The Dixie Sun News is, has always been, and will continue to be the “Voice of Dixie,” representing students and employees.
In our continued coverage of the Varlo Davenport case, Copy Editor Diana Fossett spoke with Davenport, as well as Dixie State University administrators, to represent the response to Davenport’s assault trial in July. It was a well-rounded article that avoided bias by reporting the facts and using sources from both sides of the story.
However, in a recent article published online in The Independent, Dallas Hyland raised the question of whether or not Fossett’s story was “in fact a press release orchestrated by the administration?”
Hyland continues to write: “Given a conversation I had with an editor at [the Dixie Sun News] over the summer, I would assert here that perhaps the administration is a little heavy-handed in the dissemination of information by that paper.”
This is an unsubstantiated myth.
The Dixie Sun News is not “orchestrated by administration,” nor are we censored by the university in any way. Funded by student fees and advertising revenue, the Dixie Sun News is an open forum. By being separate from DSU administration, we believe we can more effectively present the truth without any conflict of interest.
We strive to provide our readers with the truth, which means we won’t publish anything without talking to sources from all sides of every story. A page from the Dixie Sun News staff handbook advises our writers, “Don’t stop interviewing people until you have all sides. Always be thinking about additional sources and ask for more as you conduct interviews.”
Therefore, in every article dealing with DSU administration, we talk with administrators to get their side of the story. However, administrators cannot edit our articles or stop an article from being published in the Dixie Sun News.
Hyland goes on in his article to accuse me by name of confirming that DSU administration has in fact “recently directed the paper not to interview certain people without its consent.”
Again, this is simply not true. Hyland quoted me out of context and overgeneralized a statement I made.
The “recent” incident Hyland was referring to was in March 2015. I was covering the Davenport case for the first time and tried to contact members of the theater department to get their response on the incident or on Davenport being fired. The members of the theater department either did not respond to me or declined to make a comment.
Steve Johnson, who was DSU’s director of public relations at the time, emailed me and told me why the faculty from the theater department wouldn’t talk with me — they were prevented from doing so under “federal law, Utah state statute and DSU campus policy which pertains to the confidentiality of this matter.” Because the alleged assault victim of Davenport’s trial was a student, the federal law in question was the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects the privacy of students.
Johnson never told me I couldn’t talk to members of the theater department; members of the theater department just declined to talk with me — a decision I respected. Johnson directed any further inquires to DSU’s legal counsel, who could better comment on the case because of the legalities involved.
It was not by force but by choice that faculty members declined to talk with me. The “First Amendment violation” that Hyland accused the university of in his article is nonexistent in this case. While previous First Amendment violations by DSU have been and will continue to be covered by the Dixie Sun News, we will not stand for the false accusation that the university is engaged in a “systematic” attempt to restrict free speech by preventing the Dixie Sun News from reporting the facts.
Above all else, the truth will always be our No. 1 priority.