THE BLOG
11/22/2011 09:32 am ET Updated Jan 22, 2012

Response to the Quality of Reporting on the Tragedy at Yale Tailgate

I was there, waiting at the entrance of the tailgate for my friends to filter through the sea of eager students. While there, I witnessed from a hand's distance the tragic events that unfolded in front of my eyes. I heard the U-Haul engine rev up and lurch out from behind the crowd, I witnessed the women trip and fall under the tires, and I saw the stunned expression on the driver's face and knew that he had lost control over his vehicle.

The news articles that have been released covering this event have been speculating alcohol to be the culprit of this tragedy. I mean, it makes sense right? The reporting that has promulgated the web could certainly connect the dots. A frat boy carrying beer kegs (ABC) in the back of his beer truck crushing (DailyMail) slow bystanders, maybe out of road rage (The Register), while possibly under the influence of alcohol (the other 90% articles on this). The message I'm getting from these articles is this: (drunk) college kid.

Unfortunately, dear reporters, your articles overstepped the line of honest reporting and yellow page blasphemy by writing your assumptions in such a way that convinces your readers that your story is the truthful one worth reading. In the New Haven Register, the reporter wrote the facts in three sentences before beginning his transition into possible impairment, the "out-of-control" Yale students, and the drinking games for the remainder of his novella. Because the Register was one of the first on the scene, this story and series of fabricated links has subsequently been popularized by copying media. It didn't matter that he passed his sobriety test or that he was cogent the entire time. You all wanted a story, so you focused on what was locked in the back of the truck and the background snippets that didn't matter.

I am not writing to give an account of "the truth." I myself am emotionally torn and give my condolences to both parties. The truth, I leave that to the police reports. I will say, though, that I am close friends with the driver and spent my morning in close proximity to him. I can tell you that he is one of the most responsible and respectable Yale students I know, as is exemplified by his choice of pre-game drink -- apple juice. This story, as well as the other stories that have followed suit, have reduced my friend into an angsty, too-eager-to-get-his-party-on frat boy. This is nothing but hearsay.

Maybe these reporters really thought they had the facts down and so thought it was okay to prematurely ejaculate a quick story. But filling up over half your word count with speculations on alcohol, when alcohol had nothing to do with Brendan's driving, and quoting past deans (cough, New York Times) saying that "drinking, tailgates, and football seem to be synonymous" does not make it okay to drop page-long hints of DUI for your readers to pick up. His eyes were of horror, sober horror. Even students who were directly in his trajectory could read from his tense body language and facial expressions that he had no intention of accelerating the truck and was trying to figure out how to best stop the vehicle without harming more people. Reporters, I am ashamed that I do not read the facts in your report, that there is no balance in your biased words. All you have done is leave me at the end of every article thinking that this could only happen if I could write it off as a stupid college student making stupid decisions.

These reports could, and most likely will, affect more than just the people involved in the accident. It could affect the future decisions of how Yale undergraduates are treated, and unfairly so. Our rights do not deserve to be curtailed or put up for reconsideration from an effort to sensationalize a story that holds no grounds. These rights are not simply rights to relax for a day from the responsibilities of our academic rigor. They include the right to not have our livelihood, too, be stripped by irresponsible journalism.