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Wire service killed Jobtrak unjustly

By Wildcat Opinions Board
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 21, 2000
Talk about this story

The field of journalism is in a chaotic state of affairs.

Gilbert Grape is interviewing the president. Pets.com's obnoxious little sock puppet is being interviewed by Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer. And that's just ABC.

In a business screaming for integrity and public respect, the college front should be producing the leaders in watchdog reporting.

It's not easy, and when it's done wrong, the consequences are brutal. This creates a certain fear that many news services bow down to. In many cases, it's a healthy fear, but from time to time, it kills a perfectly valid report.

Yesterday, the latter was the case. The Daily Wildcat published a story stating that the online service Jobtrak had personal information of a number of its users publicly available on an FTP server - a security oversight on the part of the company's technology people. The story was picked up by a university news service, U-Wire, as the day's top story.

After the story ran, Jobtrak's co-founder, Ken Ramberg, made every effort to downplay the size of the error. This was an expected move that attempted to ensure the company's security was solid. Ramberg stated in a letter to the Wildcat that after the story ran, the company found that the hundreds of pages of information were a result of two days' worth of files.

Whether that is the case or not, the fact remains that the breach was made and the report was legitimate.

One day after submitting his letter, Ramberg contacted U-Wire and told them to remove the article from its Web site based on inaccuracy. U-Wire obliged. Before asking the Wildcat about the article, or verifying its accuracy, the news service's editor yanked the story.

The dissemination of information that is important to many college students was cut off at source. In short, a businessman successfully killed a story that revealed information that proved harmful to him. Give me a break. Is this a news service or an apology service?

The report was already submitted over e-mail, and yesterday's follow-up story was placed in the "computing" section of the Web site.

U-Wire editor Lori Morency said she was concerned about the possibility of legal action and was covering a certain part of their collective body. She also said she was not used to dealing with sources and just wanted to be safe until she could talk to editors at the Wildcat.

Morency has every right to worry about a story's accuracy. She has every right to contact client editors for safety. What she has no right to do is kill a report that has only been questioned by the head of a company that caught in a screw-up by a client newspaper.

Ken Ramberg won. He covered his tracks and disputed the story and U-Wire bought the spin.

It was all because of fear, plain and simple. Jobtrak's founder had temporary control over U-Wire's editorial power. That is ridiculous and sad. If a college news service doesn't have the courage to control its own editorial power the second an angry source calls in with a sob story, it may as well be worthless.

Say what you will about the incident. Listen to Ramberg if you like, and believe him if you like. But know that the information is out there - no thanks to U-Wire.

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