On the role of student newspapers

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By Erin Delman

Last Thursday’s article reporting about the Delta Delta Delta sorority engendered passionate debate on the Concordiensis website. Opinions ranged from condemnation to support of the paper, and the article’s contents fueled diverse reactions among the Union community. Two prevalent criticisms on the website focused on the Concordiensis’s authority to publish the article and the assurance of factual accuracy, describing the act as gossipy or inappropriate for a news source.The comments highlighted a philosophical question rarely pondered among the college communities: the role of an independent, student run newspaper. On a small, close-knit campus, news and rumors spread quickly. Thus, for campus media sources to maintain legitimacy and respect, they must adhere to certain moral obligations.

To critically analyze student-run publications, one must examine the stories that are printed as well as the manner in which they were written. College newspapers must do much more than simply report campus news. The publications should try to instigate involvement and excitement among the student body. Thus, college newspapers should aim to educate the campus on events outside the college grounds.

That being said, the predominant purpose of a school paper is to serve as a reliable source of campus-related news. College media should serve as a forum for debate, and its articles should be the impetus for discussion about relevant issues on campus. Article topics should not excessively promote or exclude any institution or group on campus; rather, topics should include all pertinent successes, failures, and mistakes that would be relevant to the student body. No piece of news should be dismissed due to its ostentation or lack thereof. Articles should not be published with malicious intent, nor should they arbitrarily advocate specific events, individuals, or entities.

With regards to the content of news pieces, all reporting must remain unbiased. News items must be factual, and opinion and feature pieces must be coherent and cogent. The necessity for student reporters to remain neutral is multiplied when the article content contains sensitive, confidential, or otherwise offensive material. As reporters, we must remember that those involved in situations are not only human beings, but also our peers. Newspapers intend to foster open dialogue, not generate schisms among students.

All of these adherences assume a publication that is free of administrative pressures or influences. The student leadership of college newspapers must be the hierarchical mechanism by which moral decisions—for example, the choice to print a touchy article —are made. Only then can the paper be held to the demands and expectations of its predominant readership: the students. When articles infuriate or offend, the readers should respond accordingly while understanding the journalistic responsibility of the newspaper to report the news.

The Delta Delta Delta article aroused an intense emotional response across campus. While some criticize the article for being the catalyst for this reaction, I see it as a positive testament to the validity of the Concordiensis. It must continue to serve as the uncensored venue through which students can learn about the news at Union.

 

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