Friday, March 12, 2010

The Beacon Corrects False Information About Wash U: Will StudLife Be Next?

Earlier in the week, I criticized the St. Louis Beacon for suggesting that it was an open question whether Wash U was being "subsidized" by taxpayers as John Burns claimed when in reality there were clear facts available that showed his claim to be false. To the great credit of the Beacon, Politics and Issues editor Susan Hegger jumped in on the comments and said that they were going to look into the issue further. The Beacon then corrected the record on the original article on Tuesday by including the following paragraphs:
Ray Friem, Metro’s chief operating officer transit operations, said any college or university in the area can enter into the universal pass program with the transit agency. The cost is based on student population and access to the system, he said.

Besides Washington University, Friem said that Southwestern llinois College has a similar program. The University of Missouri at St. Louis participates in a slightly different version of the program.
They also deleted a false claim by Metro critic Tom Sullivan that alleged that Washington University was being "subsidized."

The Beacon's actions are praiseworthy for a couple of reasons. First, it's great that Hegger was willing to enter into a conversation on a local blog about the article. Second, and more importantly, they did the additional legwork needed to get the story right.

Given this successful change by the Beacon, I wonder if Washington University's own independent newspaper StudLife will correct the same misinformation put out in two recent columns. In a column claiming that Wash U's support of public transportation showed "a callousness toward the poor," John Burns falsely claimed:
if you’re a student or faculty member, the taxpayers are subsidizing your ride.
A couple days later, Phillip Christofanelli claimed
Instead, Wash. U. only pays roughly 20 percent of the cost of a yearly Metro pass while simultaneously demanding that the poor make up the difference. That means a Wash. U. student pays $250 less for his yearly Metro pass than a disabled person. Low-hanging fruits such as Wash. U.’s discount should be addressed before we make demands on the poor.
Both of these passages are false. Wash U is not "subsidized" as the same deal is available for any similar institution. The University does not ask the poor to "make up the difference" for some discount: in fact, Metro gets more money from Wash U now then it did before the passes were purchased in bulk. As a paper committed to conveying accurate information about the University and it's relationship with the St. Louis community, I would hope that Student Life will takes steps to set the record straight.

1 comment:

  1. That's the power of open comments on a blog. Well done, Susan.

    Some local bloggers (I call her Ms. Comments Off) seldom turn the switch to "on". I suppose if you can't support your argument it's safer to allow no one to comment. It's easier than screening phone calls to your partisan radio show.

    By the way, I discovered your blog thanks to the RFT. Keep up the good fight!