On reporting death: I am a Seawolf, too

When you get a call saying that a fellow student may have committed suicide on campus, your heart drops.

It is an awful thing to hear. Your mind runs at a million miles a minute with all sorts of thoughts, but you keep asking yourself, “why?”

For Kelly, Arielle and I as news editors, it is no different. But then we run.

I was at the scene when University Police Department and Suffolk County Police Department officers were conducting the initial investigation at Roosevelt Quad on Tuesday, Dec. 2. The three of us took this very seriously, which is why we did not bother trying to find out who on our staff was closest in proximity. We went ourselves.

I saw students around us with tears rolling down their faces. I had to swallow the knots in my throat and bite the insides of my cheeks to keep my own tears from falling.

As the campus newspaper of record, The Statesman is obligated to disperse information to the campus community that affects the campus community. When I initially found out that a student may have possibly taken his own life at Stimson College, I felt what you all felt. But as a reporter, I have a responsibility to you, the readers, to find out what happened. This is not to say that I suffer more than you do; that is not true at all. But my experience is different, and it is one that is hard for most people to understand.

Kelly, Arielle and I know full well that in a situation like this, the last thing a person wants to do is speak to a reporter. If you witness something like that, we know how terrifying and downright annoying it can be when a reporter asks you what you saw—you do not know if you know what you saw, much less how to talk about it for publication.

It is scary for us too. We know you are distraught and we never know how you are going to react to us. But we have to go for it because we are the only people who can humanize the story. When we ask you what you know about someone, we are not trying to fill space in our paper. We want them to be remembered as who they were and what they meant to you, not by how they left us.

Our angle is not that a person died on campus. It is that our community lost a Seawolf.

When publications like Newsday and The New York Daily News pick up a story like this, more likely than not, it was a slow news night for them.

At The Statesman, that is certainly not the case. We know how deeply an event like this resonates with the campus community. We know that you are counting on us for information because we are here.  We are not in Melville, N.Y. and we are not in New York City. We are at Stony Brook.

We recognize that verification is crucial to journalism, particularly in sensitive matters. We know other news organizations have published stories that included speculation on details about the manner of the student’s death—details that we know were not confirmed on the record by UPD or SCPD. We know those details were not confirmed because we asked the authorities. Several times.

This is one of the many reasons I value my working relationships with groups like UPD and SCPD. They understand better than most people how vital accuracy is and how detrimental a factual error can be. This is why Kelly, Arielle and I waited until we received official, on-the-record comments from them. We have been working with them for years and we trust them to do their job just as they, and hopefully you, trust us to do ours.

If we—Kelly, Arielle and I­—were slow to get the information about this out to you, we sincerely apologize. We never want to keep you waiting. But know in a case as sensitive as this one, we decided that accuracy trumped timeliness and it was better to say nothing than to say the wrong thing.

We decided it was better to publish what you already knew from the campus-wide emails than to re-publish speculation from other organizations. We wanted to make sure every word of every sentence that we put out was 1,000 percent factually and grammatically accurate.

Our job is to sift through, clarify and package this information so you do not have to. We in no way want to do any more damage than has already been done.

If you have any questions or concerns about the story we published, feel free to email us at news@sbstatesman.com.

We are incredibly sorry for the loss of a fellow Seawolf. Our thoughts are with his family and friends in this trying time.

This article was originally published in the Dec. 8, 2014 issue of The Statesman.

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Jessica Ogunnorin: champion of change

Jessica Ogunnorin, above, comes to Stony Brook from Greece. The senior guard is vocal about her ability to embrace change. (HEATHER KHALIFA / THE STATESMAN)

Jessica Ogunnorin, above, comes to Stony Brook from Greece. The senior guard is vocal about her ability to embrace change. (HEATHER KHALIFA / THE STATESMAN)

Senior guard Jessica Ogunnorin is definitely a long way from home, but is making the most of her last season at Stony Brook.

Hailing from Athens, Greece, adjusting is what she does best. Before joining the Seawolves, Ogunnorin spent two seasons with the University of California–Riverside Highlanders. In California, she found her work was cut out for her.

“The major difference is athleticism,” she said. People here [in the United States] are stronger, faster, more explosive.”

But she also found the American players are more on her level. Eye-level, that is.

“I think something I had to deal with and understand was the difference in height,” Ogunnorin said. “I was always one of the tallest players back in Greece so I used to be the post back there. Then I come here and I see people my height playing the three position, so that was an adjustment.”

“One of the strongest parts of my game was rebounding, even back at home,” she said. “I’ve just embraced that and I love rebounding so it’s really one of my goals to rebound as much as I can whenever we play.”

After arriving at SBU, Ogunnorin had to adjust to new teammates and new coaches. Former head coach Beth O’Boyle’s departure meant more change, which she welcomed with open arms.

“I left my old school, I came here, I learned how to adjust to coaches,” Ogunnorin said. “At this point, I embrace changes, I think that changes are always for the better, so one of the things that’s really important is just buying into the new concepts, the new ways of playing, and we’ll get the best out of it.”

Ogunnorin said bringing her California experiences to New York only helped her grow as a player and a person.

“Prior to going to my last school, I hadn’t even been to the United States so it definitely helped me,” she said. “I learned a lot about the culture, the style of game, my first team was really a team full of athletes so it really prepared me for this conference and any conference I would go to. I learned a lot from that experience and I try to take everything that I learned from there and use it for the better.”

But after sitting out her sophomore season, she made a big impact at Stony Brook her junior year, which she started out unsure if she would even play.

“For me, it was really like a gift because I transferred from a D-I and we weren’t sure that I was going to play so I had to wait from the NCAA so I was really grateful for that,” Ogunnorin said. “Prior to last year, I had sat out so I was really glad I was given a chance to be part of the team that makes such history.”

Part of making Seawolves history included breaking Albany’s 38 conference game winning streak.  On March 1, 2014, Ogunnorin was the top scorer against Albany with 18 points, picking up nine rebounds along the way.

“It was a really big thing for us,” she said. “Albany is one of the best teams in the conference and we respect them and their work and everything. It was important for us to know that we’re able to do that and by being consistent and focused, we can have good results.”

But to be named to the America East All-Championship team, the work started on the West Coast.

“One of the main reasons I decided to come to the U.S. was to be challenged,” she said. It was really tough in the beginning as a freshman [because] I wasn’t as strong as I am now. I think the way I overcame that was by lifting, focusing on just getting stronger, eating better, just being in the best shape I could.”

Now as a senior, Ogunnorin said she wants to take on a larger leadership role on the team. This year, she and Sabre Proctor are the only two seniors on the roster.

“I want to be able to give back now,” she said. “All the things that I learned from transferring, different coaches…I told myself that I would give back, teach all the values and habits that I learned, and just try to be a really good role model for my teammates on the court and off the court.”

As for personal goals, Ogunnorin said she just wants to enjoy her last season as a college basketball player.

“I want to be the best athlete [I’ve become] all these years,” she said. “I told myself I want to have really good experiences and memories with my teammates and make the most out of it and give my all.”

This article was originally published in the Nov. 3 issue of The Statesman.

SBU Taandava’s Jana Seva: Classical Indian Dance for a Cause

Founded in 2013, Taandava is Stony Brook University’s first Indian classical dance team. On Thursday, Oct. 23, the group hosted its first event, Jana Seva: Indian Classical Dance for a Cause, to raise money to help children affected by the civil war in Sri Lanka.

This was originally published on sbstatesman.com on Oct. 26, 2014.

Sports Highlights: Men’s Soccer vs UMass Lowell

The Stony Brook Seawolves suffered a 2-1 home loss to UMass Lowell on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014 in the America East Conference. This video was originally published on sbstatesman.com

 

MEN’S SOCCER: Stony Brook vs. Villanova

The Stony Brook Seawolves suffered a 1-0 loss at home to the Villanova Wildcats on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. Stony Brook hosted Villanova on International Night, which honored the men’s team’s 10 international student-athletes.

Harlem Globetrotters inaugurate Stony Brook Arena

On Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, the Stony Brook University Arena opened its doors to spectators for the first time to host two exhibition basketball games between the world renowned Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals. The Globetrotters combined comedy, theatrics and basketball to put on a show and entertain an audience of several hundred people in the brand-new NCAA Division I arena, which officially opened on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014.

MEN’S SOCCER: Stony Brook vs. University of New Hampshire

An 85th minute goal from sophomore midfielder Favio Sbarra gave the Stony Brook Seawolves a 1-0 win in their first game of the America East Conference against the University of New Hampshire Wildcats on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2o14.