In a letter printed elsewhere on this page, UM System President and Interim MU Chancellor Mun Choi calls on the Columbia Missourian to release a recording of a meeting that formed the basis of our story “MU College of Education faculty criticize removal of dean in meeting.”
This letter follows a request by MU officials emailed Saturday asking that faculty members quoted in the story be identified. Choi and Provost Latha Ramchand are quoted and identified in the article.
I have thoughtfully considered yet respectfully declined both requests. I’d like to share my reasons.
The audio recording was given to a Missourian reporter for use in preparing a story, and that is the only purpose for which we were allowed its use. Making the recording available more widely would amount to a breach of confidence. The university was given — and still has — ample opportunity to provide any additional context that it believes the story fails to reflect.
The Missourian rarely grants sources anonymity but will when there is public interest in information given to us confidentially.
That is certainly the case in a university community that has just seen a surprising change in leaders.
Since the meeting was not openly being recorded, the faculty members who spoke would have had no expectation that their comments would be printed in the Missourian with their identities. Moreover, MU officials know which faculty members spoke. As Choi points out in his letter, he was at the meeting.
The recording we received is not an official document, the type we could have received had MU publicly advertised the meeting. The meeting would have then been as public and transparent as MU leadership now says it wants the Missourian to be. And note that officials could have still chosen to decline to discuss details of a personnel matter, as they chose when only faculty members were in attendance.
Choi also says in his letter that the story does not accurately reflect the tone of the meeting. The story we published online and in print was notable in its length precisely because we made every effort to reflect the tone and context in the audio and in chat texts between officials and faculty members. In reporting the story, the Missourian reporter spent a great deal of time with a university spokesperson (who attended the meeting) checking the accuracy of the story. I know. I was on that call. The spokesperson also provided additional context, and we included that context in the story.
Instead of asking the Missourian to release information obtained confidentially, the university can facilitate the transparency it says it now seeks by notifying news outlets of important meetings in advance so we can cover them.
Ruby Bailey is the Missourian’s executive editor.