Pitt News Fires Editor For Secret Society Conflict Of Interest

The Pitt News, a student newspaper at the University of Pittsburgh, fired one of its editors this week over his connection to a secret society on campus known as the Druids.

The Pitt News recently wrote a two-part investigative series on the affiliations between members of the student government and the Druids. The paper reported that six of the nine students elected to the Student Government Board are Druids, although none of them would admit publicly to being a member of the group.

The reporting also found Assistant Opinions Editor Nick Stamatakis was a Druids member, a fact he had not disclosed even though Pitt News staffers are required to reveal their group affiliations. Without noting his connection, Stamatakis had written the editorial board's endorsement of one of the alleged Druids members in that individual's successful bid for Student Government Board president, Pitt News Editor-in-Chief Amy Friedenberger said in a letter from the editor a week ago.

Friedenberger wrote in a follow-up note Monday that she had found at least two other occasions on which Stamatakis had written or sought to advance a story about Druids. Because he had violated the newspaper's Code of Ethics, Friedenberger said, Stamatakis was "no longer an employee at The Pitt News."

Stamatakis told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he had "stayed very impartial. I feel I tried to walk as ethical a line as I could."

The Druids formed in 1920 as a society to recognize the University of Pittsburgh's "outstanding men," according to a student organization website. The Pitt News reported that the group had historically consisted of student leaders "looking to do good things," as 1974 Pitt graduate Thomas Bailey put it. The group hosted social events and was open about its membership through the 1970s, but went underground some time between 1996 and 2000.

The group is not officially recognized by the university now, and because the Druids keep most of their membership and activities secret, not much is known about them. They have surfaced at various points doing good deeds, such as the time in 2004 when they gave out gift certificates to the school book store and left notes congratulating sororities on a successful rush.

They also occasionally receive press coverage for colorful antics, such as when members were spotted on campus in hooded cloaks and carrying large swords in April 2002. The Pitt News reported the group sent a holiday greeting card to student organizations in 2011 showing the Druids members dressed in their robes (looking somewhat like the Nazgûl, or Ringwraiths, from the Lord of the Rings trilogy).

According to Friedenberger, Stamatakis said that the Druids had removed him as a member because his being a Pitt News staffer had allegedly "caused problems" when the paper was investigating the group.