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how to handle off the record comments in this case...

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by FuturaBold, Oct 24, 2008.

  1. FuturaBold

    FuturaBold Member

    A high school teacher/coach in our area was suspended this week ... the school system won't say why but several people have told me in confidence that it was because he hit a student (who had allegedly taken a swing or two at him first) ... rumors are flying all over the place on a couple of message boards ...

    anyways, the school system insists that they can't talk about specifics because it's a personnel issue. I can't get anyone to go on the record of saying what they know... I feel it's my duty to separate fact from fiction, especially now that there are so many rumors floating (he's resigned, the kid baited him into taking a swing because some parents don't like how he coaches the baseball team, blah blah) ... how much detail do I include in my story, if any?

    Thanks... just want to do the right thing...
     
  2. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Tread lightly.

    You may need to include your paper's education writer, too, if you have one. He/she could work the Board of Education or other sources on that side.
     
  3. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    I agree with tread lightly. You need to get someone reliable to say why, preferably on record. Failing that, you need a rock solid source to tell you what's going on in a format you can use, whether it's as an anonymous source or not.
     
  4. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    any criminal charges filed?
     
  5. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I would look for criminal charges or FOI the school system for the teacher's disciplinary record.

    I would not use off the record stuff at all here but would try to get as many specifics as you can to find out who the kid was and maybe talk to him or any witnesses.

    (Not sure if I found the kid I would do a story just from his side, though).
     
  6. Notepad

    Notepad Member

    Blackmail generally works.
     
  7. ink-stained wretch

    ink-stained wretch Active Member

    In most states, disciplinary reports are part of the public employee's personnel file, which is a public record. Go there first.
     
  8. Ask them if they can confirm what you know.
    School officials may not have a comment so try asking them if they can confirm that the coach allegedly hit a student.

    You might try asking some of the students who were around.. Was it at practice? In school? How else saw it? Assistant coaches?

    In cases like these I would discourage you from using off the record or anonymous sources.

    Use your paper's Ed. writer if you have one.
     
  9. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    No way in hell should you run a story with just the kid's side of the story.
     
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Probably not, but in some cases I might if they other side simply refuses to comment.
     
  11. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Call up the teacher and let them know exactly what the kid said. Tell him you are giving him a chance to give his side of the story. If he declines, then you've done everything you can do.
     
  12. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    If your sources are rumors and a message board, you can't run any of it.

    You need to get it on the record.

    Barring that, you need to get it from MULTIPLE, RELIABLE sources.
     
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