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Who is getting the truth? (02/21/2007)
By John Edstrom

On page 7A of this edition of the Post appears a news release from a group calling itself the Minnesota News Council, which finds fault with our coverage last September of a survey conducted by the Winona Education Association (the public school teachers' union) with help from Tim and Susan Hatfield, professors at WSU. The article in question, entitled, "Origin, validity of supt. survey argued," is also reprinted on page 7A.

First of all, it should be noted that the News Council has no standing in law, nor does the Winona Post recognize that it has any authority either legally or morally to call us in front of it to be judged. We did not take any part in the proceedings, nor offer any defense. Neither did the other newspaper the Council saw fit to judge in absentia at the same hearing. Where the News Council draws authority to either summon independently owned newspapers, or judge them in their absence, is a mystery. It appears to us at the Post, however, that the Council will entertain any complaint, no matter how baseless or silly, simply to continue in existence.

That said, the nub of the Hatfields' complaint against us can be dismissed in a few sentences which we provide here for our readers, to whom we do owe responsibility. The story contained allegations that the survey in question was plagiarized. These allegations came, not from the Post, but from the original author of the document, Don White, superintendent of Pekin School District in Illinois. He was quoted in a letter to school board chair Larry Laber: "I am concerned that whoever plagiarized this form has misinterpreted its use and has changed the purpose for which it was designed."

Tim Hatfield, who was interviewed for the article, (Susan wasn't available), complained to the News Council that he was not warned of nor given a chance to rebut the charges of plagiarism. Yet they were never accused of the plagiarism, at least on our pages, and Tim Hatfield was on record to the effect that the author of the survey was actually the WEA. When asked to clarify where the survey came from and who wrote it, Hatfield was quoted in the article in question, "WEA representatives are the ones who constructed the actual survey." As far back as August 1, 2006, he stated in a letter to the Winona Daily News: "The ISD 861 teachers, in an effort to be included in the Durand evaluation process, researched and designed a teacher survey to address his performance. I know this because my spouse, a national expert on assessment, was asked to consult on the survey..."

Yet after the Hatfields testified before the News Council, the survey is referred to in its press release as the "Hatfield" survey. So on the one hand, the Hatfields deny authorship of the teacher survey, and on the other, demand to be given a chance to defend against charges that they plagiarized it. How does this make sense? Did the Hatfields author the survey or did they not? Who is getting the truth?

They claim we didn't investigate the accuracy of the plagiarism charge, ( not that we acknowledge that this is necessarily incumbent on us), despite the direct quote from the original author that it was. That makes no sense either. J.E. 


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