Letters to the EditorOpinion

Letter: Emerald article paints Beta Theta Pi in a negative light



I am writing this letter in response to the March 18 article about a woman being chased across Patterson Street late Saturday evening. Not only do I believe the article was written without any thought to the consequences that could ensue because of it, but the article also paints Beta Theta Pi fraternity in a negative light. I would like to clear the air.

As an ex-writer for the Emerald, as well as a current member of the Fraternity, I cannot believe that the editors of the Emerald didn’t look at the article in question and revise it due to article’s numerous errors, which demonstrate a lack of credibility for the paper as a whole.

So let us analyze the article more carefully. For a situation that turned out to not be as serious as it was, quoting an anonymous source as the lead quote not only heightens the ominous tone of the article, but as a fellow aspiring journalist, it lowers the credibility of the source and the publication.

Since the incident in question didn’t have anything to do with my fraternity, why would the Emerald quote someone who asks to remain anonymous? This story isn’t groundbreaking news in Washington D.C., the Emerald should find a better source, such as the police who were at the scene.

Instead, the Emerald chose to base the story on a hearsay account. The article states, “… reported to the Eugene Police …” This says to me that the entire story is based off the anonymous source’s story who told the author what she told police. That is the textbook definition of hearsay that wouldn’t even be allowed in a court of law, let alone a professional publication.

Having worked for a professional publication in the Portland-Metro area, I can say that whenever you come across a story such as this, journalists must always ask the police their account of what happened before investigating the story further. Not even having a quote from the police involved makes this article look very unprofessional, as well as unbelievable.

I would also like to point out that what actually happened that night wasn’t presented until the last two paragraphs of the article. News articles are written in the inverted pyramid style, meaning that supposedly the least important information is at the bottom of the article in order for the editing staff to cut whatever is necessary.

In the way this article was written, the second paragraph is used to describe what happened that night, but without any source to back the information (a source is credited in the last, “not as important” paragraph). No “according to” or even a “my anonymous source said” in the second paragraph, just the author writing whatever he wants to write.

If you read the paragraph in question by itself, it appears to be saying that a member of my fraternity was trying to pull a woman against her will back to the fraternity. In fact, we as readers are subjected to eight paragraphs before a statement saying that it wasn’t a member of the fraternity is even mentioned. As an ex-worker for the publication, I know that there aren’t a lot of members of UO Greek Life on staff, but the Emerald should know the gravity of making such a claim without immediately clearing the air.

The article upset my fellow brothers of my fraternity as well as myself. Along with a very unprofessional and inappropriate comment defending the story on the Emerald’s website, I can honestly say that this article was a black mark on the paper’s reputation. Beta Theta Pi is a group of gentleman and I would take a bullet for any one of my brothers. That level of trust is also why I knew that none of my brothers were in any way responsible for any of the actions that went on that evening.

As a fellow aspiring journalist, I am asking the Emerald to carefully choose what they write, as well as how they write it in the future. I know we are all just students trying to learn the craft, however a level of knowledge and delicacy must always be taken with situations like this.

Spencer Gordon
Beta Theta Pi member


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