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Setting the record straight about Jack White

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Jack White

Jack White performs in McCasland Fieldhouse Feb 2. 

There’s been a lot of talk about The Daily, especially concerning our release of Jack White’s contract highlighting his band’s requested guacamole and recipe.

His contract wasn’t something we leaked. It is public information that any of you could request. Many newspapers show contracts of celebrities that come into town; this isn’t something The Daily did that’s out of the ordinary. It’s not a hidden document, and it’s not something we had to dig to get. It is available to the public.

We requested his contract to find out how much OU paid him and to find out the other terms of the contract. From there, we posted some of the odd things we found, such as the guacamole recipe and banana ban.

After that, we reported how much it cost to bring White to campus. It was $80,000, and that’s a fact. We wanted to fill the story with more information from Campus Activities Council about why they paid that much, why it was worth it to pay that much, how much profit OU would receive and where the money to fund White’s concert came from. However, CAC officials either declined to comment or wouldn’t respond to our multiple texts and emails.

Tuesday, in the aftermath of the concert, we reached out again. No one answered our calls, or when we did call, the answerer refused to comment.

While we still don’t know exactly what is going on because no one is talking, here’s what we know:

THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT

At the concert, The Daily reporters heard White say that he talked with three Daily editors about the Freedom of Information Act earlier in the day.

White did not ever talk with us. We never met in person, over the phone or through email with him. Yes, this was a White lie, as @NathanPoppe put it.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t try to talk to White though. We reached out to White’s management before winter break, and we never got a response.

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN TYPE IT ON A COMPUTER DOESN’T MAKE IT RIGHT

White also said at the concert, “Just because you can type it on your computer doesn’t make it right.”  We agree completely.

This is something journalists go over extensively in media ethics courses and within their organizations. Two of our standards, as outlined by the Society of Professional Journalists, are to seek truth and report it and to minimize harm.

We reported the truth of what the university paid White and what White requested in his contract.

Journalism must hold public figures accountable. By our university paying White and his band $80,000 to play on campus, he is a public figure. Also, the university officials who booked White were public officials tasked with managing money, some of which comes from students’ fees. We reported the costs so students could see how their money was being spent, who was spending and on whom it was spent.

As for harm, no harm was done to White unless you count his ego. But it’s important to understand that we didn’t publish that information to embarrass White. We published the information because students need to know how their money is being spent — even if it’s being spent on homemade guacamole and aged salami with a sharp knife.

Additionally, many performers have oddities in their contract. Van Halen’s contract famously included a ‘No Brown M&M’s’ clause. The band included the clause to make sure people were reading the contract carefully. Perhaps White had similar intentions? But we don’t know because everyone we tried to contact either declined to comment or didn’t comment, so we reported the information we had.

THE DAILY WASN’T THERE TO PHOTOGRAPH

Correct. As you all may have heard, The Daily — or any other media organization — wasn’t allowed to photograph White’s concert.

The Daily was initially told we would get press passes for the concert. Sooner yearbook was told they would get passes, and, up until a few hours before the concert, The Norman Transcript believed they had credentials to get in too. After each organization called to check on the passes, they were all told they wouldn’t be getting any.

We then went to take photos outside the venue of equipment being loaded into McCasland Field House, students lining up and people going into the venue. Our photographers were repeatedly told to leave even though they were on public property. One photographer who was taking pictures outside the building was approached by security and told to delete the images off the camera’s memory card or give up their camera.

The photographer deleted the photos, but the photos were recovered when they got back to the newsroom.

In White’s contract it says that no photographs may be taken in or around the venue, but constitutionally this is not something that can be enforced. If you are in a public place, you can take photos.

Additionally, there was a request made for audience members not to take photos or videos, but this was not enforced during the concert.

It’s important for media to document events because they are independent of the events happening and are working in the public interest. If only White’s photographer takes photos, or if only OU’s photographers took photos at football games, they could neglect to document happenings that paint them negatively. Media photographs and account of events offer a nonpartisan take on the event as it actually occurred, not how someone invested in the event wanted it to occur.

HE HATES THE SMOKING BAN

OU is a dry and tobacco-free campus. In the contract, White’s request for alcohol in the dressing rooms was struck out.

At the concert, White drank out of what appears to be a champagne bottle, according to photos from White’s concert photographer. We can’t say there was alcohol in the bottle, but that’s what it looked like.

White also was vocal about his disdain for the no-smoking policy.

So what happened?

Our Opinion editor sums it up best:

Overall, the CAC did an excellent job getting a musician to come to campus that tons of people were excited to see. White displayed his musical talent. People enjoyed the concert. And The Daily staff did its job. 

Emily Sharp is a freshman journalism major at the University of Oklahoma who works as the Life and Arts editor for The Daily.

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