Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Forget the meek inheriting the Earth, I hope it's the young who take it

As Romenesko's column on Poynter.org spreads the doom and gloom of print journalism almost every day, amazing work is still being done at newspapers. Today's amazing example is from the UCLA Daily Bruin's months-long investigation into preferential treatment for donors' relatives at the university's prestigious orthodontics school.


Donations influence admissions

Preferential treatment at UCLA's elite orthodontics program exposed by months-long investigation

UCLA's elite orthodontics residency program has violated University of California policy and standards governing public schools by giving special consideration in admissions to major donors and their relatives.

Hundreds of pages of e-mails and internal documents obtained during a months-long Daily Bruin investigation, along with dozens of interviews, show that the program and the officials at its helm developed a system of preferential treatment over the past five years.

In this unprecedented practice within the School of Dentistry, applicants related to donors giving six-figure gifts were automatically advanced over other students despite their lower test scores and grades.

In one case, an applicant was told by a member of the admissions board that a $60,000 gift could greatly improve his chances.

Orthodontics is arguably the most competitive of dental specialties, and the program at UCLA is regarded as one of the nation's best, typically accepting applicants with extensive research experience and top scores.

But in four of the last five years, major donors' close relatives have landed one of six highly coveted residency spots in the program.

In 2006, real estate developer David Lee pledged $1 million to the school of dentistry. His niece was admitted into the orthodontics program soon after.

In 2005, Dr. Norman Nagel pledged half a million dollars. His son was admitted the next year.

In 2004, Dr. Bruce Molen pledged $400,000. His son was admitted the next year.

In 2003 and 2005, Dr. Thomas Bales helped lead major fundraising campaigns within the School of Dentistry, and in 2001, he pledged a half million dollars as well. The orthodontics clinic is named after him. In 2003, his daughter was admitted.

"I've been on this faculty for 40 years, and I've never seen anything like this," said George Bernard, a professor in the School of Dentistry. "People are scared that residencies are being sold on the open market."


I mean seriously, how fucking good is this? Amazing. And the rest of the story just provides more evidence and context. What else I love ... it's written interestingly as well. Strong verbs. Short sentences. Pacing. And excellent use of quotes. Bravo!

As an editor at L.A. Youth we've taken our summer writing workshop students to the Daily Bruin for years. It's always one of the best days of my year ... as much as I hated the Times Union at the end, I do miss newsrooms. Anyway, I've admired the Bruin for its quality; this is a bottom line business. But that quality comes from an ethic.

Four years ago then-editor Tyson Evans pointed to an amazing Sports Illustrated photo inside of Pauley Pavillion, which was hanging up in the office. Attached was a sheet of paper that read essentially: why the fuck is SI getting this amazing photo in our gym!??!? We should own this stuff!

To that I say damn the torpedos full speed ahead.

No comments: