Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

December 10, 2011

Silence from LMC can be deafening


Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Each time there's news about a change at Lon Morris — whether it be the departure of an official or the delay of paychecks — the rumor mill in the area begins to fire up again.

Rumors abound about the college's financial stability in the wake of last week's news it was delaying paychecks to its employees for the fourth time. Phone calls then came to the Daily Progress about secret high-level meetings being held at the college. Rumors also came in that the college's accreditation might be in jeopardy.

Those, again, are rumors.

In response, Lon Morris said little last week about the delayed paychecks other than a news release and a few generic quotes about it being tough economic times. In fact, the college was silent about a report that it had failed its Department of Education financial responsibility test for 2010, declining to comment in a Friday Daily Progress news story.

The silence, too often, coming from the college is deafening.

One of a newspaper's primary responsibilities is to separate fact from rumor.

As reporters and editors across the country know, most of the time rumors  contain, at best, only part of the truth.

Other times, the rumors are just plain false.

But it is difficult to address rumors — unfounded or not — when the object of the talk responds in only general terms and will not address specifics.

Certainly, the college, as a private institution, is under no obligation to release any information other than what is required by law, something college officials repeatedly have pointed out.

At the same time, though, the media has an obligation to report on what some may consider bad, as well as good, news.

Certainly, it is in the best interest of Jacksonville as a whole, not to mention the surrounding areas, that Lon Morris be a viable and strong institution. It contributes not only to the education of its students, but also to the economic well-being of the community as a whole through its employment of many local residents.

Perhaps Lon Morris officials should be more keenly aware that they are part of the Jacksonville community, and therefore, people are interested and will talk about what is or is not happening at the college — real or rumored.

Perhaps Lon Morris officials should realize that more often than not, unchecked rumors do more damage than the truth — good or bad.

For more than 150 years, Lon Morris has been a part of the Jacksonville community and we want it to be an institution that lasts for well more than another century.

But the college must be more forthcoming in releasing information vital to its students, its employees, businesses that partner with it and the community as a whole.