Letters to the Editor

Name the source

October 6, 2010


To the editor:

According to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, journalists should “identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability. Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity.” Unfortunately, Dolph Simons, Jr. either doesn’t know or has disregarded the ethical obligations of his profession.

A primary characteristic of his “Saturday Column” in the Lawrence Journal-World is the unnamed source. For example, in last week’s rant, Simons quotes “a senior and prominent KU faculty member” as saying the university is “a factory which turns out degrees ... not an education.”

Funny, as a senior and prominent faculty member, I don’t remember saying that. I also know many colleagues who should be described as such, and I can’t imagine them delivering such a groundless backhanded slap to their colleagues and students.

The facts are clear, Simons appears to listen only to those voices that share his bitter bias toward the university. That Simons, his source, or both choose to deliver apocryphal quotes under a cowardly cloak of anonymity undermines their credibility.

As a 20-year veteran of the KU faculty, I demand that you either name the source of the quote and provide specific examples to support its premise or apologize to KU’s hard-working staff, faculty and administrators who have dedicated their life’s work to service on behalf of the people of Kansas. While you are at it, please bone up on the SPJ Code of Ethics.

David W. Guth,

KU associate professor of journalism


Determined 7 years, 6 months ago

I think the writer is correct. If a person is able to write an article, but not back it up with reliable sources then it does undermine the writer's "believability.” That was my original comment in the comment section of the sited article in this article.

I'm glad to know others have a similar view. The original article lacked substance because it lacked credible sources. If there were quoted sources I'd have more respect for the article and writer.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 6 months ago

More accurate to say Faux "News" has swayed a lot of opinion, don't you think? Unless you are claiming they deliver their news content based on the wishes of their viewers - something they and their apologists have always vehemently denied.

So...better to admit the propaganda is working than drop the facade of being a news organization.

cato_the_elder 7 years, 6 months ago

I find this fascinating. Almost every day we read, watch, or listen to a news report citing "sources who did not wish to be identified." Legislators have often forced the issue, and journalists have even gone to jail for refusing to name their sources under the First Amendment.

Now a member of the KU Journalism faculty tries to tell Dolph Simons, who was a prominent journalist when the letter writer was bagging groceries in junior high, that he needs to "identify sources" when citing KU faculty members' dissatisfaction with the University's administration and policies. The Code that the letter writer himself cites specifically says that identification of sources should occur "whenever feasible." It's laughable to envision any journalist of Mr. Simons' stature writing a column and saying, "Last week I was talking with Sam Smith, Chair of the KU English Department, who told me that in his opinion the University has gone significantly downhill over the last two decades."

I have news for the letter writer: I know one helluva lot of current and retired KU faculty members, and plenty of them agree with Mr. Simons' views about KU's current stature and lack of real leadership over a protracted period of time. I was recently in the presence of one of our most prominent professors emeriti who went out of his way to tell Mr. Simons how much he agreed with his columns on KU, even though I am well aware that this highly respected professor, a close friend of mine, disagrees with Mr. Simons on virtually every political issue of national importance.

If the letter writer has been a KU faculty member for the last 20 years, perhaps that speaks for itself.

avoice 7 years, 6 months ago

"If the letter writer has been a KU faculty member for the last 20 years, perhaps that speaks for itself."

I noticed that, too, and the fact that Mr. Guth is an associate professor. After 20 years and not a full professor?

cato_the_elder 7 years, 6 months ago

Tom, I wouldn't bet the farm on that one.

Love_Honesty 7 years, 6 months ago

The Journalism school won't promote you to full professor till you pretty much retire. Almost every professor in the J-School is associate. Also, Professor Guth has a masters, but no Ph.D. He does have a distinguished career as a professional in the journalism and public relations work force, which is why he was brought to KU to teach. P&T (Promotion and Tenure) are stuck up on Doctorates most of the time.

Professor Guth is the former Associate Dean of the Journalism School as well. A position that demonstrates the quality of his experience, teaching and leadership abilities.

Professor Guth will retire a full professor I am sure.

PugnaciousJayhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

Distinguished career? Really? His last job before coming to KU was as the Special Assistant to the Secretary for Public Information with the North Carolina Department of Corrections. What a winner.

TruthSeeker5 7 years, 6 months ago

We all know that Mr. Simons’ Saturday columns are not always well written. It is his paper so he can do what he wants. Is that really a battle worth fighting? Everyone understands this obvious fact. Too bad you squandered this opportunity just so you could pound on your chest and publicly announce that you are a “senior and prominent faculty member.” I think this letter to the editor has nothing to do with Mr. Simons, but is actually just a sad attempt for this professor to feel superior. Fact is, joke is on you Mr. Guth, your little rant just reveals how narcissistic, arrogant and self important you think you are. People with class, confidence and true “prominence” don’t have to say it out loud.

Love_Honesty 7 years, 6 months ago

You don't know Professor Guth and that shows by your characterization of him. So he is narcissistic and arrogant for defending his work place? Or for defending a community he loves? It is like you being proud of your children and someone insulting them and you defending them. Would you be narcissistic, arrogant and self important because you defended your children? No, you would be a good parent. If I gave 20 years of my life to something that I believed it, I would defend its honor as well.

"People with class, confidence and true “prominence” don’t have to say it out loud. "

Your ignorance blinds you. He was illustrating a point. What makes someone senior and prominent? Mr. Guth fits all definitions of it and if any other professor can be defined that way, so can he. He is pointing out that senior members of KU's faculty don't all agree. If he didn't put himself in the same class the point wouldn't have mattered.

notajayhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

You want answers?

I want the truth!

You can't handle the truth!

7texdude 7 years, 6 months ago

You say things like that to a newspaper guy, you need to go on the record. And Fox or MSNBC or whoever do not follow the SPJ handbook. I would hope that Simons and his paper would set a better example. I'm not sure who has less guts: Simons or his "source." They believe a KU degree is worthless. My whole family went here and I assure you that a KU degree means a lot and has played a big part of their success.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 6 months ago

Guess what Professor, journalism has changed the media has changed.

In TV we now have 'news anchors" that double as "game show hosts"; can you imagine Dan Rather or Peter Jennings doing that?

On most talk radio there aren't very many 'hard' newscasts; most of these 'newscasts' become commentary between a host and the 'news person."

There once was a firm line between entertainment and news; now they are intertwined. The 'old school' of journalism and media is closed. I don't think William Allen White would be particularly impressed.

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