Magazine article Editor & Publisher

What We Are and What We Are Not

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

What We Are and What We Are Not

Article excerpt

For five months, we had pursued him relentlessly, and now, finally, it was over.

University of Colorado President John Buechner had resigned (E&P, Oct. 30, p. 8).

It was with mixed emotions that I watched him on our newsroom TV last Oct. 14 as he fielded questions from reporters, his eyes puffy and swollen. Every inch the well-dressed executive, he couldn't hide the fact that he hadn't slept last night. And, although my staff and I had never intended to drive him from office, I knew, despite his repeated denials, that our investigation had done just that, forcing an end to his distinguished career of more than 35 years with CU.

For the Colorado Daily, Buechner's resignation meant the end to the most arduous five months of journalism that any of us could remember. It had begun in May as an inquiry into his vaguely defined Total Learning Environment (TLE), a multimillion-dollar educational initiative. Almost immediately, however, a tip led us to documents that raised questions about Buechner's relationship with consultant Fran Raudenbush, the friend he had hired - at a salary higher than six of CU's nine deans - to spearhead his TLE.

Trying to get answers to those questions had led to an open-records lawsuit, which was settled out of court in the Daily's favor, and months of outright hostility from CU. Buechner refused to speak with the Daily, and members of CU's governing body, the board of regents, resorted to name-calling and accusations that the paper was "making it up." The conflict reached its apex in September when the Daily's two reporters were ejected from a public meeting for having tried to ask Buechner the questions in public that he had refused to answer in private. Blocked on all sides, the Daily fired back by asking those questions in a front-page editorial.

Now, little more than two weeks later, the relief in the newsroom was palpable. The struggle was over, and the Daily had survived to see those who had cast aspersions on the paper's credibility facing questions about their own.

"Do you see Buechner's resignation as vindication for the Daily?" a reporter from Denver asked. I told him that I'd always felt that our position was a strong one and that we had never needed vindication. But, in my mind, the silent answer was, "Yes."

As champagne corks flew in the newsroom, I found myself looking at Buechner's face on the TV screen with a combination of relief and sympathy. Had he been crying? It certainly appeared so. Buechner had spent his entire career with CU. …

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