Dear Fox News:
Do you even have journalists that work with you any more? This story reporting on the deaths of two USC students near campus is offensive. AND WRONG. If you are going to make a big deal about what kind of car it was and how much it cost, check your facts. That was not a hard fact to check. A good rule in journalism is that if you can’t check your fact, you don’t make the assertion.
But it was too tempting to try to connect the “Rich Kids In Danger In A Ghetto” dots, wasn’t it? It tells the world a lot about how you think.
Second, folks at USC are not worried about our image just now. My administrators and colleagues are worried about our students. We lost two of our students to a brutal attack. We are devastated for their families, and we are worried about the shock and fear that we are seeing in our international students, who are part of our community here.
I can say all this with some confidence because USC is pretty much constantly worried about its image. My days are filled the sounds of administrator nattering about transformative researchers, superstars, our image this, our image that, the rankings! the rankings!, and it annoys nobody more than me on a day-to-day basis.
But yesterday when we lost two students, that nattering went quiet. Instead, we started fretting about the shock and fear that our students are feeling. Because while we are ambitious, we are also a community–a real community–and even the slickest, most crass ranking-hound is in the university not because it’s an easy job with summers off (which it’s not) where we can brainwash conservative students into liberal thinking. We work at USC because we believe in the human endeavor of scholarship, and we love students. Whenever we lose students–to car crashes or to illness or senseless violence–we are heartsick.
We also love our West Adams home, which generally gets treated like crap by the media. I live here. Many professors do. It’s our home.
I suppose we can say that we shouldn’t blame the media for behaving the way that you have, but I’ve been to this rodeo twice now. I was at Virginia Tech during the shootings there. In both of these instances, media like you made matters much, much worse for families and the student community. As miserable as the days after the VT shootings were, they were made much, much worse by the shamelessly self-promoting journalists who descended upon us with the sole desire to promote their careers. You can’t say that you are simply doing your job because if you were doing your job, you wouldn’t consistently mess up facts like how much the car cost. You’re just schilling. Call it what it is.
It’s not our image, then, that Fox News is preoccupied with.