Widgets Magazine


Letter from the editor: On our coverage of FloMo illnesses

On Oct. 30, The Daily broke news of widespread stomach illness in Florence Moore Hall (FloMo). In our coverage, we erroneously attributed the illnesses to food poisoning; over the course of the day on Oct. 31, the University issued a press release suggesting that norovirus, a virus spread via food or surfaces, was the culprit.

As editor of this newspaper, I apologize for any inaccuracies that were published in yesterday’s publication. However, I stand behind our decision to publish the story on the 31st without comment from University officials.

The article was sourced by testimony from five students– two FloMo student staff members, two FloMo residents and one non-resident FloMo diner– attributing the illnesses to food poisoning. Importantly, they all reported that their illnesses were contracted much earlier in the week, some as early as Monday, Oct. 28. Worse still, they suggested that FloMo residents did not feel fully informed about the situation by the University.

Unaware of how Stanford administrators planned to handle the situation, we felt it was the students’ right to know that they could get sick from going to their regular lunch or dinner spot. FloMo Dining remained open to students between Oct. 29 and Oct. 31, despite over 50 students falling violently ill.

As recently as Oct. 31, University officials spurned interviews from our reporters and refused even to answer questions about what precautions were being taken to keep students safe.

In short, we made critical mistakes in our pursuit to publicize a story we felt was vital to the student interest. More effort, however, should have been made to reach out to University officials on the evening of Oct. 30, when the story was being written. It should go without saying that these kinds of inaccuracies will not occur again.

Thank you for reading,

Edward Ngai

President and editor-in-chief, Volume CCXLIV

About Edward Ngai

Edward Ngai is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. Previously, he has worked as a news desk editor, staff development editor and columnist. He was president and editor-in-chief of The Daily for Vol. 244 (2013-2014). Edward is a junior from Vancouver, Canada studying political science. This summer, he is the Daniel Pearl Memorial Intern at the Wall Street Journal.
  • upset

    Frankly, the Daily’s coverage of the situation was appalling and this letter is hardly an apology. If no one confirmed the outbreak was food poisoning, why would you say it was? The article should have said there was possibly food poisoning and possibly an illness going around FloMo. You still could have published the article, but maybe it would have made people wash hands more instead of just avoiding FloMo. This letter essentially lays the blame on university officials, but as journalists you have a responsibility to not spread inaccurate information so you should be shouldering much more of the blame.

  • Dexter

    This is the equivalent of “Sorry I’m not sorry”

  • Confused

    From the “appalling” print article:

    “Food poisoning suspected as a culprit, according to a FloMo staff member”
    “The illnesses began as early as Tuesday afternoon”
    “have not been informed as to what the cause for these cases were”

    It doesn’t sound like the Daily ever stated that the outbreak was food poisoning. In hindsight, norovirus was the culprit. The CDC website for norovirus says that it can be spread by infected people, contaminated food and water, or infected surfaces. Is it not fair to say that the food may have been a vector?

    More concerning, I think, are the San Francisco Chronicle article (still) headlined “Food poisoning outbreak at Stanford — norovirus suspected” and the NBC Bay Area headline “Stanford Students Fall Ill After Eating at Dorm Dining Hall.” My $.02.

  • .

    The CDC lists Norovirus as the most common foodborne pathogen in the US http://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/2011-foodborne-estimates.html

  • Andy

    Why should you have to apologize? Did the University get angry that you didn’t ask them first?