Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Relay was misrepresented

Dear Editor,

I write to you as fundraising chair of this year’s Relay For Life, in order to express my great disappointment and frustration with the coverage our event received this Monday from Student Life News Editor Sadie Smeck. While I am pleased with Relay’s front-page placement, as well as with StudLife photographers John Hergenroeder and Matt Mitgang’s tireless work throughout our event, Monday’s article focused disproportionately on the less-than-ideal weather this weekend, and how Ms. Smeck perceived it “hampered” our event.

Well, we on the Relay Steering Committee know definitively that this was not the case. In fact, contrary to the claim made in the article, Relay this year had more participants than in years past (1,783 registered and 143 guests). Furthermore, because our event persevered tremendously in spite of the weather and sharing a date with Mardi Gras, we surpassed our own fundraising goal of $225,000 by nearly $35,000, and logged one of the highest fundraising totals of any event that has ever taken place on this campus.

Instead, however, this article relied on sensationalizing the cold and rainy weather and how it allegedly affected our event, and painted a less than positive portrayal of this year’s Relay For Life. In doing so, the hard work of more than 40 Steering Committee members, as well as 183 Team Captains and 1,783 participants was undermined, and the hugely significant amount of fundraising that was done in order to advance the fight against cancer was undervalued.

If StudLife was looking for new and exciting angle from which to report Relay, perhaps it should have focused on how Relay For Life of Washington University is currently the #1 collegiate Relay in the nation, surpassing all other events by over $100,000. Or, how this is the second year in a row that our event has seen a fundraising increase of over $50,000 from the year prior (last year’s total was over $208,000, also misreported in Ms. Smeck’s article).

These are important and impressive facts that were simply overlooked, for reasons my colleagues and I do not understand. Relay For Life of Washington University has achieved so much this year, and is even being looked to as a model event by other universities around the nation. Reading the subtitle of Monday’s article, “Turnout hampered by inclement weather,” was truly minimizing to those accomplishments and to the people on this campus who worked tirelessly towards them all year long.

Sincerely,

Alyssa Anzalone-Newman

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  • Anna says:

    @don’t hate,
    To mention that the weather affected turnout is legitimate and uncontroversial. To insinuate that it somehow made the event less inspiring, successful, or important to this campus — especially in light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary — is where Ms. Smeck misfired and compromised her journalistic integrity. This is what the students planning the event take issue with.

    Nobody affiliated with Relay would be so self-righteous as to claim it deserves special kudos from StudLife just for being big and recognizable every year. However, when any WashU event achieves so highly that the entire nation starts to notice, a play-by-play of the weather does not do justice to what actually transpired that night.

    That isn’t cheerleading, that’s honest journalism.

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  • don't hate says:

    Frankly, media coverage is not a right. Especially for an event that happens the same way each year, any mention at all is pretty good. Student Life needs to find an interesting way to portray it so people will be interested in reading the article. Otherwise, they would simply be running the same piece from last year.

    It is not Student Life’s job to be a cheerleader for Relay, and if turnout was in fact low that’s a legitimate point to mention. If you want to control the message and have unconditional praise: write an oped (good job by the way), buy an ad, or get a puppy.

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    • k says:

      She essentially just TOLD you what was interesting about the event. Just as conversation about weather is boring, so is reading an article about it. We all LIVE here and experience the weather, but we were not all there at Relay to see what was going on. If weather was not really affecting the funds raised, then don’t talk about it!

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878