A spokesperson for KUT in Austin, Texas, said Tuesday that recommendations from an outside lawyer and its licensee’s legal department had prompted the removal from its website of two stories about internal station issues.
The station removed both stories last week. One story summarized Current’s reporting in September about internal issues in KUT’s newsroom. The second reported on the resignation of interim GM Patti Smith. Both were written by a freelance reporter.
In a statement posted Tuesday, KUT spokesperson Erin Geisler said “KUT newsroom leadership” had “committed” to have the stories reviewed by outside legal counsel before publication. “That process did not happen,” Geisler said. A lawyer reviewed them after publication, and last week the lawyer and the University of Texas’ legal department “recommended that KUT take down the stories,” she said.
“The decision to remove these two stories from the website was not taken lightly,” Geisler wrote. “It also did not in any way reflect the freelance reporter’s or editor’s work.”
KUT Managing Editor Matt Largey did not respond to a request from Current for comment.
When KUT first took down the stories, a note was added to the pages that previously hosted the stories that said “After further review, KUT has removed this story.”
The note was later updated to: “Following the publication of the article previously on this page, it was subsequently reviewed by outside legal counsel. Fairness and accuracy are core to our guiding principles, and to that end, we have removed this story pending further review.”
It now reads: “Following the publication of the article previously on this page, it was subsequently reviewed by outside legal counsel. Fairness and accuracy are core to our guiding principles, and to that end, we have removed this story pending further review. We appreciate the work of the independent reporter and independent editor who worked on these stories in good faith. We will seek to provide more information on these matters in the coming days based on the outcome of ongoing reviews.”
Eva Ruth Moravec, the author of the two stories, tweeted Monday that she had been working on a third story about KUT and that she doubts the station will publish the story. KUT owns the rights to the three stories, Moravec told Current.
“I believe that KUT newsroom leaders intended this reporting to be independent,” Moravec tweeted. “But to me, at this point, this all reeks of a cover-up.”