Nov 10, 2009

To the Desk

by Various

I am writing in regard to the recent copy of the Liberty Champion I received in the mail yesterday, Nov. 3.

As an alumnus of Liberty and a current staff member, I have always enjoyed reading about this great school from the perspective of its students. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed at the very partisan nature of the “special political issue.” Of the eight opinion columns published five were negative pieces concerning Shannon Valentine, one was a positive piece concerning Valentine and one was a positive piece on Scott Garrett. The final article was political in nature, not reflecting on a specific candidate. Frankly, it seems a little embarrassing to have an edition of a newspaper where two out of seven pages support one specific candidate. While I do not agree with Valentine on a variety of issues, nor do I vote in her district, that is not the point. Newspapers have a responsibility to their readers in their content choices to provide a balanced and factual view of the issues.

The Liberty Champion has been, and I hope continues to be, a great example of a college newspaper. I hope to continue to see political articles, but I hope to see a more “fair and balanced” approach.

Jay Himes

Champion staff, thanks for the excellent job you did with your election section. I have worked for several newspapers. None did a better job than you did with your coverage.

When many voting guides come out, they include notes at the bottom saying this came from a vote or a speech rather than getting the answer the candidate wants to see posted.

It was good to see that your staff didn’t just rely on those guides, you also made the effort to do independent checking of the facts.
I found it interesting to read the story about how Shannon Valentine finally did grant an interview and then immediately went “off the record.” Again, Valentine does not understand the mindset of the American people in general and in Lynchburg in particular. Hearing that a person has gone off the record is the journalistic equivalent to a person claiming the Fifth Amendment in court: the person is guilty or has something to hide. That may not be true, but that is the perception.

I worked the election at Heritage Elementary where the vast majority of the Liberty students voted. Liberty students were at the polls voting before 7 a.m., before the buses were running. I commented that I have a hard time getting students to class at 7:40 or 8:50 a.m., but they were out voting very early.

Also, the Liberty students operated with class. We were warned that some students would not be able to vote because their registrations were turned in after Oct. 5. By and large, those students were very calm and polite when they were turned away — I think that one person complained out of about 100 students.

Scott Garrett won by about 200 votes over Valentine. Everybody in the media is saying that it was the Liberty vote that gave Garrett the victory and they are right. While about 40 percent of the city voted, I would guess that about 50 percent of Liberty students did so.

Some of us go through our entire voting lives without seeing tangible results of our vote affecting an election. Thanks to the support of the Champion staff, the administration and the faculty, these students have seen first-hand how they can change the political climate.

Thanks for all your efforts.
Dr. Robert Lyster
Associate Professor, Communication Studies

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