Editorial | Please communicate, Lisa Sparks

Illustrated by Gaby Fantone

“I typically keep personal and work matters separate,” wrote Lisa Sparks in an Aug. 27 email to The Panther. Despite running for California’s 45th congressional district – which is an extremely public position – Sparks ignored multiple interview requests from The Panther, refused to sit down with our news editor and gave us the bare minimum in an email. Because of this, because Sparks refused to do her job, because she only answered the few questions we sent, we had no choice but to cave to the narrative she gave us. We wrote a soft piece in our Sept. 3 issue that compromised our ethical integrity in order to comply with her lack of cooperation.

Congressional races are public: this isn’t news. When you offer yourself up as a candidate to represent constituents, you immediately set yourself up for the public eye. Yet Sparks explained her unwillingness to cooperate with The Panther by citing that she keeps her “work” life separate from her “personal life.” This logic is unfounded and frankly unprofessional. Sparks is the inaugural dean for the School of Communication at Chapman. She is running for Congress. She is polling at one percent. Yet we had to beg her to communicate with us.

In comparison, her opponent Katie Porter responded to The Panther within a day. Even though she’s currently a serving member in the House of Representatives, Porter dedicated her time and energy and answered questions for The Panther without hesitation. The congresswoman’s response was gracious and prompt, the exact opposite of Sparks’. To top it off, Porter was on the other side of the country: Sparks’ office is less than a three minute walk from ours.

Despite being this close in proximity, Sparks failed to cooperate with us. Attempt after attempt left us without any coverage and we found ourselves scrambling during our prescribed time to lay out the paper to accommodate the limited information. It took only one attempt for a sitting congresswoman and single mom of three to respond to us. We didn’t have to beg Porter to give us her time. The same cannot be said for Sparks.

We discussed the issue at hand as a staff and came to some shocking conclusions: both Porter and Sparks work in the university field. Both are moms, both are involved in politics. But no kind of veil of privatization stopped Porter from allowing us to speak to her. The lengths she and her team went to value our time was more than can be said for the dean of the School of Communication.

We believe that an integral part of communication is supporting the media. As Chapman’s predominant source of news, we take media integrity very seriously and embody ethical practices in all the reporting we do. But we cannot bend to the will of someone who doesn’t want to speak to us, regardless of their political affiliation, stances or current professional position. You’d think that Chapman’s dean for the School of Communication would do a better job at simply communicating.

So, Dean Sparks, do your job so we can do ours.