The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

Resetting the Record

In January, a reporter asked to tell the story of my experience as a cross country athlete—but he ended up telling only half of it.
Leo Vernor

Editor’s Note: This article is a formal response to The Maroon’s 2/15/24 article on DEI within UChicago XC.

In January of 2024, a team member directed a Maroon reporter to me to interview me for an article he was working on about the cross country team. The reporter, Finn Hartnett, briefly explained the scope of the article, saying that it would be about the implementation of and challenges to DEI initiatives, and how these initiatives are working to increase inclusivity in team culture.

Our conversation was about half an hour long, and about a week later I received a follow-up email from Hartnett requesting confirmation that he could use my name and quotes. I confirmed my consent to be quoted, on the condition that he emphasize the positives of my experience, and not just the mistakes made. I did not hear anything else from Hartnett until the article (“DEI Programming Highlights Cultural Issues in Cross Country Teams”, 2/15/24) was published.

The cross country team, considering both men and women, has about 60 people on it. Of those 60 people, Hartnett spoke with five. One later requested to be removed from the article, meaning that four people’s quotes were held up as indicative of the entirety of the team’s experience.

Three of the four cited in the article had close ties to the person who submitted the tip. Only two agreed to be named. Hartnett did not reach out to two of the three women’s team captains, and only attempted to contact one of the men’s team captains.

This is not to say that Hartnett did not reach out to others. He did reach out to other members of the team, but never spoke with the team captains, nor the coach, nor the administrators who have assisted with the implementation of DEI initiatives – those who gave the team the grant to host more DEI programming and continue to support us as we work to better ourselves and our community.

Put simply, the scope of who he talked to is so limited that it should never have been portrayed as representative of team culture writ large. In academia, that’s referred to as “sampling bias”: when your sample is constrained in such a way that you cannot generalize the results of what you find.

Journalism is not as strict as academia, but the acknowledgement of sampling bias is still common journalistic practice. The New York Times and The Washington Post cite who has not been reached for comment and who explicitly declined to comment.

Hartnett failed to acknowledge this publicly and in writing, despite multiple team members reaching out and pointing out inaccuracies that extend past sampling bias. There is no annual O-Block run; my coach reached out to me multiple times following October 7 to apologize to me and ask what could be done to address my concerns; and I repeatedly stated to Hartnett, on paper and in conversation, that he could include what I told him about my experiences if he also included the fact that efforts had been and continue to be made to grow as a team and learn from mistakes.

The article was published on February 15, 2024. On February 16, I commented on The Maroon’s site noting the inaccuracies of the narrative, but that comment was not approved for days. On the evening of February 16, I spoke to Hartnett and explained that what he’d written was not representative of where the team culture stands, nor did he think to acknowledge the limitations of who he had been able to get in contact with.

Hartnett and his editor ultimately declined to pull the article from The Maroon’s site, instead telling me that I was welcome to submit an op-ed in response to the article if I had a problem with it.

Retroactively correcting the use of one’s name is never a comfortable position to be in. It begs the question of what I could have said differently, and if I should have said anything at all. I maintain that I was honest with Hartnett during our conversation in Fairgrounds. I also maintain that what he chose to include in the published article does not reflect the entirety of what I said.

As of my writing this, two editor’s notes have already been added to the article, and I expect more may follow. If The Maroon wishes to uphold its reputation as a reporter of UChicago news, it would do well to consistently and credibly report, or at least acknowledge when writing and interviewing methodology makes it impossible to do so. UChicago is a small campus, and treating interviewees with such lack of transparency and care is something The Maroon cannot afford to continue doing if it wishes to remain a trusted community newspaper.

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About the Contributor
Leo Vernor, Grey City Reporter
Leo Vernor is a second-year student majoring in Cognitive Science with a minor in Creative Writing. He was born in Texas, raised in Washington, and raised again, in Texas. He joined Grey City because he likes to write about the nooks, and especially the crannies, of the world around him. Beyond The Maroon, he is a member of a collection of eclectics called the Folklore Society. You can also listen to him beam sound into the void every week on the student-run radio station, WHPK. Some of his writing can be found in the Austin Chronicle, the rest is either here, or yet to come.
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  • F

    Finn Hartnett / Mar 27, 2024 at 4:56 pm

    Hey Nora,

    Thanks for writing this piece. Although I welcome the criticism, I wanted to write a response because I believe you misrepresented the situation somewhat.

    You posit that you “repeatedly stated to Hartnett, on paper and in conversation, that he could include what I told him about my experiences if he also included the fact that efforts had been and continue to be made to grow as a team and learn from mistakes.”

    This is not true. You said nothing of the sort during our in-person interview. I have listened through the audio recording, and will send it to you if you’d like. When I asked you over email once more, just to be sure, you wrote that “I would request that you also include that people did remedy the situation/apologize.” This was clearly phased as a request and not as a requirement. I was amenable to this request, and included this passage in the article: “Following her statement, the team’s captains quickly reached out to her, and the offending parties on the team sent long messages apologizing in the team’s group chat. After a few weeks, Holmes rejoined the team, although she only competed in one more race, a time trial.” Given that this seems to be the crux of your case against me — that I misrepresented you in my piece even though you told me multiple times to include a certain sentiment — the facts that:

    1.) you did not tell me multiple times, but only once, after I reached out over email;
    2.) it was phrased as a request and not a requirement;
    3.) I then included context about the situation which was intended to fulfill said request;
    undermine your argument quite seriously.

    You also argue that I committed selection bias in my reporting and did not capture all the complexities of the situation on the team. This is a much more valid point, and I agree to an extent. I would only remind you that I wanted to talk to as many people on the team as I could — it’s just that only five agreed to an interview! I reached out to about 20 during the process of writing the piece. I did not, in the piece, list every person who declined to speak to me; that would sound quite clunky. The Washington Post and the New York Times often make this choice, as well. Their articles would be double the word count if they always listed everyone who wouldn’t speak to them.

    You also list “inaccuracies that extend past sampling bias” in my piece. Only one of the three you list is an actual inaccuracy — the O-block run being an annual custom. Two sources had told me this was the case, but after publication, I was quickly corrected, and as such updated the article. The other two “inaccuracies“ are opinions about how the piece should have been written. I welcome your stylistic criticism, but to label these factual inaccuracies is disingenuous.

    Similarly, you write that “two editor’s notes have already been added to the article, and I expect more may follow,” which seems to be a dig at the integrity of the piece. Again, I feel that you are misrepresenting the situation here. The two editor’s notes were both made by me, within a day of publication. One was at a source’s request, who wanted to be further anonymized. The other was at your request, after you spoke to me about your portrayal in the piece, and requested I add context. While I was not told by editors to do this, I sympathized with you and decided to add a sentence to fulfill your request: “Holmes also expressed that the team was largely supportive of her during and after the incident, and did well to remedy the situation.” To portray these two editor’s notes as my superiors correcting my bad reporting is, again, quite disingenuous on your part.

    I think that covers it. Have a good one.


  • U

    Uncle Milton / Mar 24, 2024 at 9:31 pm

    The Maroon is a disgrace.

    Its a left wing bunch of lunatics pushing a woke agenda and not approving comments that their snowflake brains don’t like.

    The Maroon should be gutted.

    • M

      murdoch / Mar 27, 2024 at 8:54 pm

      idk what your comment says cuz I have a browser extension that blurs web content with certain keywords. I do know that you used the term “woke” at least twice. I just wanted to say ur a shill for Murdoch. Not one original thought in that skull of yours. That’s all. Still not reading your comment lol.