During Step Sing weekend, Al.com published an interesting article that many Samford students disliked. The article, with the headline, “Students complain Samford told women to bind breasts for Step Sing dance,” caused an uproar between students and alumni alike.
The article only named two sources, a current student and step sing participant named Rachel Williams, along with a 2006 Samford graduate named Brit Blalock. Funny thing is, it appears neither of those two girls spoke directly to the Step Sing Committee.
As stated in the preamble of the SPJ Code of Ethics, “ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.”
Did the article’s author, Greg Garrison, truly search for accurate and fair information?
“Seek truth and report it?” No. Garrison did not include any quotes from anyone on the actual Step Sing Committee or the show’s directors. Everything on the article is based off hearsay. To me, since they did not perform their due diligence, it showed an extreme bias in wanting to tear down yet another Christian university. It seemed desperate.
If, however, they did perform their due diligence and everyone declined to respond, then the least they could have done is said they reached out but both parties declined to comment.
Furthermore, it is acknowledged that breast binding isn’t completely abnormal in theater. It’s actually pretty common for women with larger breasts to bind them. This is something Garrison either chose to ignore or chose not to research.
Second, the Code of Ethics states that as journalists we must “minimize harm.” In this case, Garrison did not minimize harm. When the Crimson’s staff reached out to try and get facts on what happened, the show’s directors, who may or may not have been sexually harassed by the Step Sing Committee, did not want to speak to our reporters on the record. Garrison scared our potential witnesses from speaking out.
This story had the potential to be groundbreaking in the Samford community, but the story fell flat. Why? Because the reporting was on shallow ground. Both Williams and Blalock had given information to Garrison that was all heard from other people — does the telephone game ring a bell?
An ethical journalist would have reached out to the Step Sing Committee and given them a chance to defend themselves or explain what happened. Furthermore, they would have reached out to all the Step Sing directors to ask if any of them had experienced the same thing — even the men’s groups because the fact of the matter is, men can be sexually harassed too. It doesn’t appear Garrison attempted to do either.
To me and many other readers, it seemed as though Garrison, Williams, and Blalock had an agenda. Because of that agenda, once again, a topic that needs to be discussed was brushed under the rug. From the faulty reporting to shoddy sources, they ruined their story.