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Letter to the Editor: Daily Bruin’s reporting in TFT investigation lacks journalistic integrity

By Steve Anderson and Brian Kite

Feb. 11, 2021 9:55 a.m.

To The Editor:

This letter responds to the feature story titled “Lights, Camera, Inaction,” published by the Daily Bruin on Feb. 1. The article is promoted as an “Enterprise investigation” that “meets Daily Bruin policy standards” while alleging a variety of failings attributed to the UCLA department of Film, Television and Digital Media over the past several years.

We support the right of student journalists to practice their craft and we recognize the value in challenging systems of authority within the university. However, we have concerns with the Daily Bruin’s expressed adherence to basic principles of journalistic integrity.

First, we note that the reporter chose not to include the majority of a statement from TFT that provides important context:

The Department of Film, Television and Digital Media at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television is undertaking a broad and deep evaluation of all graduate programs, with the goal of making them more integrated and more responsive to student needs and changes in an extremely dynamic field. This effort goes beyond the evaluation that is routine across all university academic programs. UCLA TFT is prioritizing a culture of transparency among students, staff and faculty, and providing students with the resources they need to thrive.

We are also concerned by the almost exclusive reliance upon anonymous sources. In fact, dozens of students were involved in many of the courses cited, a number of whom may have been willing to go on record and provide other perspectives.

In addition to The Bruin’s “independent sources,” the last line of the article credits “contributing reports” by a former screenwriting student who was centrally involved in several of the issues reported on. This is a fundamental conflict of interest that was not acknowledged in the piece and undermines the credibility of the article, the reputation of The Bruin, and any pretense of “independence.”

In an age when conspiracy and misinformation are willingly embraced over logic and fact by vast sectors of the public, it is distressing to witness the failure of the Daily Bruin to insist on higher standards.

Anderson is a professor and the interim chair of the department of Film, Television and Digital Media.

Kite is a professor and the interim dean of the School of Theater, Film and Television.

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