December 2, 2020

Letter to the Editor: A missing presence

By Scott Jensen

While students enjoyed time away during spring break, the Webster campus was home to what we believe to be the largest event ever sponsored on campus by a co-curricular Webster group…or perhaps by any group with the exception of orientation and graduation.

The forensic and debate program hosted a final total of about 900 people from our local community and 86 schools representing 31 states for a national tournament and convention. I was hoping you would have read about this in last week’s issue of The Journal — and you did…as a news brief.

That limited coverage was likely prompted by a standard press release written by our staff. I assume that because our event did not earn any student press coverage but for a 90-second interview for what I assume to be Gorlok TV by a student who also spent time taking photographs on one day of the event — and I extend a sincere thank you to her for that time and effort.

As the director of our program, I am frustrated. Our students work hard, traveling as many as three weekends out of a month, from September to April, representing the university to the best of their ability. They are talented. They are proud. And they deserve attention from the press that is managed by their peers, and saddled with a mission to cover events of immediate importance to the Webster community. Other co-curricular and athletic programs receive consistent press coverage throughout the year while forensics has flown under the The Journal’s radar.

A couple highlights that, in my mind, made this event of immediate importance:

— We used 110 rooms on this campus over three days.

— We hosted nearly 100 colleges and universities.

— The association sponsoring this tournament, Pi Kappa Delta, is the oldest and largest of its kind in the nation…and celebrated its 100th anniversary as part of this celebration.

— Pi Kappa Delta’s national president, national tournament director and national student officer are all members of Webster’s local chapter.

— This event attracted 35 alumni from 14 states who returned because of their dedication to Webster’s forensic and debate program and their acknowledgement of the importance of this particular event…35 alumni from 14 states.

— This is nationals…the capstone of the forensic season as any national tournament is for any competitive group. Given that no other forensic and debate tournament or event has received the attention of a student reporter this year, I had hoped our capstone event, given its being hosted here, would have earned some attention. (This includes not mentioning students qualifying for elite national tournaments, hosting one of the largest invitational tournaments in the country in January, and earning countless awards during our regular season including an individual state championship in February.)

Spring break was a big deal for our forensic students. I speak for my fellow coach/educator staff members when I tell you how proud we are of them. There are some great stories to be told from our current team members and the 35 alumni who came back to campus because they credit our program for much of their own success. I wish those stories could have been told as part of coverage by our own student press. They earned the attention and respect such coverage would have highlighted.

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