Article misleading

The article in The Northern Star on Oct. 26 regarding travel costs reminded me of headlines in the National Enquirer. When I called Jill Stocker about the story, she explained to me that she did not write the headlines or even the lead paragraph in the story. She added that the editors who do these tasks were on a trip. I immediately inquired if they could prove that they were not misspending or stealing travel money.

I have always assumed that both individuals and groups of individuals were presumed innocent and operating within the law until it was proven otherwise. The Star, in its anxiety to gain headlines, has decided to reverse this American tradition and label us all guilty unless we can prove otherwise. Stocker’s article is not about the appropriation of travel funds, assuming that the Star uses the standard definition of appropriation. Her article is about whether the university should have an in-house travel agency, an interesting and legitimate question which deserves some serious treatment.

My objections to the article are more than the misleading headlines and the statement that “the university has no way of knowing if travel money is being misspent or stolen”. Had the Star bothered to look at the working papers of the university, which are public information, it would have discovered that the total allocated (appropriated) travel funds are $736,800.

Of that total, Academic Affairs has a budget of only $531,426 and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a budget of only $144,300. Since we have more than 600 faculty members in the college, this amounts to about $200 per person. Any faculty member who travels and expects to be reimbursed by the university must submit a detailed expense account. Even with carefully documented expenses the university is almost never able to reimburse them for the total cost of the travel.

The sad part about the Star’s poor editorial practices is that support for faculty travel at NIU is woefully inadequate, and most faculty have to spend their own funds to travel. The Star’s headline sends a false message to the people of the State of Illinois, insinuating that we have money to waste when this simply isn’t true. The practice of writing counter-factual and sensationalized headlines is not only evidence of poor journalism; it also propagates misinformation.

James D. Norris