1st document re “jfexposed” accusations re John Friend of Anusara Yoga: Pension.

Via on Feb 6, 2012

Update, via a reader below, regarding the gray area that is using anonymous sources, which I choose only to do if I have independent corroborating sources:

“here’s the guideline NPR uses:
“The grant of anonymity should be a last resort. When NPR journalists use anonymous sources to obtain information necessary for a story, the editor or producer of that story has an obligation to satisfy him/herself that the source is credible and reliable, and there is a substantial journalistic justification for using the source’s information without attribution. This obligation also pertains to situations where individuals ask that their real names be withheld. The editor or producer has a twofold responsibility to (1) make a judgment about whether it is editorially justified to let the person speak anonymously, and (2) satisfy him/herself that this person is who the piece says s/he is. An editor should never be in the position of having to verify these things after a story has aired and a question is raised about it. We should not grant anonymity if a person makes pejorative comments about the character, reputation, or personal qualities of another individual, or derogatory statements about an institution.”

~
Update: we’ve received additional documents. Because the source prefers to remain anonymous, we won’t publish those documents. But suffice to say, everything regarding the pension issue has been straightened out now (see original document below). Previously, things had gotten messed up or confused for a long time. That said, (even according to “Former Employee,” anonymous person who is not a fan of Mr. Friend but who claims not to be behind the jfexposed site), it was a case of ongoing negligence or incompetence, not deliberate greed, theft or corruption.

If I have this wrong, feel free to email me. We will only publish sourced facts, nothing anonymous.

As I mention below, I am not here to litigate the case. That’s not my role or skill. elephant is here to provide an opportunity for fair and honest dialogue, which will hopefully help enable all of us to then move forward.  ~ ed.

~
1st document pertaining to “jfexposed” allegations re John Friend of Anusara Yoga: Pension.

I interviewed John Friend—only recently on the cover of the Sunday New York Times where he was called “the Yoga Mogul”—just this afternoon.

It’s been a looong four days for the yoga community, and particularly John’s once-mighty Anusara Yoga community, or kula.

Over the last few months, several of Anusara’s senior teachers have resigned, citing vague differences. Then, on Friday, an anonymous, internationally-hosted web site was posted accusing John of various affairs, financial corruption, and more.

I’ll have our interview, which asks what I regard as the five tough, pertinent, yet fair questions regarding the anonymous web site’s accusations. This first post addresses the issue of whether John Friend and Anusara Yoga engaged in financial corruption through a pension plan.

That interview will be posted, along with John’s first public statement, as soon as possible.

This is how we, as a mindful community, do this. We don’t react to rumor—we look deeper, and find facts, non-anonymous sources, and explore issues, however painful. We seek to combine transparency and compassion. In the meantime, I have only commented about why we were letting the biggest scoop of the year, from a media perspective, fly by. Now that we’re securing some legal documents, and firsthand answers from John, we’ll begin.

May it be of benefit.

Note: comments, supportive and otherwise, are welcome. Name-calling and such will be deleted. Here’s our official, long-standing “Mean Comments Suck” comment policy. ~ ed.

Letter to JF from Loren Stark Co (.pdf)

I received this document from Dave Kennedy, a colleague of John Friend. This document itself is a letter from Anusara’s Third Party Plan Administrator. If anyone has any questions of a private nature, or doubts about the above, please email me. ~ ed.

About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive. Questions? info elephantjournal com

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87 Responses to “1st document re “jfexposed” accusations re John Friend of Anusara Yoga: Pension.”

  1. Former Employee says:

    Would you be interested in posting other documents from Anusara employees that show that they didn't pass out the proper notice regarding the freezing of the pension and just recently came into compliance as of last month? Or do you just want to post the CURRENT status of the pension?

    Are you really interested in fair and balanced reporting of this or just being a PR mouthpiece for Anusara?

    • elephantjournal says:

      Thanks, anonymous. As I said above, if you have questions, please feel free to email me. I am interested in the truth, aren't we all!?

      PS: we are not a PR mouthpiece, as you'll see from my interview when it goes up. We're here to be fair, but also honest. It's journalism's goal, which we aspire to but do not often reach, to do both. ~ ed.

      • Former Employee says:

        What is your e-mail address? Or feel free to e-mail me at formeranusaraemployee@gmail.com

        I will provide 4 additional documents and a timeline.

        • elephantjournal says:

          Thanks: I linked it above, but it's info@elephantjournal.com. The more info the better, so we can all understand the past, where we're at, and then and only then move forward.

          Please note: I need sources, names, or can not post or share. If you're afraid of lawsuit, we need to find a way to share this with verifiable source or legal documents. I will only put out there what I can back up. Thanks! ~ Waylon.

          • elephantjournal says:

            PS: I'm already seeing someone has downarrowed Former Employee. Let's just wait for the facts, and not spend our time clicking symbols. We can keep this civil and uplifted, constructive at the least, or we can not do this at all.

          • Former Employee says:

            The documents have been sent along with a timeline of events regarding the reason the pension freezing was handled poorly. The letter above is technically correct, but does not tell the whole story.

          • elephantjournal says:

            Got them and replied.

          • Former Employee says:

            I blacked out my name/address from my documents, but if you can protect my name as a source I will provide it to you privately. You have the e-mail address I mailed them from. There are others out there who can also corroborate receiving the same documents. Every employee received the same documents I sent you. They are signed by Wendy Willtrout and were sent via certified mail.

    • swf says:

      I agree with Former Employee. Accusation were made that pension froze in 2010. Can the direct question be answered, "did you freeze your employees penion w/o telling them in 2010?" Of course in compliance now after being reported to Department of Labor. Enter text right here!

  2. > Still lacks information

    Apparantly you just want to be 1st to break out a story! And this will be on reddit soon, the elephant brigade will be posting this…hmmmm

    • elephantjournal says:

      If I wanted to be the first, anonymous, I would have broken the story three days ago (and reaped a ton of traffic, which I love. I don't give up traffic easily).

      • wow… yeah that's it He sat on the story for DAYS refusing to just break the news…waylon I hope you have your thick skin on this week. You know people will attack = stay strong you rock.

  3. A Kridati says:

    i support EJ's decision to address this issue with patience and compassion. those who are emotionally invested have spoken up anonymously, just as "Former Employee", and should not expect to be the only voice in the discussion. Sunlight is one thing… a witch hunt is another. let's let both sides speak before condemning anyone.

    • I agree. Love that perspective–shine a light, without a witch hunt. People who are just interested in gossip will gossip with whatever they can get their hands on. People who are interested in the truth are willing to wait until they get it.

  4. Jamie Ginsberg drunkandfull says:

    This document is as meaningless as the document posted exposing JF. These 3rd party corps work with people like JF to make sure he gets the most money in the pension and everyone else gets the minimum requirements. If the plan was brought into compliance, penalties could have been paid with no "action being taken." Wicca Wicca Wicca…This is really a tough start to a long conversation. JF seems to like to tell the truth and be reasonably open….let's hear his voice!

    • elephantjournal says:

      Dear anonymous Jamie,

      Well, the interview, when it's ready, was my best shot at getting real answers, honest and fair both. ~ Waylon.

  5. Disappointed. says:

    I cannot believe that John is putting this out to Elephant Journal before even talking to his teachers. I cannot believe that WAYLON is getting answers from John before any of the Anusara TEACHERS are getting answers from John.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Well, to be fair, it's not like the other side addressed the Anusara community first, either.

      It's my understanding that John is delaying his answers to my interview until he addresses his community. That said, I'm not privy to his decisions.

  6. Concerned says:

    I think that "former employee" makes a valid point. If Elephant Journal really wants to provide comprehensive and fair reporting, they must be prepared to allow for the full story from all sides. If it is true that the pension was not in compliance until recently, then the original concerns about John's character still exist. In order for EJ to cover the full story others must be prepared to step forward with information and be prepared to reveal their identity. Given the passionate responses to the original YD posting, I can imagine that this is not desirable. Still, imagine how those identified in the original story feel. They have every right to defend themselves.

    • Former Employee says:

      I am okay with giving my name to Waylon provided he keeps it in confidence, even from Mr Friend, and uses it as a barometer to gauge the accuracy of my claims and documents. However, I do not want to open myself up to being harassed by the people who find JF infallible. If what I've provided are forged documents, I would be okay with Waylon turning my name over to the authorities.

      • elephantjournal says:

        I'm most comfortable with all sources going on the record from both sides.

        If you can do that, I'll share your info. In any case, as you say, in a court of law I could be forced to give up your name.

        I'm here to be of service in telling as complete and accurate a story as possible, from all sides, and to figure how to move this forward as a community in constructive way. I'm not here to go to court to protect a source who isn't willing to go to court themselves by risking putting their name forward.

        That said, I understand there's a legal threat or possibility. I'd be happy to ask for a signed and sealed guarantee that they would not sue if your documents proved legitimate. If I get such a signed guarantee, would you come forward?

        I'm sure they're just as interested in you in telling the full story so there's no doubt of John's innocence regarding the pension question.

        Or if there's a lawyer versed in these issues out there, please feel free to offer advice re best way forward.

        • As long as you can personally verify the source, I don't think the sources should be asked to reveal their names and open themselves up to harassment. A journalist always protects his source. These former employees are very brave for coming forward and I think to black out their names and keep them anonymous is completely appropriate. As they have suggested, they can reveal their names to you, off the record, as confidential sources. That's my take. That said, obviously I don't know the legal ramifications for Elephant, but I imagine they would be no different than for any newspaper that protects their sources. But what do I know?! ;)

    • elephantjournal says:

      Amen.

      We'll walk this as far as we can walk with this without non-anonymous sources, but I require someone to go on the record—at that point elephant is legally secure against charges of libel or slander—and just as importantly we'll only be putting certifiable information out there.

      Partially-blacked out documents with no names attached are interesting, but not yet news worthy of responsible journalism. Documents can be messed with by a 12 year old with Photoshop.

      As they say in All the President's Men, we need someone on the record to break a story.

      • Former Employee says:

        So as I said, you can have my name. I can even give you the documents unaltered, but you have to my street address and my name when you do post them. That way you know they are real and you know who I am, but I am protected from the kula wrath.

  7. legal frozen assets says:

    "I feel like it was a brag journal. And what a journal should be is a document of misery." ~Toni, of the Women And Women Bookstore.

  8. Let’s give the process a chance to work.

    Not all sources are of the same quality. While in recent history there have been some notable problems with anonymous sources (yellowcake, anyone?), a journalist has to be able to use them from time to time. We trust the journalist to check truth claims. Among other things, we check them against sources which will stand up and be counted. Anusara, Inc. is neither the State Department, nor the Pentagon. What risks are there in coming forward?

    Is ej a journalistic outlet? I know I treat it as such. Or is it part of the blogosphere? I don’t know where we would have been these past eight years without a blogosphere to act as a check upon the incredibly shrinking print media. Given the fray that was, can we even have a mindful blogosphere?

    This site is in the middle of a storm. I like the way in which it is conducting itself thus far. This will be interesting to watch, because it is a true test of all of these questions and more.

    • I like your last comment about ej being in the middle of a storm and conducting itself well thus far. A true test of patience and virtue!

      • elephantjournal says:

        We are not journalism, we are a blog. We don't have paid writers who have time to do a proper job. He do however aspire and hold ourselves to the ethics of journalism, and I look forward to releasing the interview.

      • I agree. Jumping on the Bash John Friend bandwagon would have been the safe, easy thing to do. It would have also been the wrong thing to do.

  9. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  10. Anusour says:

    Regarding vindictive former employees: For a guy radiating such light, he sure seems to attract a lot of malcontents or is it rather that those people are privy to the real person and not the public persona?

  11. Sophia says:

    Well. I'm convinced. (Not)

    • elephantjournal says:

      It's not my job or goal to convince you of anything. I shared "Former Employee"'s general sentiments in the updated intro despite him being unwilling to come forward, but happy for me to put my neck out there in lieu of his. I should be supported in trying to offer both transparency and fairness, not just one of the two…but I get that internet forums are too often about anonymous potshots, in such cases, not discernment.

  12. Lawyer says:

    Hi, lawyer here (and one who has litigated pension freeze cases to boot). As someone pointed out above, this letter proves absolutely nothing other than that the DOL inquiry went nowhere.

    Whether the Pension Plan was improperly frozen is an inquiry entirely independent of the Plan Adminstrator’s OPINION of whether the Plan was properly administered. The Plan Administrator is NOT an independent party. This fact is absolutely plain to anyone who understands the law, because under Federal law, THE PLAN ADMINISTRATOR can be sued for misconduct that impairs the value of the Plan. That means that the Plan Administrator could potentially be on the hook if the Plan was improperly handled. Note: I am not saying that the Plan Adminstrator in fact DID do anything wrong here, just that the law allows pension plan members to sue the Plan Administrator if it mishandled the Plan, and that means it is in the interest of the Plan Adminstrator to SAY that the Plan is in compliance with the law. So, we can’t really take this letter as anything other than a CYA (cover-your-ass) without further documentation.

    And the necessary documentation to determine that doesn’t appear to be forthcoming. In order for anyone (including a judge handling a case) to determine whether the freezing of the Plan was properly handled, or whether any past impropriety had been corrected, one would need to review the terms of the Pension Plan itself, and then determine whether the freezing was handled properly in conjunction with BOTH the terms of the Plan AND the Federal law governing pension plans, namely the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). Neither review has been done here, at least not in public view, and so all we have is more speculation on top of more speculation, compounded by the opinion of an interested party with no actual verifiable information that any TRULY independent party could verify.

    In other words, simply saying the Plan is in compliance with the law doesn’t mean it always was, nor does it mean it is now. Sorry, Waylon, but this letter clears up absolutely nothing. It is a letter procured by John from another interested party, end of story. Without more, we’re all still in the dark.

    • Jane C says:

      I'm also a lawyer – thought not in this practice area, and I totally agree with the above. The documents on Yoga Dork give a much clearer picture. To publish that one letter as if it were the be-all end-all is nonsense. DOL is an understaffed agency with myriad complaints. Many violators are given the opportunity to rectify without further action, which seems to be what happened here.

      EJ, respectfully – you do seem partisan.

      Anusara asks its practitioners to hone their intuitive skills. My intuition says a charismatic and talented individual has started drinking his own kool-aid, and believes that if its good for his wallet and his penis, that's good enough.

  13. Lawyer says:

    Well, here's the thing: it is possible to issue a proper and legal freeze notice following an improper one, provided certain guidelines and timelines are followed, and a new freeze date is set in the future that complies with the timeline requirements. Again, however, this is dependent on the terms of the Plan and the applicable law. You would need a lawyer specializing in ERISA litigation to review all of the relevant docs, the notices and the law to determine if the second freeze was handled properly following what sounds to be an obviously mishandled first attempt.

  14. just curious says:

    Do you think that we'll see those famous Anusura teachers publicly defend their beloved guru soon ?

    • elephantjournal says:

      Not too many left, it seems. Another one quit yesterday. I think that's why I'm getting kicked around in comments, here…holding the "middle ground" is the closest thing critics can find to anyone supporting John, which I do not.

      I am not a partisan, here, my only loyalty is to transparency, fairness, and then moving forward.

  15. elephantjournal says:

    We must be doing something right; which is a polite way of saying I am not enjoying this. We've received equal number of angry, righteous emails from haters and supporters. Here's my reply to one whom I respect, who said I'm doing PR for JF.
    ~

    I asked him tough questions. His answers are up to him. I'm trying to do truth, not rumor. I updated my initial release, which shows them legally free of issues, with context about them being negligent. I think I've been fairly accurate and while I understand this might be a lose-lose from the haters and supporters position, I'm neither. I'm simply trying to do the right thing, have transparency not agenda-driven anonymously-sourced rumor put out there, find a way to learn from this and move forward.

    yours,

    Way

  16. elephantjournal says:

    Good morning, all. Went to sleep at 4 am, woke up to…more fun comment.s

    I'm see I'm getting little support here, which is fine and not surprising. That said, I'm not a supporter or detractor of John's. My job is to try and report the truth and hold the middle ground, give him a fair but honest hearing. I'm in touch with "Former Employee" and have updated the intro to reflect his still-anonymous concerns.

    I'm getting kicked around my doubters, here, who I think are wanting to kick John or his supporters, and I'm all there is left to kick. That said, please do not kick this process: I am not a partisan, here, my only loyalty is to transparency, fairness, and then moving forward.

    Yours,

    Waylon

    • Rachel says:

      I fully support what you are doing Waylon and know your intentions are coming from a mindful place. From my point of view it seems people are commenting from a fear based and reactive place. Keep on Keepin on Buddy, Much Love.

  17. longtimeyogi says:

    OK, I'll stick my neck out among all the naysayers here (except for a few of you)…I think Elephant did and is doing the right thing. I think they understand that these allegations affect not only John Friend, but a LOT of other completely innocent people, and if they are to be made,they should be made in a responsible way.

    Maybe we all need to go the mat/cushion and take a few deep breaths…in the grand scheme of things there are many better things for us to be focussing our energy on.

  18. elephantjournal says:

    John's responses to my questions are coming tomorrow, Tuesday, I'm assured, by 3pm. I'm not expecting much in the way of transparency, since I'm sure they have to be lawyered up at this point, given the nature of this situation. But I asked the best, toughest and fairest questions I could and am hoping to be pleasantly surprised by receiving detailed, forthright answers.
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/john-frien

    I will not be adding anything new, since I won't have anything new, until tomorrow at 3.

    Yours,

    Way

  19. [...] can click here to see information from “both [...]

  20. SQR says:

    So far, I think Elephant Journal has gone about this in a better way than the blog site (yogadork) that originally posted the allegations- the best way to find a balance between rumors and facts is to use established journalistic criteria, which appears to be happening over here. The amount of anger and vitriol among Anusara critics (and the defensiveness among supporters) flying around this story makes it a bit of a minefield for anyone trying to cover it or comment on it.

  21. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    help me understand something – if you have a source who reveals their identity to you on legal documents but asked to remain anonymous (ie have their name and address redacted) when you publish the documents, is this outside of the scope of responsible journalism?

    • I think Not says:

      yup.

    • SQR says:

      Not necessarily- this is a bit of a gray area… here's the guideline NPR uses:
      "The grant of anonymity should be a last resort. When NPR journalists use anonymous sources to obtain information necessary for a story, the editor or producer of that story has an obligation to satisfy him/herself that the source is credible and reliable, and there is a substantial journalistic justification for using the source's information without attribution. This obligation also pertains to situations where individuals ask that their real names be withheld. The editor or producer has a twofold responsibility to (1) make a judgment about whether it is editorially justified to let the person speak anonymously, and (2) satisfy him/herself that this person is who the piece says s/he is. An editor should never be in the position of having to verify these things after a story has aired and a question is raised about it. We should not grant anonymity if a person makes pejorative comments about the character, reputation, or personal qualities of another individual, or derogatory statements about an institution."

      • elephantjournal says:

        It's kind of common-sense…even with normal articles we get at elephant, sometimes folks want to be anonymous. We just about always say no. Anonymity allows vitriol to be doled out almost casually, and people to play loose with facts.

        That said, I immediately invited FE (former employee) to invite other FEs to come forward with the same evidence, and said I'd offer those documents then. In this day of photoshop, documents mean very little.

        Here's my similar answer to you on my FB wall: "I immediately offered to share anonymous' documents if he/she could find another employee to corroborate. In this era of photoshop, documents don't mean anything. And I have a moral attitude about sticking my neck out legally *for* folks unwilling to stick their neck out legally."

        All that said, I love your advice and appreciate your question, it's a good one. I love SQR's share, there, thanks for that.

        ~ Waylon

        • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

          that makes a lot of sense waylon.

        • elephantjournal says:

          I love how I'm getting thumbed down by John Friend haters who seem to have nowhere else to vent their grief. I'm not John Friend, nor in his corner, I'm just trying to provide a fair and responsible forum not based on rumor.

          • SQR says:

            Well, yer gettin "thumbed up" by me… I've noticed the same thing with something I posted here as well, though. I drove a truck (a long time ago), and some of the posts in the forums over on yogadork remind me of the stuff I used to hear on the CB radio at truckstops. Your comment guidelines make this site more useful, and frankly, a place I'd feel better advertising with

  22. For those who are interested, this is a link to a blog I just wrote — not specifically about JF but about confusion surrounding any student-teacher relationship. It could be called "How to never get hurt by a guru while still honoring the Guru principle." May it uplift those who read it. May all beings be free.
    http://bayshakti.com/how-should-the-teacher-behav

    • I loved it. I hated it. It is true and wrong. :) NO seriously I get your point and totally agree but as per usual I don't think everyone will get what you are saying… actually I could write a whole response…maybe I will … actually If it's cool I would love to feature some of your blog and link to it…cool if I do a little intro and send to you? email me aminda@arcreated.com
      Let's talk :)

  23. Nancy Nielsen says:

    I would love to know THE t r u t h. AND for heavens sakes, “it’s only money.”

  24. [...] who in some cases have children. b) That you had run some sort of corrupt pension scheme, which we detail in some legal context here. c) that you smoked pot and had it shipped around d) It showed graphic photos (with no face, so [...]

  25. [...] read the legal document below, click here. It was shared on this site two days ago, via Dave Kennedy, who works with John. I’ve since [...]

  26. Brian Smith says:

    I had to sue John Friend at the Texas Work Force Commission in 2005/2006 to get my overtime wages. i had $5000 in company expenses on my own credit card. bought on my own dime a $2000 lap top to record audio for JF. That is not including all expenses relocating from San Diego, CA to TX.
    JF treated me very poorly and my employment was only 5 months. I lived at his home, I traveled with him, I worked in the "LAME" Anusara office where not one person did yoga besides JF. I have the full audio (2 cds) of the court case sent to me by the Judge.
    I am not hiding. JF was the most unyogic person I have ever met. a real jerk that deserves everything that is coming to him!

  27. [...] The jfexposed website presented a mass of material on John’s activities, including that he had frozen his employees’ pensions, did “sexual therapy” with a specific married woman, was in a Wiccan group, had an affair with another married woman from that group, and had smoked pot—even had it delivered to the Anusara office. [...]

  28. Thanks for the article and sharing this post. I’ve not really delved into the idea of trying to make a little extra money doing surveys, but it sounds like something I might try to give a shot.

  29. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Totally agree with you Carol.

  30. elephantjournal says:

    Carol,

    I asked him tough questions. His answers are up to him. I'm trying to do truth, not rumor. I updated my initial release, which shows them legally free of issues, with context about them being negligent. I think I've been fairly accurate and while I understand this might be a lose-lose from the haters and supporters position, I'm neither. I'm simply trying to do the right thing, have transparency not agenda-driven anonymously-sourced rumor put out there, find a way to learn from this and move forward.

    yours,

    Way

  31. elephantjournal says:

    Carol, think about it: you're asking me to put my legal future on the line for folks unwilling to put their legal future on the line. It is my direct experience that many people communicate very differently when cloaked in the warm cover of anonymity than when they have to speak openly. ~ Waylon

  32. Good journalism relies on accurate non-anonymous, agenda-free sources. Fine if folks need some sort of protection or redacting, but without prior vetting, constraints and conditions as you say–it's a giant legal and ethical can of worms.

    Anonymity (as evidenced by the visceral nature of comments, jfexposed website, and any number of other sites) seems to bring out the worst in many. If you can't come forward and put your name behind your words, giving all parties a chance to know who is accusing them–you have no business coming forward.

    This is a real, if yet unfinished, story. How would it be more fair or more ethical if Waylon or anyone writing for elephant went on attack against John Friend? Especially with unverified accusations from an anonymous source?

  33. elephantjournal says:

    Okay, Ben, why don't you do the interview, quote a bunch of anonymous sources, and we'll see how that plays out.

    Seriously, go for it. I'll put you in touch today.

  34. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Take a deep breath please my friend.
    I don't think that Carol is saying that you should accept anonymous information – certainly, I don't.
    But I do think that if the above commenter ('Former Employee') is genuine (and judging by his comments, I'd say s/he is) then you should honor the offer of using whatever evidence he provides without publicly naming him or her. What is the danger in that? It's perfectly reasonable journalism, no? Otherwise to only publish the above letter does make you look biased.
    Please take this in the spirit of openness and friendship with which it is intended.

  35. TCB says:

    I may have missed this in the very long thread – but why was the pension frozen in the first place?

  36. elephantjournal says:

    To be fair, I am happy to publish FE's info and told him/her so provided another employee or two came forward with the same documents. In that case, anonymity would be corroborated.

    For example: I asked point-blank if FE was behind jfexposed, and he/she said no. Until I have corroboration or non-anonymity, I can't responsibly know the truth on such questions or put anything out as fact. And we don't do rumor when it effects people.

    FE I should say has been forthcoming and courteous, and never offered his/her info to elephant. When I saw the site, I could have published it all and ordinarily would have–we love readership, breaking news and scoops–but because I didn't have verification I chose not to do so. Recovering Yogi was offered the information some weeks ago, and also chose not to share it. YD went for it, and that's her decision, and I've said many times I like and respect her writing but disagree ethically with Jennalyn's decision to give credence to anonymous, agenda-backed accusations.

    So we waited and have published and shared information from both sides that we could verify, giving up a ton of traffic, but hopefully contributing somewhat to constructive dialogue and fairness, and now (my interview just went up) some compassionately aggressive questions, answers and more documents.

    ~ Yours in service,

    Waylon

  37. Former Employee says:

    Maybe John Friend should address that question.

  38. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    i think perhaps you overstate it. it is understandable why some would want to remain anonymous even if they are telling the truth given the nature of an organization that people depend upon for their livelihood. if there is corruption and a general silence, as carol says after key people have been quietly leaving you can bet there is a lot of pressure on everyone – friend, senior teachers who have left, people in the organization who want to speak out but are scared, waylon, everyone….

    all i am saying is i don't think it is fair to say that unless people are willing to stand up and be counted in public daylight we shouldn't listen to them and consider whether what they are saying adds up.

    if this is a cultish situation in which the predictable vectors of money, sex and drugs are at play in an inner circle around a powerful charismatic leader then the situation is a precarious one for those who have been betrayed and want to tell the truth but have had their whole lives, relationships, livelihood, social status etc become woven into the community itself.

  39. I agree Julian, in the case of cultish situations or abuse of power that it can be hard for people to feel separate enough as individuals to speak out publicly.

    In general, it seems that the mask of anonymity brings out the worst in people. If someone feels wronged and has an anonymous forum to voice his grievances, the tone is usually much different than someone who is doing so openly. With anonymity in these situations, there is no room to be discerning about possible agendas or ulterior motives. Difficult to say whether things add up when there is no real corroboration.

    It's a tough call. I think caution and truth seeking was the right one.

  40. wow. I'm sorry but anonymous sources are not that unheard of in journalism. If someone is afraid to speak out the point is we give the anonymity so we can still get to the truth. Now I'm not saying we should accept the source without due diligence…but if Waylon knew the source and did the research and then told us this person wanted to be protected I would totally trust him and would feel good about the information and protecting the person with the information. Too often the "little guy" doesn't get their story told because of this situation. Now I don't think JF and friends are evil or the mafia, but one's livelihood could be at stake. Let's be a bit gentle on the whistle blower as well. People don't always hide their identity because what they are saying is not true but precisely because it is true.

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