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In late November 2009, RAIN Media, the production company founded and headed by Martin Smith, contacted University of Phoenix claiming the company was producing a news documentary for FRONTLINE exploring nontraditional students and the institutions that serve them. While RAIN Media pointed out that the documentary would focus on community colleges as well as the for-profit sector, the production team insisted that the documentary would be fair and balanced, and most importantly, without preconceived bias.
University of Phoenix is committed to transparency and accountability and welcomes honest, balanced media coverage, so we initially considered the offer presented by FRONTLINE. We did have several discussions with the production team regarding on-camera interviews for the documentary, based on the understanding that it would be fair and factual and that we could trust the producers to accurately represent our point of view. We were surprised and disappointed, therefore, to learn that the production team had secretly and deliberately gone around us to collect several hours of unauthorized footage of University employees.
FRONTLINE’s deception was a disappointment to the University, especially after the University had worked with the production team to begin making arrangements for on-camera interviews.FRONTLINE’s failure to act in an honest and open manner made it clear to us that regardless of the facts, the story would be fundamentally unbalanced, hostile and unfair.
University of Phoenix on numerous occasions over a two-month period requested the opportunity to respond in writing to any outstanding questions or allegations involving the University. According to FRONTLINE’s published guidelines on journalistic styles and practices, the program's producers are obligated to “give individuals or entities who are the subject of attack the opportunity to respond to those attacks.” Three weeks before the program aired, FRONTLINE sent a series of questions to the University, which we answered.
University of Phoenix provides educational options and opportunities, which otherwise would not exist for our students, and at a time when the traditional system of higher education is proving increasingly untenable and inaccessible. Given the one-sided nature of this documentary, we encourage our students to share their story and provide their perspective on a University of Phoenix education by visiting FRONTLINE's discussion forum. In the end, the most honest judges of our academic quality are our more than 450,000 students who have chosen to pursue their degrees and improve their lives with a University of Phoenix education.