You don’t always see student journalists take big risks and break stories but Alex Green, the editor-in-chief of Bryan College’s student newspaper in Dayton, Tennessee, did just that on Monday and it’s really an incredible story.
Bryan College is a Christian school founded in the wake of the local Scopes Monkey Trial and David Morgan was a professor of Biblical Studies there.
Over the summer, Green found out that Professor Morgan wasn’t returning to the school. When he pushed further, he got a message from the school president Dr. Stephen Livesay saying that the professor was off “to pursue other opportunities.”
That didn’t seem right. So Green dug deeper and discovered what the school officials weren’t telling anyone:
Morgan had been arrested in June and faced charges after “after having attempted to meet with a minor child” at a gas station.
Whoa! That’s a major story! That’s a story everyone at the school needed to know, especially since the school was trying to keep it under wraps.
So Green wrote up an article and scheduled it to be published last Friday. It wasn’t an opinion piece — it was a fact-based report about what the local sheriff’s department had on record about the case.
It never saw the light of day. When President Livesay heard about the story, he blocked it from getting published.
In a lot of cases, that might have been the end of the scoop. Green wasn’t done, though. In his mind, the school had no business blocking such an important story and he knew he had to get it out there. So he did it on his own:
“I placed [copies of the article] around campus and at the doors of dorm rooms and at public areas around the school,” he tells Romenesko readers. “They were primarily in the main administration building, the library and the student center. … [A PDF] was emailed and entrusted to a select few current students and alumni in the case that fake papers began to surface.”
Green also included a sidebar message on why he felt this was such an important article to print, responding to those who might compare Bryan College to Penn State:
I am aware that on the heels of the Penn State football tragedy, the minds of many people will jump without much thought to similarities between us and them.
Bryan College is not Penn State.
Bryan College is not Penn State because there are people here that will not attempt to save face by dusting over the arrest of Dr. David Morgan.
Printing this story will not cause a Penn State situation for Bryan. I believe it will prevent one.
That’s why I’m dispensing it.
“We are Penn State” was their approach. “Christ above all” is ours.
The Christ angle is irrelevant — Green did the right thing from a journalistic standpoint and he deserves to be commended for it:
Oh. For all his sleuthing, Green could face expulsion. No word yet on how the school plans to deal with him. ***Edit***: President Livesay has said there will be no punishment for Green.
There was a school-wide Q&A session scheduled by President Livesay but no real word yet on what was said or how Livesay addressed the problems.
(via Jim Romenesko)