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Daily Evergreen journalists explain compliments, criticisms received since Gesser piece

PULLMAN, Wash. - It all started with a letter.

An anonymous letter sent to the Daily Evergreen in May, the student newspaper at Washington State University, regarding sexual misconduct allegations against Jason Gesser, the school's Assistant Athletic Director and former Cougar quarterback from 1999-2002.

A quick read of the letter and the newsroom knew they had a lot of work to do. 

It's not your age, your education, who you've interviewed, or where you've been that makes you a journalist. Above anything else, it's your passion.

"You get to expose the truth that people deserve to know," says Ian Smay, a senior reporter for the Evergreen. "But that people in power don't want you to know."

Smay and Dylan Greene, the paper's editor-in-chief, made public records requests with the school after receiving that initial letter. 

"When something like that falls into your lap and it's your responsibility to report this, it's a big burden," says Greene.

They waited through their summer vacations, finally hearing back from the school in July.

"I read the first page and within the first page, I looked at Dylan and said 'There is something we have to read through all these,'" says Smay. "There's about 400 pages." 

After sifting through hundreds of pages of documents, calling sources, reaching out to Gesser and the university for comment, Smay and Greene were ready to publish the story for the Thursday, Sept. 13  edition of the paper.

It took guts to publish the allegations and the night before the story was printed, they felt the weight of what they were doing.

"We were going to get this story out because this is happening at a public institution," says Smay.

After publishing the story, the next few days saw an editorial written by Gesser calling it a "non-story." However, an article detailing new allegations against him from a former student-athlete was published on Monday, Sept. 17. 

What followed for Smay and Greene was a social media whirlwind.

"I had people telling me I was stupid or fake news," says Smay. "Or (I was) just out to make a name for myself."

Other messages, however, were supportive.

"People were really thankful we gave her a voice," says Smay.

"All we were doing is providing information and letting the public decide what to do with it," says Greene. "That's our jobs as journalists."

Gesser officially resigned from his position at the university on Tuesday afternoon.

 


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