TCU drug busts: Anatomy of an editor’s decision-making

In the wake of this week’s drug busts at TCU, the institutions involved are getting a lot of scrutiny, and that’s good. Did TCU blow things out of proportion? Were the Fort Worth police more interested in headlines than justice? Was the media irresponsible?

I’ll leave the answers to the first two questions to the experts and our columnists. As for “the media,” I can speak only to the actions of my newsroom.

This post is definitely not the official position of the Star-Telegram; it’s just my opinion. But I was the editor supervising the initial coverage, so I’ll answer for the decisions we made.

I’ve read the stories, columns and comments over the past four days, and I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on our coverage. I’ve come to two conclusions:

1. I wish we had done a better of job of emphasizing the relatively small-time drug-dealing outlined in the arrest warrant affidavits. The comments of TCU and Fort Worth police at the morning news conference seemed to describe something more sinister than the affidavits actually contained. We needed a headline to that effect as part of our first-day coverage.

2. Aside, from that, I think our coverage on the whole was comprehensive and fair. Whatever your stance on drugs, or TCU, or police, this was a big story in Fort Worth.

We have written on the university’s crisis response, the scope of the allegations, the football team’s involvement and the police’s identification of the wrong man.

Our editorial board has encouraged the university to be more forthcoming about allegations of drug use by football players. Randy Galloway gives TCU props for not trying to cover things up. Columnist Bud Kennedy has become a high-profile skeptic of the entire communications effort.

In today’s media world, that kind of depth and reasoned analysis is too often missing from coverage of events, and I’m proud of our newsroom for taking the time to provide it.

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