Alpha phi. Yes, we’re all talking about it (or at least those of you who managed to get ahold of a newspaper today before they all disappeared). The school starts an official investigation into a freshman female going to the hospital with alcohol poisoning, and suddenly, Cal Poly greek life gets massively talkative on the comment boards — but not when they are actually contacted for comment.
As our reporters can confirm, Tuesday was a day of frantic phone calls to every friend we have who is, knows or has ever sat next to somebody in class who was in greek life. The reason? It’s the story of the week, and we can’t reach the president of the sorority involved. For those of you who don’t know about what we require for a news article, let me just say its REALLY bad when you can’t get ahold of an important source. Especially after we spoke to the freshman in question, and she made some pretty accusatory statements.
So there we were at 9 p.m., supposed to go to print in one hour, and the front page has a glaring blank space where a story should be. I’m sweating bullets and probably getting calves the size of elephants from pacing around the newsroom so much. Everybody has phones to their ears, or are frantically typing away on Facebook, and the same question can be heard over and over again: “Hey! Do you have the number of the Alpha Phi president, or know anybody who does?”
But the same response keeps coming.
“I’m sorry,” they’d all start, “but we can’t give that information out.”
After a half hour of this, finally a breakthrough comes. Somebody who knows somebody else can get us the number. The excitement jumped up at least 10 notches in the newsroom at that moment. We all gathered around Sean (the reporter who wrote our eventual story) and stared as he dialed the number that will let us finally finish this nine-hour torture. Finally, Sean mouths the words, “It’s her answering machine.” With those words, we had to resign ourselves to putting in the dreaded, “Such-and-such could not be reached for comment.” Oftentimes for readers, this is the nail in the coffin that condemns a story as “biased.”
Even though we tried repeatedly to get an actual comment from the sorority, nobody was willing to get back to us. This is not just Alpha Phi — we had similar problems last year when dealing with sensitive topics in the greek system.
Mention the name Mustang Daily, and they might as well be lacking vocal cords. Greek sources tend to be that unresponsive, and I don’t really understand why. From our perspective, if we’re contacting you, we really do want your opinion. We want to know how you feel about this; we want to give you the chance to tell everyone your side of the story. And yet, we are still shut down at every turn. We dedicate hours to attempting to make contact, but are condemned once nobody wants to say anything.
This is not to say that we never get anywhere. Alpha Phi did eventually send us a statement (after press time), and we have dutifully printed it as an update in our latest investigation story. But we will still get comments that the Mustang Daily is being unfair to greeks; that we are targeting greek life because we just want a scandal and all sorts of boo-hoo, woe-is-me stuff. But where were all of these people when we were calling everyone for comments? It doesn’t matter whose “side” you are on in this silly battle some people are imagining on the comment boards; go ahead and argue away about the value or dangers of greek life. But don’t attempt to say that the Mustang Daily is being unfair to the greeks.
If you want more equal coverage, answer your phone when we call.