Thursday, January 27, 2005

News is way more interesting when you don't concern yourself with facts
Or, Rebecca C. Brown responds to some erroneous accusations surrounding the Bookswap money theft

Deservedly so, the Bookswap money theft has been making news around campus. This theft is in part the result of poor planning on behalf of my colleage and (more importantly) very good friend Misha Leybovich. The planners, including Misha and a few of his staff members, should have accommodated for the unprecedented turnout once it was clear that three staffers was not enough at any given point. This was a mistake. Given that Misha appreciates my candor as much as he appreciates my ability to humor him, I can freely editorialize and say that our office made a few mistakes that accumulated into a crushing loss.

But the mishandling of Bookswap money gives reporters no license to repeatedly distort the truth. I hope that the good people of CalStuff and the Daily Californian will kindly explain that less than $8,000 was stolen from the Bookswap with as much fervor as these pseudo-sources claimed that $30,000 was stolen. Both outlets should print the accurate figures now that they are known. Though at first it seemed that accurate figures would not be obtainable, this has proven not to be the case. Students deserve to know these facts as much as they deserved to know about the theft to begin with.

Given that no source from our office spoke with the Daily Cal about the theft, I can only assume that the newspaper got the the $30,000 from Andy Ratto at CalStuff. (That's some good journalism, folks.) Andy in turn got this figure from Misha almost immediately after the theft was reported and before Misha had even had a moment to look at the receipts and envelopes. Less than a day after Andy had spoken with Misha, our office had been able to determine the more accurate and significantly lower figure. Thanks to laziness on behalf of both news outlets, the larger (and very wrong) number has been repeated to the extent that it has become popular "fact" among students, or at least among students who comment on CalStuff.

I won't dignify the accusations that Misha (or any other Office of the President staff member) committed the theft with a response.

This of course isn't to say that $6,000-$8,000 isn't a big deal. It's a huge deal. I hope that the person responsible is found so that the money can be restored. Barring the safe return of the stolen money, the ASUC will need to pay for $5,000 of the re-cooping costs. This is very frustrating to me for two reasons: first, that each student on campus will in essence need to contribute 15 cents to paying back Bookswap sellers; and second, that the ASUC's image has been tarnished despite over a semester of fantastic work from all five executive offices and the senate.

And for the record I'm writing this out of my own frustration and not because Misha wants me to do any damage control. He specifically turned down my offer to use this blog as a medium for him to comment on the published errors. Why do people hate Misha so much?!

But, again, CalStuff and the Daily Cal have an obligation to run follow-up articles that disclose the true numbers.

(Let's see, I'm a volunteer worker for the ASUC, a paid employee of the Daily Californian, and a volunteer friend of Andy and the others who run CalStuff. Let's see how many conflicts of interest I can shove into one post.)


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