‘Steward Throat’ wanted a media frenzy—and we gave it to him

Blue skies over HealyWhat happened yesterday wasn’t news: It was sensationalism. Yesterday, student media bent to political pressure and needlessly stirred up controversy based on limited information aimed at tarnishing the reputation of a specific presidential candidate. The anonymous informant, “Steward Throat,” wanted to affect the campaign, and student media gave him the opportunity.

The first time “Steward Throat” contacted Vox was on Monday evening. With the subject line, “Urgent- Vox Article Information,” he said that he had information independently verifying the identities of several undergraduate members of the Stewards, among them a prominent GUSA presidential candidate.

The only reason he gave for coming forward was because he felt that “transparency and public disclosure of one’s associations benefits a productive campus dialogue and the interests of the campus community as a whole.” And he had a timeline: “Especially given that these details pertain to the upcoming GUSA presidential election, we believe action must be taken with utmost haste: within the next 24-48 hours.”

Vox asked to know who the informant was, and he responded Tuesday morning saying that he wouldn’t reveal his identity given the “factual and independently verifiable nature of the information.” While the tax form he revealed is publicly available, Vox still isn’t able to verify the authenticity of the email screenshots Steward Throat dumped: Emails can be faked; emails can be tampered with. Vox had no reason to believe the emails were accurate, especially given the informant’s anonymity and possible political motives.

Later that day, Steward Throat upped the pressure to publish by sending the information he would later dump on a blogspot account to the editors of both the Voice and The Hoya. After a few hours, he started posting on a linked Facebook account, which started to rapidly gain followers.

Steward Throat had clear political aims by forcing campus media to publish about the Stewards the day of the election. The candidate that stood to lose the most was Jack Appelbaum (COL ’14), whose membership in a secret society rumored to be elitist, corrupt, conservative, sexist, and homophobic would be a campaign liability—again, rumored to be all those things. The emails Steward Throat posted do not point to any wrongdoing and absolutely no one Vox talked to was willing to go on the record saying they’ve noticed any indication of Steward corruption.

Tuesday evening, Vox was hesitant to start organizing and writing a post because of just that—there was no evidence of wrongdoing. The emails only show that the Stewards still exist and that Jack Appelbaum and GUSA Chief of Staff Jake Sticka (COL ’13) are members. If anything, Vox was thinking of writing a post making fun of the society—for their self-important secrecy and their love of cufflinks, designer ties, and fine cigars. The emails show alumni offering internship opportunities—something any alumni group would do. Neither the emails nor the tax filings suggested any wrongdoing on the part of the Stewards, least of all anyone involved in GUSA campaigns.

The only email that suggested confirmation of any of the rumors—the emails in which a Steward disapproves of a perceived liberal slant in high school tours—was too incomplete to suggest a conservative conspiracy. In any case, Steward Throat would have an interest in including information that seemed to prove stereotypes.

Even so, Vox met with Jack Appelbaum Tuesday night and spoke about the matter. Vox didn’t want to publish anything till enough balanced reporting could be done—talking to members of the Stewards and acquiring information about the true workings of the society and talking to members of GUSA about whether any of the rumors are warranted.

Instead, Vox woke up and read The Hoya‘s article on the Stewards news. Essentially, it wrote that Jack Appelbaum is a Steward and gave campaigns’ reactions. GUSA executive candidates Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson (SFS ’14), Joe Vandegriff (COL ’14), Nate Tisa (SFS ’14), and Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14) chose to use the news as campaign tool, criticizing Appelbaum for his secrecy and suggesting wrongdoing, which is exactly what Steward Throat wanted them to do.

That article forced Vox‘s hand and the blog had a post up about the news by noon. Commenters lambasted Appelbaum for his secrecy and status as an insider—all based on hearsay and rumor. While the campaigns had backtracked by the time Vox asked for comments, the impression remained. Adam Ramadan even had to apologize once it came to light that he was a member of a separate secret society as well.

In the end, the Steward Throat achieved what he set out to do and tarnished the reputation of a campaign that had done nothing wrong. Appelbaum acted admirably given the unfair attention he was put in and did his best to minimize the damage. Student media gave Steward Throat that opening and shares in the responsibility. Georgetown deserves better reporting and cooler heads. If the frenzy yesterday affects the outcome of the election, it would be a victory for those who reject transparency and a disservice to Georgetown as a whole.

Photo: Tim Markatos/Georgetown Voice

34 Comments on “‘Steward Throat’ wanted a media frenzy—and we gave it to him

  1. derp derp derp

    thank you connor for your insightful and novel analysis

  2. How exactly did The Hoya “force your hand”? If Buzzfeed publishes something false, does the Washington Post cover it? No. You chose to cover it. What a cop-out, Connor.

  3. I think Vox handled this with class and I appreciate Connor’s work on it.

  4. I have a new found appreciation for the media this week. Thank you to The Voice for writing this post.

  5. I speak as someone who knows the Stewards, Vox, GUSA, and the Hoya well.

    You’re all ridiculous. You’re all hilarious. Look at this: in a competition for a nearly meaningless position (there are so many better ways to have an impact on Georgetown than GUSA), there has been a frenzy between two pretty poor newspapers/blogs regarding candidates’ membership in a secret society that is more comical than corrupt, more counterproductive than meaningfully conservative. Between GUSA, the Hoya, the Voice, and the Stewards, we have a perfect storm of self-deluded irrelevancy.

    It’s probably the case that Steward Throat is someone out to damage someone else’s political prospects, and I disagree that Appelbaum comes off looking any better in this (anyone who spends that much time debating about cufflinks probably isn’t much of a practical leader–but then again that might be a good fit for GUSA…). I hope that’s not the case though. I hope Steward Throat is someone who had the goods on one group of self-important nobodies and used it to drive three other groups of near-irrelevant egotists into a hilarious tizzy. If so, well played.

    Lots of really meaningful things happen at Georgetown. Real leaders are trained here. Just not in these groups.

    Oh, and Vox, you avoided reporting on it due to journalistic principles, then realized The Hoya, desperate for relevancy, was going to report it, so you decided you should too? Glad those principles have a shelf life measured in hours…

  6. Steward Throat was Andrew Moreno. He did it bc he wanted to suck up to Terry Boyle and ruin Appelbaum’s campaign.

  7. God, everyone posting here is so self-important! Did it ever occur to anyone that college is supposed to fun? And that part of that fun involves playing dress-up as serious journalists, politicos — and yes, even members of laughably public secret societies. Lighten up, people. It’s college for pete’s sake.

  8. @Z
    Then stop reading this blog.

    @Chicken Madness
    He never said the Hoya’s article was wrong. He only said it was sensational.

  9. Seriously? Vox published an anonymous allegation that Adam Ramadan was a member of the Third Stewards Society just yesterday. How could you publish an attack on The Hoya with a straight face when you were guilty of the same allegation yesterday?

    Upon reading The Hoya story again, it looks like they quoted Appelbaum and Sticka. Seems like legit sourcing to me…

  10. Well done, Connor. I was saddened to see this kind of coverage coming from a guy like you. This redeemed you:

    “Georgetown deserves better reporting and cooler heads. If the frenzy yesterday affects the outcome of the election, it would be a victory for those who reject transparency and a disservice to Georgetown as a whole.”

    See you at 9:30PM Mass? It would be nice to have your voice back.

  11. In the spirit of full disclosure, let’s acknowledge that the commenter JS is Jake Sticka, the subject of the offending article(s). If a journalist covering the matter has made him satisfied, they have failed in their responsibilities.

  12. @Z

    I am America and you are Columbus; discover me. But seriously… I want to have your babies.

  13. Thank you for this great post, Vox.

    @Real Identity: Shut up and get over yourself, anonymous Hoya editor. Stop trying to be sensationalist.

  14. @Catholic with a heart

    Aww thank you, but I don’t think you’re talking to Connor. We should have lunch sometime soon.

  15. …the men who formed these secret societies.

    How much self-importance must you feel to be a member of something so self-agrandizing.

  16. Thank you Connor for writing such an excellent article. You hit the nail on the head and I only hope everyone sees this. This post redeemed Vox in my eyes and I truly appreciate you writing it.

  17. As an alumni, I can tell you the commenter “JS” has been consistently around much longer than Jake Sticka. It is definitely a fellow alumnus

  18. It’s a shame Vox has fallen so far as to post self-aggrandizing statements like this.

    A few things:

    1. This isn’t a story unless it’s confirmed by members accused or verified with facts – things Vox failed to do by just blindly accusing Ramadan without any concrete proof.
    2. Responsible reporting is following up on something that has this much history at Georgetown.
    3. Get off your high horse Connor – hard to bite the hand that feeds you considering you posted the majority of the posts from Vox regarding this matter.

  19. Kind of disturbing that everyone who criticizes Vox gets accused of being an anonymous Hoya editor. “Oh How Vox Has Fallen” was just calling out Vox for hypocrisy…didn’t even mention the Hoya.

    We all know both papers generally suck…this is just a particularly strong example of suckitude.

  20. This was a fine post, but there need to be some clarifications. The Hoya interviewed and did some investigative reporting in order to publish an article. The leaked information absolutely implicated Appelbaum so his hand was forced, but the Hoya did what it had to do as a reputable news source.

    When it came to Vox though, their first blog post about Adam Ramadan was based off of nothing more than emailed allegations and comments in the Hoya and on the Vox blog post about Appelbaum. At one point, the blog post even read something along the lines that Vox has ‘confirmed’ Ramadan’s membership – off of what, allegations from bitter and angry Second Society members?

    Ultimately this post attempts to bring some integrity back to Vox Populi, but the faulty reporting has been done. The Voice chose to say they had confirmation about someone in a secret group because they received emails and that is not what I would call journalistic integrity. May the best ticket – Steward or not – win.

  21. What don’t you change the name of the blog from Vox to SlugLIne?

  22. @understanding

    The post reads “A member of the Second Society of Stewards told Vox that GUSA vice presidential candidate Adam Ramadan is allegedly a member of the Third Society of Stewards.” It wasn’t based off the comments on the Hoya article and Ramadan admitted to being a member of a secret society at Georgetown and hasn’t denied that the group in question is a “Third” Society of Stewards.

  23. Finally!! I really appreciated this article, especially since the Stewards was the biggest non-story since Casey Anthony. Thank you, Connor. We need a little more Aaron Sorkin-ness at Georgetown.

  24. This post is ridiculous. Connor Jones is making excuses for the Stewards, and seems to be explaining away information which clearly appears to be fact at this point. Really, you’re going to question the validity of the screenshots from the NSSV blog? You really think someone so nearly replicated an entire google group? And it just happens that the people highlighted most by news outlets went and admitted to being Stewards, seems like quite the coincidence.

    ***If you’d really been contacted by StewardThroat ahead of time, why didn’t you check the evidence yourself? One would assume the alleged public google group would either clearly work or not before the broader public found out… why didn’t you at least check the site? You should be able to confirm whether the screenshots are real.

    Try doing a bit more investigative journalism on the other people named before you go apologizing the information that Vox already posted. I think it’s clear what side of the line Connor’s on here, and his motives for doing so don’t seem totally in support of pure unbiased journalism given his strong critique of a very fair Hoya article. Stop making excuses for the Stewards, Connor- they still won’t tap you.

  25. …??? Seriously? This was one whiny, ranty post.

    Connor is trying to bring some honesty to how the Vox got caught up in the media frenzy as well. The point is that the leak became an overblown political critique of GUSA campaigns. It’s as much a self-critique of Vox as it is a critique of other media.

    And somehow you interpret this as sucking up to the Stewards? When was the last time you took a logic class?

  26. Alumnus: I am, in fact, Jake Sticka and have commented under this moniker for the duration of my time here. Maybe another JS preceded me, but I’ve been using this one for 3+ years now.

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