Friday, January 15, 2010


The “Roanoke Times” January 8, 2010 editorial calling on Virginia to close the books on Governor Kaine’s Review Panel Report on the shootings at Virginia Tech is a badly misguided attempt to get people to move ahead with the healing process.

Unfortunately, the “Roanoke Times” misses the point. The state paid TriData over half million dollars for a badly flawed report and then rewarded the company for shoddy work by giving them another $75,000.00 to revise the document. The revisions were based on the work of the victims’ families. But TriData accepted only a fraction of corrections—just enough to say they did something, not enough to present the whole truth. Had the company accepted all the corrections, it would have been an admission of how poor the initial report was.

What more evidence does the “Roanoke Times” want than the ruling by Franklin County Circuit Court Judge William Alexander that the law suit by two of the victims’ families can go forward? The judge decided there is evidence of gross negligence by the school president, other school administration officials, and the Cook Counseling Center. The TriData report only hinted at bad judgments; not gross negligence—a cover-up?

In fact, TriData already has had business dealings with the state of Virginia. Does the “Roanoke Times” think TriData would risk future lucrative contracts with the state by identifying the state’s largest university as being run by people who are grossly negligent?

The sad truth is that the TriData report comes close to being out-and-out theft of tax payer money.

I teach Intelligence and crime analysis and use the TriData report in my classes as an example of incompetence in research, analysis, and writing. For example, the timeline in the original report is inaccurate and there are numerous omissions. The narrative of the report flows from the timeline. How can you believe anything if the timeline is flawed? It just doesn’t make sense. Not one of my students defends the TriData report as an acceptable analysis of this nation’s worst school shootings.

Unfortunately, the “Roanoke Times,” in covering the April 16, 2007 tragedy, has frequently pulled its punches. Other newspapers, such as the “Richmond Times-Dispatch” have aggressively pursued investigative journalism to get at the truth. The “Roanoke Times” has not.

What a shame; the leading newspaper in southwest Virginia shying away from the best journalistic standards and not searching for the truth. Instead, the paper apparently decided to bend over backwards to avoid offending the largest economic engine in that part of the state—Virginia Tech University. You can easily argue that the failure of the “Roanoke Times” to pursue good, investigative journalism is part of the problem we face today, and part of the reason why we are still searching for the truth and accountability.

No comments: