Officials should speak to press

Public officials who decline to comment to the Northern Star are truly refusing to speak to the people they serve.

The Star’s staff members, like all journalists, seek to present and analyze facts to readers so they have a deeper understanding of news. Part of that work requires speaking to people: experts, politicians, those affected by a change and those with powerful stories to tell. In this way, journalists enable readers to hold public officials accountable.

Sources who decline to comment aren’t refusing to speak to just journalists — they’re refusing to speak to the public because newspapers are advocates for the people.

In recent weeks, the Star has seen several public officials decline to comment. NIU President Doug Baker has informed the Star via his staff that he will not comment for a story from the paper’s Dollars and Cents series, which examines the work and compensation of NIU employees, although on Saturday NIU spokesman Bradley Hoey emailed a statement saying Baker would be “happy to talk … at a later date about broader issues that deal with university … .” Baker would have provided invaluable feedback on the work, the results of that work and compensation of an employee in this story.

Nathan Lupstein, Student Association president-elect, declined to comment several times during the tumultuous SA executive election in late March. Lupstein’s voice in the paper would have helped readers understand the actions of his campaign, which came under scrutiny from the SA Supreme Court.

Former employee Ron Walters, who a Dollars and Cents story found was paid about $460,000 over 18 months while being reimbursed $32,000 for travel, never responded to an editor’s emails and voicemails. While Walters may not be an official in the same vein as Baker, highly paid employees at a public university should be open to speaking about their work and compensation.

The staff will continue to make every effort to reach out to sources like these so they can connect with readers.

The public deserves better. Sources must speak to journalists.