Vanderbilt editor fired over fabricated poll results

TENNESSEE — Members of the Vanderbilt Student CommunicationsBoard voted Tuesday to fire the editor in chief of the student newspaper forfalsifying information in a Feb. 8 article.

Jarred Amato admitted to publishing false results of the “Who’s Now?”contest in the sports section of The Vanderbilt Hustler. The competitionpitted student athletes against each other and allowed students to vote onlinefor their favorites. Amato said he chose a Vanderbilt football player to winover a baseball player, even though the baseball player had received more votes,and made up poll result numbers.

“I didn’t understand the severity of my actions,” Amato said. “If I had, Inever would’ve done it. I know it’s the stupidest thing I could’ve everdone.”

Amato printed a retraction and apologized for falsifying the results in theFeb. 11 issue of the Hustler.

The eight-member board, which had suspended Amato last week, made thedecision to fire him in order to preserve the journalistic integrity of theHustler, said Bruce Barry, chairman of the Student Communications Board.

Barry, a sociology professor, was one of two board members who votedagainst removing Amato from his position. The decision was difficult because theboard had to weigh the fact that the Hustler is run by students who arestill learning about journalism, Barry said.

“I wasn’t persuaded that the extreme step of removal was necessary,” hesaid. “Although I didn’t vote for removal, I support the outcome.”

Vanderbilt Director of Student Media Chris Carroll, a former member of theStudent Press Law Center’s board of directors, said he thought Vanderbilt’sboard made the right decision because student journalists should be held to thesame standards as professional journalists.

“There’s a covenant of trust that exists between readers and (the paper),”he said. “Once that’s breached, you have nothing left to stand for.”

But Amato said removal was too harsh a punishment and tried to convince theboard that he could turn the situation into a learning experience.

“If I didn’t have the trust of my staff, if my staff lost respect for me… I would’ve stepped down immediately,” Amato said. “I didn’t expect to get afree pass, but at the same time, especially at a university where you’reexpected to learn and to grow … I thought I’d be given that chance.”

Three columns were published on the student media Web site Insidevandy.comtoday in support of Amato.

“And last night I felt that Amato was disrespected, that the massiveamounts of time and energy he has put into improving the quality of this paperand leading this staff was cast aside, that the great short-term penalties thiswill inflict upon the Hustler family were ignored,” wrote Sara Gast, who is anews editor at the Hustler. “To be treated as inconsequential to theorganization hurts when you have sacrificed so much.”

Hustler Managing Editor Elizabeth Middlebrooks took over as editorin chief today and said she would be willing to offer Amato a staff writingposition at the paper.

Amato said he still wants to pursue a career in journalism but does notknow if he will be returning to the paper.