(From the Bird's Nest is a series of opinion pieces.  They do not necessarily reflect the position of ESPN1420 or Townsquare Media.)

It’s been a long time since I took journalism courses.

But whether it be 80’s journalism, 90’s journalism or today’s journalism, there are basic rules that have never changed.

Get the facts.  Confirm the facts through proper sources.  Credit sources, especially if they are public to begin with.

And, if you’re going to write opinion pieces, make sure you have your facts straight.  Otherwise, it’s another example of “fake news.”

In the latest issue of The Vermilion, the University’s on campus publication, an opinion piece was written by Sports Editor Lachelle Smith.  In it, she maintains student tailgating was moved from the Bourgeois Hall area back to the east side of Cajun Field without consulting the student body.  She suggests, based on some social media comments, that the majority of students feel that way.

There’s only one problem.  Not all of her information is accurate.  In fact, most of the basis of her article is based on things that just aren’t true.

“Without any consideration or input from students, the tailgate location was moved for the 2019 season.”

According to Patrick Crawford, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications and Digital Strategy, the statement is “categorically false.”  Crawford says regardless of Smith’s opinion which disagrees with the decision made by the Student Government Association with input from the University Program Council, to suggest there was no input from students is “not accurate by any stretch.”  Students were sent a survey via email.

“Many students took their dissatisfaction to social media”

While that may be accurate, we’ll never know for sure because Smith does not attribute any of the complaints to anyone.  That basically makes these anonymous quotes.  And, it doesn’t matter if it’s on social media…you have to credit a public source of information.  Social media may have changed how people communicate.  The basic tenets of good journalism have not changed.  Someone said it.  Attribute it to the source.

“The decision was made solely by people that are not students, but seem to feel inclined to know exactly what students want.”

Again, not true.  Disagree with the decision if you want to, but to suggest the decision was made solely by people who aren’t students simply isn’t true.  In fact, Crawford says a survey was sent to every student email.

Another question arises:  What do the students really think?

Smith used the adage "it's on the internet, so it must be true."

DJ Digital is the brand manager for Hot 107.9.  He was the DJ for tailgating a year ago.

"The general consensus I got last year was the students were upset they were so far from the stadium.  I think there were things they liked, but they didn't understand why they weren't closer to the stadium."

Because of that, student attendance plummeted as the season went on.  Crawford says student attendance dipped to below 1,000 for the last two home games.  In contrast, student attendance for the home opener with Liberty drew more than 3,100 students.  this contradicts Smith's statement "It looks as though the decision to relocate is not improving student attendance."

Those numbers would seem to indicate those disgruntled people on social media that Smith used as her basis for the article are part of a vocal minority.  A simple phone call to someone in athletics would have allowed Smith to write a factual piece.

Smith also suggests complaints would indicate there needs to be some revamping of the cheerleaders "do more than the regular cheer" and for the band to "play more songs than the traditional...something modern and hype."  Smith goes on to quote (another) anonymous tweet "The music is boring and catered to families instead of college students."

Okay, let me see if I have this right.  The athletic department moved tailgating back to the east side of Cajun Field because students weren't happy.  They slashed concession prices for students.  They started a loyalty program by which students could win prizes by downloading an app that would keep track of their attendance at all sports.  And, of course, students are admitted to the game free of charge.

But now they have to be in charge of the band and the cheerleaders too?  The "it's all about me" generation has reached new heights.

The athletic department has done its job.  And, they are open to more suggestions.  It's now up to the students to take responsibility for support of their fellow students on game day.

And it's time for on campus journalists to get their facts straight.   It is also time for their bosses to make sure the stories are fit to print.



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