The Sun's coverage of the Naval AcademyThere have been a...


September 21, 1996

The Sun's coverage of the Naval Academy

There have been a number of articles about the U.S. Naval Academy in your newspaper in the past several months that have been misleading, one-sided and biased.

We have tried to work with your editors to keep the coverage fair and balanced. However, the article Sept. 15 headlined, ''Admiral kept investigators in the dark,'' is filled with several blatant falsehoods; let me point out two.

One, your paper states that I was forced to apologize last week for knowingly violating military regulations.

Not true. The fact is no one asked or told me to apologize to anyone for anything.

My chain of command was informed by me personally of every decision I made in this case and why I made it, and they supported me. In addition I did not knowingly violate military regulations.

Two, The Sun also reported that the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) called me last week and ordered me to contact NCIS and ''fix it.'' Not true.

I didn't even talk to the CNO last week and received no such message from him. The only message I received from him was one of unqualified support.

The remainder of the article with its innuendoes paints a very inaccurate picture of what occurred in the handling of this case and speculates incorrectly about what our motives were.

Your reporters have a journalistic style of making hundreds of phone calls and finding middle level anonymous sources with obvious agendas of their own and then quoting them as factual without checking for the truth. No one asked us about the blatant falsehoods I point out above.

This style has caused large numbers of midshipmen, staff, faculty and citizens of Annapolis to lose confidence in your ability to cover the Naval Academy in a fair and balanced way.

There is a strong perception here that your reporters are ''out to get us'' (words repeated to me frequently).

As you know, I have spent several hours in person with your senior leadership on both the editorial and the news side in an attempt to defuse what has become an adversarial relationship. We discussed these points in an open, professional way. The Sept. 15 article makes me wonder what more can be done.

Yes, we have had problems and we expect them to be analyzed and covered in a firm but fair and balanced way. But we don't believe stories should be manufactured or intrigue created where none exists.

I don't think it's in the best interest of the country to tear down the Navy or the Naval Academy, to look only for problems and have a relentless search for the negative. All we ask is for you to be fair and balanced.

We have 4,000 young men and women here who believe in this institution and what they are doing. They are impressive, intelligent, committed and honorable. They deserve to be treated honestly.

It was disappointing to us that with all the resources you have devoted to covering the Naval Academy, you failed to cover major positive events such as a record number of scholarships, honors and recognition of our graduating class; the human drama of Induction Day when 1,200 civilians become midshipmen; the plebe summer program with a new focus on honor, courage and commitment; and a new multi-dimensional summer training program that has received rave reviews.

What we ask is very simple: to be treated in a manner that is fair and balanced. There are wonderful things happening here every day. Come down and learn about some of them.

Can we move forward together in a honest and open way? I hope so, but only time will tell.

C. R. Larson


G; The writer is superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.

The above letter from Adm. C. R. Larson, superintendent of the Naval Academy, was sent to The Sun, to all members of the Brigade of Midshipmen and the faculty and staff of the Naval Academy, on Sept. 16.

The following letter from Admiral Larson was sent on Sept. 19 to all recipients of his original letter.

To the Brigade, Faculty and Staff,

I want to keep you updated on my continuing efforts to ensure the Naval Academy's story is told honestly and accurately. I meant what I said in my letter to The Baltimore Sun.

As you can tell from reading it, I was very upset at the article they ran. Coming on the heels of other negative stories that have appeared in the paper, I felt compelled to respond.

It is always a good idea to put letters such as this one in your top right drawer and take a day or two to decide whether you really want to send it.

After re-reading my letter, I realized that although it was accurate, it might be misconstrued. In the best interest of the Navy, Naval Academy and you, the Brigade of Midshipmen, I have called the editor of The Baltimore Sun, Mr. John Carroll, and asked him not to run my letter.

Instead, I asked to meet with an editor and reporter from The Sun. This has been done. We discussed the facts in this case and how we might work together better in the future.

I realize the editors and reporters of The Baltimore Sun, like us, are professionals and have a job to do.

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