Reading the the Signal’s February 23 SFB column, I was excited to learn that Morgan Spurlock would be coming to campus this spring. According to the article, the acclaimed documentary filmmaker was coming to campus to screen an exclusive sneak preview of his latest work before a lecture and Q & A session. As per the paper’s typical standards and content, the SFB column discussed the the event’s total cost, $17,400, and published its tentative date, with the only pending constraint being “…approval from building operators.”
However, the Signal failed to note that none of this was finalized, and in fact no contracts had been signed. “A lot of research is involved when planning an event, and typically a lot of discussion occurs without contracts,” explained Dylan McDivitt, a CUB Event Coordinator, who planned the event. “This was not made clear in the Signal.”
Now, despite the Signal’s assurance that Spurlock “will come,” he has chosen not to visit the College. Ironically, it is the Signal’s SFB column which changed Spurlock’s mind–specifically, by publishing the appearance fee and implying that Spurlock was definitely coming to campus.
According to CUB Director Allie Binaco, “the Signal typically publishes the lump sum amount, including costs of using Kendall Hall, catering, police, and other costs which do not go directly to the talent.” She continued, noting the lump sum is most valuable to students concerned with an event’s total cost, and regardless, the costs must be disclosed as TCNJ is a public institution.
On February 24, before the article was even in print, Spurlock’s PR team spotted the Signal’s online publication, and Spurlock’s agent reached out first to CUB and then to Tim Asher, Director of Student Activities, demanding that the article be taken down. To date, the original article remains online, though in lieu of retraction, the Signal printed an article on the front page of its March 2 issue stating, “While we regret the implication that a contact had been made, the reporting of SFB funding is an essential part of the Signal’s mission.”
Perhaps the Signal needs to rethink the execution of their mission, if merely following protocol provokes a high-profile speaker to cancel his appearance in protest, especially considering the long and arduous process of negotiating a speaker’s lecture. But clearly, the Signal is not solely to blame. It is petty and rash for the principled Spurlock to cancel the event so quickly, and for a seemingly minor offense. To his credit, though, he did give the Signal a chance to take the article down, which they apparently declined.