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Back when I was a kid, my daddy would often ask me what I was doing or, most often in my case, what I was up to. If my big, 240-lb., 6’3″ oil field roughneck of a daddy didn’t get an answer that rang true pretty doggone quickly, he’d be up investigating in short order. I learned not to dodge my big daddy. Folks shouldn’t be dodging the big daddy of watchdogs, the media, either, or they’ll likely find a reporter or two sniffing around in short order, as well. Although over an innocuous-enough issue, I hope that Texas State Technical College Marshall learned not to dodge Big Daddy’s queries after a recent brush with the media.

In this case, the Longview News-Journal was simply doing a broad-brush story on area colleges’ enrollment numbers and TSTC Marshall refused to provide any information. The story, titled “Most East Texas Colleges See Spring Enrollment Increases,” mentioned nine institutions and provided their spring enrollment numbers from 2011 through 2015. It was nothing but a matter-of-fact article seeking to inform the public and even gave administrators a chance to comment. Even so, this is what the article said about TSTC Marshall:

Texas State Technical College declined to provide spring enrollment numbers for 2015 or any of the past five years. The News-Journal has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the information.

That’s like trying to avoid attention by pulling a fire alarm. Mental alarms were no doubt going off all over East Texas.

So, instead of having an obscure paragraph buried way down in a relatively disinterested article, TSTC Marshall got its own headline and accompanying story, albeit a short one, a little later when the promised Freedom of Information Act (more likely a Texas Public Information Act) request produced the information the Longview reporter had asked for in the first place. Please see “TSTC Marshall Sees Slight Increase in Spring Enrollment.”

OK. So TSTC Marshall isn’t setting the Piney Woods on fire in terms of enrollment, but its enrollment is up over last year’s spring term. It’s down quite a bit from spring 2011 when it had 915 enrolled. Still, I don’t think the college made any points by trying to dodge the question. It’s just too easy to get information from public institutions, and, besides, when a spokesperson provides information to the media forthrightly, the aforesaid spokesperson can also add context (spin?) to the numbers.

I’m thinking the public relations people over there need an attitude adjustment. Just like when I was a kid, when Big Daddy asks a question, you’re going to answer or, if not, answer for it.

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