "This paper has not represented us. We expect better."

In the hopes of a peace based on truth, I respectfully urge you to give at least the same consideration to historical accuracy as you did to racist propaganda.


Laura Gottfried
Grad Student, Judaic & Middle Eastern Studies

Original Message

From: The Opinion Editors [mailto:opinion@dailycampus.com]
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2007 4:41 PM
To: Laura Gottfried
Subject: Re: article by Laura Gottfried


I was under the impression the associate editor contacted you about this piece. Since Aaron Idalsky indicates you are awaiting a reply, we will not be using your submission based on its length, which cannot be easily edited down. Also, the content is based on mainly historical fact, which while forms a basis for strong opinion, left little room for much opinion content and the piece read more like an academic paper than an op-ed submission.

Thank You,

Kyle Thomas Commentary Editor

From: Laura Gottfried
Sent: Thursday, October 18, 2007 4:21 PM
To: 'opinion@dailycampus.com'
Subject: request to be a guest columnist


As I am sure you know, the October 11th article about the Arab-Israeli conflict by George Maynard created quite a stir among many students here on campus. This is not the first time I have witnessed a wide-spread student interest in one of the most pivotal regions of our world. As a second year graduate student of Judaic and Middle Eastern Studies, I have been approached my many students over the past week seeking my opinion, and asking if I would write a corresponding commentary on the subject - which I have done. The problem is, no single article could effectively convey the pages of contextual history and fact that are needed to properly understand the basis of the conflict within this complicated region. (My resulting ten-page compilation of historical documentation is a testament to this.) Rather than cut out numerous relevant facts that I know people with a genuine interest in the region would appreciate, I have a proposition...

I was speaking with my advisor about the ever-increasing interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict here at UConn. Since my goal upon entering the Masters program was to obtain the credentials to make me an effective journalist on the topic, it was suggested that perhaps I could become a guest columnist for The Daily Campus. In this capacity, I would write exclusively on this fascinating topic, for as long as need be. (Perhaps six or seven articles?) My articles would be based on academic research and easily-verifiable sources, which I would list for the readers' convenience, and for which I would receive graduate credit. I also thought it would be interesting to open the column up to student questions on the subject, so I could conform my weekly topic to reflect what is most pertinent to the student body.

This subject has been an academic passion of mine for the past five years, to say the least. I am very excited about the possibility of being able to lend an academic voice to the topic, as well as to enlighten readers to some of the human rights issues in the region. I believe that addressing the growing student interest in this area will increase readership of The Daily Campus, as well as expand discussion on this important subject. I would be elated to have the chance to promote understanding and hope for a region long clouded by the obscurity of conflict.

I look forward to hearing what you think of this proposal. If this is something that is a definite possibility, I already have the first three articles written.

Thank you for providing a campus publication that inspires thought and debate among readers.


Laura Gottfried
Grad Student, Judaic & Middle Eastern Studies

From: Laura Gottfried
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2007 8:39 AM
To: 'eic@dailycampus.com' Cc: 'opinion@dailycampus.com'
Subject: article by Laura Gottfried


I would like to submit this article for the commentary section. Last Thursday, I had sent an email to opinion@dailycampus.com, requesting to be a guest columnist on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since I never received a response, I was not certain that was the correct email address.

Thank you,

Laura Gottfried
Grad Student, Judaic & Middle Eastern Studies

From: Laura Gottfried
Sent: Thursday, October 25, 2007 12:03 PM
To: 'robert.casapulla@uconn.edu'
Subject: article for daily campus

Hi Rob,

I am a grad student in Judaic & Middle Easter Studies here at UConn, and I recently submitted a response to George Maynard's extremely inaccurate opinion-piece that ran on Oct 11th. The reason I am contacting you is because I saw that you are the Assistant Editor for the Commentary section, and you seem to favor a more fair and balanced style of reporting. (I really enjoyed your article "Liberals Must Learn To Be Polite And Civil") I do not consider myself conservative or liberal, but prefer to simply form my opinion on facts and logic. So I definitely appreciated your (very true) comments about the hysterics of people who would rather hear their own voice than make an effective contribution to an issue. George Maynard is a shining example of someone who chose to reveal his ignorance-based racism to a campus of 30,000 people. He'll never be able to un-do that, and his lack of credibility will shadow him for a long time to come.

As I mentioned, I have sent a response in the form of two separate emails to opinion@dailycampus.com, as well as one to the editor-in-chief, and have received no response. I was wondering if this lack of professionalism by the DC is consistent across the board, or is only reserved for those who submit responses that contain accurate information about the Middle East and Israel. Many students are asking me why my article has not been printed yet, and I do not know what to tell them. So far, the only responses I saw to Mr. Maynard's article are two very short letters to the editor. I am sincerely hoping that The Daily Campus is as open to printing articles that contain historical context and documentation as they were to printing an a non-expert opinion that lacked both. It would be very embarrassing for the Daily Campus if it became widely known that racist-agendas were being supported while truth and accuracy were (literally) ignored.

Below, is my article, which I have also attached for your review. I'll also forward you the emails I sent last week. Hopefully, you can offer me some insight into what is going on here.

Thanks, and keep up your witty, insightful writing!!


Laura Gottfried
Graduate Student, Judaic & Middle Eastern Studies

From: Rob Casapulla
Sent: Thursday, October 25, 2007 3:37 PM
To: Laura Gottfried
Subject: Re: article for daily campus

Laura, First I would like to thank you for your email. I apologize that no one has gotten back to you from the newspaper, and I will look into why that is so. Part of the blame surely lies on me, as I am partly responsible for checking the opinion email box and responding, that being said there is really no excuse as to why your emails have not been answered in a timely fashion. Your column looks to be great however there is one issue with it - it is far too long. The longest columns that go to print is around 1,000 words. The piece you wrote for us is over 3,000. Normally we could edit things to make them fit word count but I am extremely hesitant to edit out 2/3 of your work. That being said if you would like to revise down your work, I would be happy to print your work. Also if you would like it to be printed as a column there are a few other things to take into account. First it is policy to not refer to other columns/colummnists by name. Therefore you can indirectly refer to things that other columnists have said you cannot call them out by name. This is done simply to prevent the pages from devolving into a bickering match between coumnists. Also if you would like to meet about the column, or think about writing regularly the staff meetings for commentary are every Sunday night at 8 pm in the Daily Campus building (behind Buckley). If you would like I would be more than happy to go over your work with you and maybe make some further suggestions. I hope you find this helpful and again I apologize for the delay in a response from the Daily Campus.

Regards, Rob --- Robert Casapulla Associate Commentary Editor The Daily Campus

From: Laura Gottfried
Sent: Thursday, October 25, 2007 5:11 PM
To: 'Rob Casapulla'
Subject: RE: article for daily campus


Thank you so much for your email. I would be definitely be interested in meeting with you to discuss my article. As you alluded to, it would be very difficult to make the article any shorter. In George Maynard's article, he makes countless misstatements. The problem with that is, it is easy to make a misstatement or repeat a piece of propaganda using only one sentence. It then takes six or seven sentences to amend the original misstatement or explain why the propaganda is inaccurate or just plain false. My original response was ten pages...I edited it for days to get it down to six. This is why I had originally sent in a request to be a guest columnist in which I could present the history of the conflict on several parts.

As far as making it eligible to appear as a column, I am open to any ideas you have, and have no problem taking specific names out. I really appreciate your suggestions and help with this. I am on campus on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Are there specific times that work for you? The only day that is tough time-wise for me is Monday - I have back to back classes from 9-4. Other than that, I can be flexible.

Thank you again, and I look forward to meeting with you.

Best, Laura

From: Laura Gottfried
Sent: Monday, October 29, 2007 6:18 PM
To: 'Rob Casapulla'
Subject: RE: article for daily campus

Hi Rob,

If you have time in the next week, I would love to go over my article with you, and discuss what adjustments I would need to make in order for it to be able to run as a column. I know there have been guest columnists in the past that wrote on a certain subject for a few consecutive issues. I would love to do the same, if possible, so as to prevent taking valuable (and obviously widely-unknown) information out of the article. I am definitely open to your ideas on how I can do this.



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