Controversy reveals need to teach better communication

Something I feel I’ve learned well at Linfield is communicating and dealing with others. I thought the school taught that fairly well. Until, that is, two weeks ago.

A close friend of mine is sophomore theatre and communication arts major Chris Forrer, who writes the Review’s sports column. Two weeks ago, he published a column on the future of the women’s softball team (“Swing for the title, ladies, not the fences,” TLR, April 7).

After TLR posted the article in the paper and online, Chris immediately began to receive hateful emails pertaining to the supposed offensive nature of the article. One of the online commenters, calling him- or herself “A TRUE Wildcat fan,” even suggested that Chris stick to what he is good at, “like watching Harry Potter movies, playing chess or jacking off.”

Others called the writer and article ridiculous, suggested he quit his job and, as commenter Doug Strahm put it, described the piece as “ABSOLUTE UNINFORMED POPPY-COCK (or as you might say CRAP!!!!).”

This kind of hate and immature backlash is inexcusable. I fully admit that the article wasn’t without flaws. It referenced an issue that occurred in the locker rooms in 2008 and compared that to situations that are occurring today and how this might hold the team back.

I feel that was not written as tactfully as possible. Also, I can easily see the headline of the article being offensive and misleading as to the actual content of the piece.

However, if you actually read what the article says, there is no way that an intelligent person could misinterpret that the story was in support of the softball team and simply pointed out comparisons to things that happened in the past.

This, as I think should also be obvious, is a sport’s columnist’s job: to follow a team or teams, observe how they’re doing, compare that to season’s past and draw conclusions. Chris did this, nothing more and nothing less. He never insinuated that the team was actually, “swinging for the fences” and certainly never bad-mouthed or wished anything but the best for the women of the team. He even said, “I think the drive to win the title after coming so close last year will win out over any personal missions.” How is this anything but a vote of confidence?

The comments toward Forrer are indicative of a failure in our school. The liberal arts education of Linfield is meant to train us to work with everyone and communicate effectively in a globalized world. How, if this school can be called a success, can students come out of the program thinking it is OK to send hate mail and borderline threats to someone for stating an opinion? Which professors or administrators are seeing these students and not correcting them?

What I expect from my $40k education is personalized attention that extends beyond the classroom and shapes my whole person. I, thankfully, feel like I have received that. Thus I am rather sad to think that I am going to school with such poorly trained peers who have clearly shown a flaw that lies within the student body.

Administrators and professors of Linfield, I call upon you to ensure that students who are not receiving the kind of specialized attention that they need to grow as communicators begin to. If students like the ones who commented online are graduating from this college thinking their style of interpersonal communication is appropriate, then you have failed at your job.

I am thankful for those who have shaped me. As the mentors of the school, though, it is your task to ensure that I am correct.

Matthew Sunderland\Guest columnist
Matthew Sunderlan can be reached at

5 Comments on Controversy reveals need to teach better communication

  1. Gilno Engo // April 26, 2011 at 6:20 am //

    he did have to choose is words carefully. Using rumors to write an article is not what reporters do. You want to talk about a story involving the softball team, you talk with the ladies about it, interview them about what happened, and there you have an idea into what really transpired. Not just go and write an article based on rumors in the lockers. And I think they learn that in Journalism, that the title already gives an opinion of the article to the reader…
    Linfield has a very good school spirit, that’s what you have to appreciate.

  2. However, keep in mind that it was an opinion piece.

  3. Gilno Engo // April 26, 2011 at 9:09 pm //

    using locker room rumors to write an opinion piece in a newspaper? are you seriously saying that since it’s an opinion, a simple rumor is enough to write it in the LTR and share with students? have you heard of gossip? If you base your opinion on rumors (rumors are not even reliable), keep it to yourself. If you’re going to write it down and make it available for all to see, you better make sure to have the entire story right or you risk backlashes you were not ready for.

  4. Dear Gilno... // April 30, 2011 at 6:59 am //

    What you are calling a rumor, others would refer ti as a source. It’s all a matter of perspective, and many more prominent journalistic articles have been written with less than what Forrer was given.

  5. Gilno Engo // April 30, 2011 at 8:25 pm //

    well, give me an example then… anonymous writer(?)
    And the point of the comment was that the author of this article shouldn’t be surprised with what happened with comments on Forrer’s article.
    I didn’t write a comment on that article since everything that needed to be said was, and I would not have used foul language… but what do you expect when he writes such an article based on “he said, she said” about an entire team, “piecing the pieces together about what really happened in ’08″ from “those in the know”, while those involved in the article are left to read it in the paper? all hell breaks loose… no surprise there

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