The News takes the criticism in David Swensen’s March 1 op-ed, “The endowment & the activists,” very seriously. We have looked into Swensen’s claims and have issued a correction to the two paragraphs in our Feb. 5 story that his column addresses. The News strives to report responsibly and accurately on campus issues, including Yale’s endowment, and we are always open to publishing criticism of our work in hopes of facilitating constructive conversations with readers about our coverage and mission. Swensen, however, has not agreed to an on-the-record interview with the News in years. Our reporters are trained to cover every side of important campus debates, but that task becomes more difficult when key sources refuse to explain their positions.

The online version of Swensen’s op-ed now contains a line that the News originally did not publish because it is incorrect. Swensen wrote that the reporter of the Feb. 5 story did not contact Yale’s Investments Office before the story’s publication when, in fact, the reporter did. The News omitted this line even though Swensen had asked that his column — which criticizes the News for failing to check facts — not be edited before publication.

After learning the line had been omitted, Swensen criticized the decision as “disgusting” and “inexcusable” in a series of emails to News editors, one of whom he called “a coward.” “Don’t you understand simple English?” he asked in one email. “What is the matter with you?” In a national climate in which journalists have increasingly come under attack, we are disheartened that a Yale administrator considers this an appropriate way to voice concerns to the News.

Rachel Treisman, Editor in Chief & President

Jacob Stern, Managing Editor

David Yaffe-Bellany, Managing Editor

Jonathan Greenberg, University News Editor

Zainab Hamid, University News Editor

  • Hieronymus Machine

    Swensen’s error was in trusting the YDN (said differently, in honestly expressing his feelings/reaction). Maybe not his best moment but, IMO, indicative of his frustration.

    Also, IMO, *proper* protocol would have been to refuse to print the OpEd until alleged inaccuracies were resolved (rather than going against the author’s explicit and agreed-to instruction). Tempest in a teapot of the YDN’s creation: go-go Gotcha! “journalism” with a coveted soundbite “leaked” via publishing of email exchanges. Greeeaaaat.

    • neroden

      It is true that proper protocol would have been to refuse to print the Op-Ed. This was a mistake by the YDN.

      That said, Swensen’s willingness to lie outright in an Op-Ed submission disqualifies him from his job, which is a position of trust and profit requiring scrupulous honesty. It is inexcusable for him to submit an Op-Ed containing a readily checkable lie. Swensen should be fired immediately.

      Throwing a hissy fit over the paper’s refusal to print a *lie* is even worse behavior, and makes it even clearer that Swensen should be fired immediately. He is untrustworthy.

      I have managed investments for 30 years. If anyone paid by me had behaved like Swensen, they would be fired immediately. It is a violation of fiduciary responsibility to put known liars in positions of authority over financial matters.

      • Hieronymus Machine

        “Swensen should be fired immediately” (x3 + “resign!”, I might add).

        I note the careful construction: “I have managed investments [period]” “If anyone paid by me…” You allow the reader to infer that you run some sort of investment advisory; however, I note no Nerode in the IARD database, the SEC database or registered with NY state, so let us assume you “pay” them in some other capacity (computer programming–where you may likely be a “manager” but not the actual source of wages; lawn maintenance; whatever). If I am wrong, I hope you will forgive me (see what I did there?).

        In any case, I assume you choose hyperbole for your own devices. Dismissed.

  • Frederick Windmuller

    This is a cowardly letter by the News. Swenson is right. The News published an article containing inaccuracies that weren’t fact checked and didn’t fix them until a month later! Shame on you for going after Mr. Swenson and publishing private emails like this.

  • Frederick Windmuller

    Fraternities are never quoted in your articles on Engender either, (which for whatever reason seem to be published daily). Can you imagine why they also do not respond to requests for comment? Maybe because, like Swensen, they realize their comments will be twisted and their conversations will be published in bad faith.

  • Frederick Windmuller

    Rachel Treisman, you should resign over this. The YDN has been horrible in your short tenure. It’s basically a gossip magazine at this point. Let someone else return it to respectability.

  • Journalistic Ethics

    It is unethical to edit an op-ed and run it in print without first obtaining explicit permission from the writer. The New York Times guidelines on op-ed submissions: “We would never run something over the objections of a writer, and the writer, always gets to see it before we run it.”

  • Frederick Windmuller

    The News isn’t approving comments that contain honest criticism of their reporting. Shame on them! Shame on the comment moderator who’s going to read this!

  • Journalistic Ethics

    It is unethical to edit an op-ed and run it in print without first obtaining explicit permission from the writer. The New York Times guidelines on op-ed submissions: “We would never run something over the objections of a writer, and the writer, always gets to see it before we run it.”

    • Jim A

      This is obvious. Also obvious is when you violate the rules, you don’t run a special editorial to attack the person you abused because he insulted you when you violated the rules.

  • MT

    Um, what footnote was removed?

  • baudrillard007

    Swensen’s claim was that they had a “direct contact in the investment office,” who is not, I presume, Swensen himself. He could have been justified in refusing to comment except through that official liaison, who was not contacted by the news, perhaps?

    But those are technicalities. The important fact is that this feud leaves all parties looking bad. The News published ill-informed agitprop and Swensen had a conniption over it—neither comes out of this debacle clean.

  • Boott Spur

    Why did you expect a response that night when you sent the email at 10 pm?

  • @^+|_+r011

    Should have included the inaccurate line to avoid editing the authors text, but included a disclaimer / correction / editors note that it was incorrect with supporting details.

    • Nancy Morris

      Obviously correct!

  • Brixton

    This is the most egregious violation of journalistic ethics the YDN has committed in years. Those email exchanges show it for what it is: a third-rate college newspaper run by entitled brats.

  • Brixton

    Swensen 2020!

  • abhi123

    Ridiculously low standards of journalism and ethics by the YDN! If the YDN wants to retain any credibility at this point, Rachel needs to resign. First you report inaccurately without checking the most basic facts, and then you “fact check” someone’s oped – especially when that someone is David Swensen, a man with the highest reputation and integrity.

    With regard to the original article – if you can’t accurately report on investment matters either change your beat reporter or don’t bother. You don’t get to shape the narrative if you can’t bother with the facts.

    At this stage, it is either extreme incompetence or a deliberate agenda. The YDN reads like the page three of the NY Post.

    • Ralphiec88

      Everyone needs to take a step back from calls for resignation. This is a spat between a student newspaper and an administrator who didn’t handle the situation at all well. Clarify the facts, learn the lessons, move forward.

  • Jill_the_Pill

    It is unacceptable for a grown man to be abusive like that.

    • Nancy Morris

      You have all the important considerations exactly backwads. Swensen has not been abusive. Everything he has said in this matter is accurate, measured and supported criticism of the thoroughly abusive YDN.

      The YDN disagreed with one of Swensen’s claims. The obvious, simple, correct and ethical course was to either (1) contact him and wait to run his piece, or (2) run what he wrote unredacted, and post a note expressing the YDN version. Nothing here that is correct is hard or subtle.

      Perverting Swensen’s writing by redacting a passage simply because the YDN disagreed with it was malicious and unethical, and deserves a very vigorous response.

      The facts are that the YDN left a late message for Swensen, and ran the redacted piece without Swensen’s consent early the next day. That’s grossly abusive on the part of the YDN. Why didn’t the YDN just send Swensen an email ten minutes before they went to print? By the YDN reasoning, if they had done that they could claim they had tried to contact him before running something under his name in a form that he did not, in fact, write.

  • ethanjrt

    Damn. No one comes out of this looking good. YDN reporters & editors run a piece without a modicum of research or fact checking; David Swensen makes a demonstrably false claim in his op-ed; YDN edits Swensen’s op-ed before publication without his permission; Swensen pitches a fit (despite admitting that the redacted statement is, again, demonstrably false).

    Conclusion: YDN needs to learn to hold on to stories for an extra day if the answers aren’t all in — this isn’t breaking news we’re talking about. And Swensen needs to chill the fuck out.

    There’s just one more thing the people need to know: What was the mysterious footnote?!

    • Nancy Morris

      Actually, check out the II article linked above.

      Swensen doesn’t admit his statement is false and he comes out looking pretty good. The YDN, not so much. In particular, the YDN has done nothing to indicate it can handle an interview in a responsible fashion, abide by any rules adopted for an interview, or accurately report on an interview. Big problems include that the YDN has way too many ill-informed axes to grind, way too little understanding of finance and investments, virtually no commitment to accuracy and an oversized desire to pretend constantly that it’s on an investigative joy ride to expose a big scandal.

      Why bother?

      I mean, really. Why bother?

      • ethanjrt

        Speaking of “why bother,” did you even bother reading the e-mails before writing this response? Newer link for your reference:

        YDN says “X showed us an email exchange she had with Y prior to the Feb. 5th story seeking comment, which suggests she did contact your office before filing her story,” and Swensen’s only response is, “Your reporter did not check any facts and failed to follow up on Y’s
        suggestion to look into the Vanguard funds.”

        Summary: Swensen claimed his office was never contacted for comment before the story was run. Turns out his office was contacted for comment, but he just didn’t like the reporter’s follow-through.

        Do I need to spell it out in all caps for you?

        • Nancy Morris

          Your points have been fully addressed and debunked if you care to read the articles and comments.

  • Nimrod0

    Or write a remark about the claim without censoring the original? I agree they are idiots.

  • neroden

    So, Mr. Swensen is a liar.

    Yale’s Investment Office *was* contacted by the reporters. Mr. Swensen, a liar, demanded that he be allowed to publish a lie claiming that it was not.

    Mr. Swensen: you now have your wish. Your dishonest, lying opinon piece has been published unedited, along with a note pointing out that you are lying flat out about something which is readily verifiable.

    Mr. Swensen should immediately resign his position. Liars should never be allowed in positions of trust or profit, such as investment management.

    I do not think this is a controversial matter. YDN did their best to assume an honest mistake on the part of Mr. Swensen, but Mr. Swensen insisted on having Mr. Swensen’s fundamental dishonesty exposed to the public. This disqualifies Mr. Swensen from his current job.

    I have managed investments for 30 years. I would never employ someone with a record of lying about his contacts with reporters. Neither should Yale. If the Trustees of Yale have any sense of fiduciary responsibilty at all, Mr. Swensen will be fired immediately.

    Nathanael Nerode

    • Hieronymus Machine

      “I have managed investments for 30 years.” Impressive, esp. for a guy who graduated college fewer than 20 years ago. Hope you’re not, you know, “lying.” Also, you’re not still holding out as an “investment advisor,” I hope…

      Kidding aside: I tru(mansburg)ly miss the Rongo.

    • Nancy Morris

      One assumes this comment is intended as an ironic joke.

    • 100wattlightbulb

      We’ve had President’s who have lied for the last 24 years. It’s a thing.

  • J. Gatsby

    I’ve said it before and will say it again, when you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes YDN headline.

  • twocents

    this is a STUDENT newspaper and you’re a university administrator. how embarrassing. first, you can’t get your op-ed published in a real newspaper. then, you freak out and resort to name calling, directing your meltdown at a STUDENT, who is LEARNING about journalism in their capacity at a STUDENT NEWSPAPER. try acting like the adult in the room. you tiny, tiny, man.

    if you can’t handle working at an educational institution where students are learning, please go somewhere else.

    • Hieronymus Machine

      “Uh, Mom? Please don’t do that; I thought we talked about this…”

      Gotta love new accounts!

    • Jim A

      Thirty years ago, the Yale Daily would not have done something like this — we were careful and would have run something else rather than break an agreement. When you mistreat someone, they will object — that is something they shoud learn.

    • Goldie ’08

      “Can’t get your op-ed published in a real newspaper” is one of the most absurd things i’ve read in, like, 5 days or so.

    • Awal

      You are probably new to Yale, but once upon a time, the YDN held itself to the same standards as the country’s major newspapers–which is why it was a “pipeline” to places like the WSJ and NYT. If you want to cover big time topics and make big time accusations, then you need to accept that you’re operating under big time standards.

      I also hardly think that the admonition “not to be an unchecked mouthpiece for the protesters” is something that writers and editors for a major college newspaper should need to be told at all–maybe not even a high school paper would need that reminder.

      • ldffly

        The history is right on the mark. Copies of YDN used to be found in NYC, DC, and Boston business and law offices because Yale was that important and the newspaper was taken that seriously. What’s happened?

    • 20155

      I am surprised by how stupid this comment is. You can learn journalism and do basic fact-checking, as well as treat your critics with a reasonable level of respect. Learning a discipline does not excuse you from ignoring fundamental principles of accuracy and decency – principles that should be common sense by middle school.

      Swensen is not an administrator at Yale. He’s a fund manager employed to manage the endowment – which is one of the biggest funds of its type in the world. Believe it or not, but clumsy (and potentially negligent) on-campus journalism infringes on him being able to perform his job and concentrate on the issues that matter. And yes, Swensen is permitted to be upset by this, especially as his professional reputation and image are effectively being tossed around by a publication that makes all of their stories accessible with a quick Google search.

      (I was also involved in the Yale Daily News as an undergraduate, and I would be ashamed to be a part of this mess.)

      • twocents

        lol @ 20155 not knowing the definition of the word administrator.

  • Nancy Morris

    A detailed and dispassionate discussion of this Swensen-YDN dispute appears in Institutional Investor magazine:'cowardly'-yale-student-journalists-in-email-spat

    Well worth reading for those interested in reading about such things.

  • Ralphiec88

    I don’t believe YDN should have cut that line, even if it was false. They always have the ability to include an “editor’s note”. Swenson has since admitted that YDN did contact the investments office, but said he would have wanted YDN to ask for “fact checking and context.” Regardless, Swenson has handled this issue remarkably poorly. He would have been a lot more effective by responding forcefully and evenly rather than going ballistic and making himself into the story.

  • Adorable Deplorable

    Treisman, Yaffe, Stern, Greenberg and Hamid. And none understands money?

  • timsteele

    “In a national climate in which journalists have increasingly come under attack, we are disheartened that a Yale administrator considers this an appropriate way to voice concerns to the News.”

    Actually I am heartened by it.