To Mr. Ganucheau
Yesterday, an article that you wrote for the Daily Mississippian quickly caught fire and rocketed Ole Miss onto the front page of national media. Unfortunately, it wasn't for academic achievement or university progress, it was for accusation of gay slurs being shouted at an actor during the performance of "The Laramie Project" on Wednesday night in Meek Auditorium. Those accusations, according to the headline of your original article, specifically call out "football players," thus sweeping the story not only through news media, but sports media as well. In this Twitter-fied world that we live in, a rush to judgment almost seems an appropriate thing to do. After all, the accusation is absolutely deplorable. To be physically, verbally, emotionally, or mentally abusive toward someone simply because of their sexual orientation in any manner is the very definition of "deplorable." If such a disgusting display of ignorance and hate were committed by any student on this campus, I believe a safe assumption could be made that the overwhelming majority of the Rebel family would stand, in unity, to condemn it.
An accusation of homophobia, racism, sexism, or any other kind of social ignorance carries with it an immense amount of negativity. This is understandable, and a very good argument can, and should, be made that such a wave of negativity is deserved, provided that the accusation is true. Given this reality, if it is found that the accusation is untrue, or incomplete, the point is unfortunately moot; the damage has already been done.
The article that you wrote has caused irrevocable damage to the brand of Ole Miss. Please allow me to stress once more that if the accusations levied within your article are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, that damage is well deserved and we have much work to do as a family in socially progressing. However, if the accusations are untrue, or unfairly exaggerated, or incomplete, that brand was unnecessarily damaged.
I hope that, as a student journalist, you share the same passion I do for uncovering facts without relying on supposition, particularly for an accusation that carries the weight that homophobia does. Therefore, I trust that you will not scoff at a request for clarification on several issues that you raise within your article, given the astonishing pace at which the article was written. After all, we, as a family, want to know every single detail to this incident so that an appropriate response can be mustered. I am not a member of a media outlet. Thus, I am not privileged to the inside information that media members are. But for your review, I have enclosed several bullet points that contain questions and thoughts surrounding your now nationally-known article:
- There is an idea floating around the internet that your primary source, Rory Ledbetter, was not in attendance on this particular night of the play. I do not know whether or not this is the case. I would make the assumption that the main source of your article would not be someone who was not physically present the night of the incident, thus I will assume that this rumor is untrue. Nevertheless, I wanted to give you the opportunity to confirm that Ledbetter was actually present.
- In your article, Ledbetter is quoted as saying "audience members" were disrespectful during the play. He is later quoted as saying, "the majority of the audience" was being disrespectful. Exactly what proportion of the audience was being disrespectful, and why were football players specifically singled out?
- Ledbetter is quoted as saying "audience members" used "borderline hate speech." In the same paragraph, he alleges "some audience members" used the word "f*g." I believe we can all confirm, as a society, that the word "f*g" is hate speech, not "borderline" hate speech. To clear the confusion, what, specifically, was said or yelled that night?
- In yesterday's original article, Ledbetter is quoted as saying, "It seemed that "football players were the ones initiating others in the audience." He also says, "It seemed they didn't know they were representing the University." In this morning's follow-up article, however, you quote Ledbetter as saying, "(the football players) were definitely the ones who seemed to initiate others in the audience to say things, too." To clear confusion, did Ledbetter witness the events, or was he given second-hand information? If he was given second-hand information, why wasn't the original witness interviewed? If Ledbetter witnessed the events and is definitely sure that football players acted as ring leaders in a night of gay slurs and hate speech, why wasn't that quote used in the original article? The word seemed carries the connotation of uncertainty. Why rely on it?
- Your original article quotes Lyda Phillips, House Director. For clarification's sake, what is the difference between the Director (Ledbetter) and the House Director (Phillips)?
- According to the article, Phillips "became aware" of the football players' actions. What, exactly, does "became aware" mean? In what manner did she "become aware" of the situation? Did she witness it, or was she told by another source? Again, if the latter is true, why was the original witness not interviewed? Where was Phillips, as House Director, located? Was she backstage?
- The article suggests that Phillips called "a coach?" What coach was contacted, and how did Phillips come into access of contact information for "a coach" after hours?
- Drew Clinton, Associate Director of Academic Support for the Athletics Department, is cited as responding to the scene. The article suggests after his arrival, football players wished to extend an apology "after the 2nd act." In what act of the play was the line "I'm gay" (that allegedly caused the loudest response from the crowd) located? What was the nature of the conversation between Clinton and the football players? Was there a conversation?
- According to the article, contact was made to the Athletics Department, and they gave no comment. Was there an attempt to track down and interview 3rd party witnesses to the event? If so, why publish the article before gathering more information? If not, why not? Separate news sources cite witnesses stating that they heard no gay slurs shouted from the crowd, only laughter. In a television interview, actor Garrison Gibbons alleged that after the line "I'm gay," "I felt this amazing amount of judgment, and then laughter." Going back to Point #3, what was the actual hate speech used, and why was there not an exploration of conflicting reports among witnesses?