Wanted to share a glimpse of what I told our students today on the heels of their successful public records battle. The process of how these things unfold is always a learning opportunity, with ways it could be improved on next time, but the takeaway in the end — increased public transparency — is a win for all.
It was a particularly poignant case in my eyes, because near the end of my time in Portland The Oregonian fought and lost an appeal of the University of Oregon’s interpretation of FERPA. I’m glad to see other journalists continue to challenge the law’s application in a way that may ultimately lead to clarification on how it can and cannot be used.
Overall, I continue to be impressed with your capacity to rise to the challenge when a big moment presents itself. The past 24 hours or so was one such time. Your journalism in that span accomplished something significant — it’s rare that the president overrules his legal counsel, after all — and something that will be one of your legacies here after you all have graduated. You did it quickly online. You did it powerfully in print. You did it contextually throughout. Congratulations.
Now, here’s your challenge: How do you make these best days of your collective journalism more frequent? How do you not just seize the big opportunities. But all opportunities. Think of it this way: The best players in sports are not the ones who deliver only when they are on the biggest stage. No, they deliver day in, day out, with a steadiness and reliability that makes them stand apart.
It’s one thing to be great here and there. But what you want is to be great always. To build a culture that makes that the standard you hold one another to consistently. That’s what you’re capable of as journalists — it’s there, clearly; we as pro staff can see it growing, and we want to help you make it as strong and vibrant as it can be. And that’s what this campus deserves from its newsroom.