A 20-year-old junior at SMU has been indicted on charges that he raped a fellow student in a dorm room in February, Dallas County records show. The student, Donald Samuel Cuba, was booked into Dallas County Jail and is out on a $15,000 bond.
The story -- including details on the school's controversial student-discipline hearings -- was broken by three students of Craig Flournoy, a Pulitzer Prize-winner who teaches investigative reporting at SMU. But it was published in Fort Worth Weekly, not the student-run Daily Campus. Its path to the alt-weekly is odd, and makes a pit stop on our desk.
Back in April, two of the authors, Brooks Igo and Patricia Boh, published a story in The Daily Campus about the plight of Monika Korra, the SMU cross country runner who was kidnapped and gang raped at gunpoint as she left a party in Old East Dallas in 2009. Two weeks later, with classmate Natalie Posgate, they wrote a follow up detailing SMU's non-adversarial method of handling alleged student-on-student sexual assaults. Korra's was the only case in more than 100 reported incidents over 25 years in which the attacker was successfully prosecuted, they reported.
BohPosgate and Igo graduated in the spring. But last Thursday, they received a tip that Cuba had been indicted. Together with Posgate, they put together a 600-word piece about the case. They took it to The Daily Campus on Wednesday, expecting to see it in print before week's end.
But it never ran.
"The next day, which would have been yesterday, we wanted to iron out a couple things," Igo said today. "We did that, brought it back to them, and then they said there was just a couple of conditions that we'd have to meet for it to be published with them, and they wanted to delay the publishing til Sunday or Monday."
The conditions were that Igo, Posgate, and Boh reveal the two confidential sources in the story, and that it be published as a staff report because two of the reporters had already graduated. It's common practice for editors to know the identity of anonymous sources. Still, Igo said, the students refused to comply. (Jay Miller, the media adviser at SMU, declined to comment on why the story didn't appear in the pages of the Daily Campus.)
(Update on Sept. 15: Miller emailed last night after the article appeared. "As I told you on the phone this afternoon, The DC has any number of stories in progress at any given time. The customary back-and-forth between editors and writers is expected, necessary and can often be tedious. It's not a process that is usually conducted -- by any media outlet -- in a real-time public forum. If you'll recall, this is what I told you on the phone and did not say 'no comment.'")
The students then brought the story to the Observer, hoping we'd run it. But our editors declined, too.
We figured the authors would come to an agreement with the Daily Campus before long, but no: There the story is, on the Fort Worth Weekly site, with the following editor's note:
Editor's note: Fort Worth Weekly has reported several times over the last several years about controversies regarding the reporting and handling of crime on college campuses, in Texas and nationally. Included in that coverage was an award-winning story reported by student journalists around the state, including those at Southern Methodist University.
The Weekly is publishing this story as a follow-up to that earlier coverage and also because the journalists on this story -- one current SMU student and two alumni -- were having trouble finding another news media organization to publish the story under conditions the students found acceptable.
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The Weekly, apparently, offered those conditions. Read the students' story here.
Editor's note: This story has been tweaked to make it clear that Cuba's indictment was confirmed through court records by Unfair Park; there seemed to be some confusion about that.
And just to explain, since there seems to be some general disease with this story: Basically, we heard about this from the student journalists, who were hoping we would run the story. We chose not to run the story, for any number of reasons; reported it independently while mulling how to proceed; and published it once the students found a home for it. It was an unorthodox situation, and we found the story of the students' travails interesting enough to share after presenting the fact of the indictment.
If you have questions leave them in the comments and I'll try to respond. -- Joe Tone, editor