College newspapers: keeping journalism real

ReAnne Utemark

I am not entirely aware of how people use their Washburn Review. Some, hopefully, read it and garner information about Washburn’s campus. Others probably use it as an umbrella, a free Sudoku or crossword puzzle, a paper airplane or the lining of a birdcage. If someone is reading this they obviously care enough to make it to page four in the first section before moving on to sports or arts and entertainment. Whatever students, faculty and staff do with the paper is irrelevant. The important part is that it exists without restraint and is staffed by a group of students who care about journalism, their campus and about the preservation of a history that cannot be found anywhere else.

In a Jan. 23 online edition of the Rocky Mountain Collegian, Erik Myers reported that the Colorado State University newspaper could be taken over by the Fort Collins Coloradoan, a Gannett-owned newspaper. According to the article, the leaders of the Coloradoan proposed a “strategic partnership” with the Collegian. Also according to the article, the staff was unaware of the meeting between the Coloradoan the CSU president until an hour before the meeting.

This is the same newspaper that caused some waves when they ran a “Taser This” editorial last fall that included a profane phrase in regard to President Bush.

I doubt this is the reason for the takeover, and the term “takeover” seems to fit the situation, but it is cause for alarm for student publications everywhere.

There is a preface to this article: I do not think Rupert Mudoch is going to take over the Washburn Review. Nor do I think this is going to happen in massive numbers. However, restraint-free student publications are important to the institution and to the student journalists that work for them. The American media has, for the most part, acquired a deplorable reputation with the American people. The media is overall biased and untrustworthy. This is, I think, a consequence of having huge media conglomerates that have absorbed newspapers across the country.

College media is in a bubble of sorts. Journalism students, although not all are journalism or mass media majors, get real world experience without having to deal with the bottom line nearly as much as local media does. It is important to maintain the newspaper in a mature fashion, but they can take risks and cover campus like city media and institution administration cannot.

Student newspapers retain a history of the university or college that is colored with the real reactions of students and staff. Newspapers, especially college newspapers, are touchy when it comes to their First Amendment right of free press, but that is justified. If they are not watchful now, they may not have the same freedoms later. Americans, including journalists, should not waver when it comes to constitutional rights. Fighting for such things is what makes America, America.

Recently, an AP reporter started arguing with Republican Mitt Romney during a speech. The AP reporter questioned Romney’s claims that his campaign was not run by lobbyists. One can watch this exchange on YouTube. The reporter and Romney had a heated exchange and then a staffer from Romney’s camp told the reporter to not argue with the candidate. Reporters should be respectful, but they should not be afraid to question candidates. It seems as if many student newspapers still have that kind of spirit, a kind of raw talent and excitement about journalism and its place in a democracy.

The bias in this editorial should be obvious, but the Washburn Review, the University Daily Kansan, the Kansas State Collegian and other college newspapers are important. Even if readers do use them as an umbrella.