Roy Exum: Alex Green’s Gutsy Call

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Robert “Alex” Green, who stood up to a misguided college administration in order that Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., would not become “another Penn State,” has just been informed he will be awarded the prestigious Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism next month at the University of Oregon. Green, the editor of the school’s newspaper, was expressly forbidden from publishing a story that a former professor is an alleged pedophile, according to a story in USA Today.

Bryan College President Stephen Livesay censored the story last fall after the young editor learned a former Old Testament professor – David Morgan -- had been arrested by the FBI in a child prostitution sting in Fort Oglethorpe.  That’s when Green, a native of Dayton, rather bravely took it upon himself to make 300 copies of the story and circulate them on campus.

It was Green’s belief that “Printing this story will not cause a Penn State situation for Bryan … I believe it will prevent one.” The fifth-year senior also wrote that Bryan College wouldn’t reflect Penn State “because there are people here that will not attempt to save face by dusting over the arrest of Dr. David Morgan.”

At first Livesay’s reaction was that he and other administrators felt the story was “inappropriate” but then school spokesman Tom Davis created a larger mess when he told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the administration is “looking at this as, we are an institution that says it’s a Christian institution and we are trying to live that out, to not spread information we can’t confirm.”

The problem was that the newspaper editor discovered the truth on his own before he published it.  On June 24, 2012, David Morgan was arrested by FBI officials in the parking lot of the Race Trac store on Battlefield Parkway. In October of 2012 the same David Morgan was arrested by Catoosa County officers on two counts of computer pornography, two counts of criminal intent to commit aggravated criminal child molestation and two more counts of child molestation.

Bryan spokesman Davis said via e-mail, “We believed we were doing the right thing to protect the privacy of a man charged, but not convicted, of a crime.”

Green took a different view. “We felt it was our obligation to get the story out – as journalists and Christians." Green said that part of God’s message is admitting it when things go wrong. “We are a Christian school. This is what we talk about. People do mess up. That doesn’t mean there is no hope.”

The brave student was not expelled nor disciplined by the university but a firestorm of criticism was leveled at the Bryan leader from around the nation, calling for a hurried apology. “If we have upset or offended anyone relating to this situation, we apologize. It was not our intent," Livesay’s statement read last September, “Our intent was to look at the situation as Christians and do what was right. As humans, we are fallible."

Bryan College – after the story was banned and then became public – was castigated by the national press but the newspaper editor wasn’t among the detractors. “At Penn State they say, ‘We Are Penn State.’ At Bryan we say ‘We are Christ-centered.’

“Had one individual in the Penn State program stepped up and revealed the truth about the actions of Jerry Sandusky, there would have been no fallout 14 years later,” Green wrote. “Joe Paterno could have died a hero. Instead, he died a goat. Penn State could have been praised. Instead, they are broken.”

Gail MacDonald, a journalism professor at UConn, praised the need for freedom of the press. “I’m not questioning the legal authority of the Bryan College administration to do what it did, but rather their moral authority to do it. As somebody who believes deeply in press freedom even on the student level, I applaud the student for trying to get the message out,” said MacDonald.

“If they’re teaching journalism and providing students with credit and coming in with such a heavy-handed approach, such a clear act of censorship, I don’t think that’s what journalism is about in this country. It goes against all American journalism ethics,” she added.

* * *

A VIDEO EXTRA:  This video has absolutely nothing to do with today’s column but all of those who know me are aware of my fondness for dogs. A friend just sent me what he called “the best dog advertisement ever!” As you watch this, you’ll agree he might be right.

royexum@aol.com


America

Some have said down through history If you last it's a mystery But I guess they don't know what they're talking about From the mountains down to the sea You've become such a habit with me America, Ame-er-ica Sammy Johns penned these words back in 1973. It was the end of a war or, more properly, a police action… a police action that cost the lives of 58,220 of our ... (click for more)

In Support Of Marty Haynes

Early voting is now in progress and continues through July 30, with election day being Aug. 4.   I am asking the voters of Hamilton County to join me in casting their vote for Marty Haynes, who is on the ballot for assessor of property. I know this office needs the continued leadership it has with the past assessors. My late husband, Roy Rumfelt, served under the last ... (click for more)

Hixson Man Charged With Sending Threatening Emails To General Sessions Court Judge

A 30-year-old Hixson man has been charged with making threats to kill General Sessions Court Judge Lila Statom after police said they found evidence to tie him to recent threats against the judge. David Lee Graham, of 1730 Colorado St., is charged with retaliation against a judge. His bond was raised to $100,000. Detective Ric Whaley said he had been conducting an investigation ... (click for more)

Rescuers Carry Injured 15-Year-Old Boy Out Of Pocket Wilderness

First responders spent Sunday afternoon rescuing an injured 15-year-old boy at the Pocket Wilderness at the foot of Mowbray Mountain. At 1:20 p.m. , a 911 call was made reporting a teenager had injured his ankle from cliff jumping at the "Blue Hole " at the Pocket Wilderness. Tennessee State Parks and the Mowbray Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene and immediately ... (click for more)

Dunbar Promoted To Head Wrestling Job At Ooltewah

J.D. Dunbar had been promoted to head wrestling coach at Ooltewah High School. Dunbar, an assistant with the Owls’ mat program since 2012, becomes a head coach for the first time at the high school level. He replaces Bryant Blackmon, who recently resigned. The 36-year-old Dunbar is also the school’s strength and conditioning coach and assistant head football coach on ... (click for more)

Another Big Week For Chattanooga Football Club

More than 10,000 fans gathered at Finley Stadium last Saturday to see a 5-3 penalty kick win over Miami United.   CFC keeper Gregga Hartley made a save and scored the winning penalty kick, helping his team to advance to the national semifinals on Saturday.  They will host Sonoma County Sol at 7:30 in the comfy confines of "Fort Finley"  Chattanooga is the top ... (click for more)