As student journalists at Central Michigan University, one of our greatest assets is a strong relationship with students, administration, faculty and staff.
Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for other colleges in Michigan.
Last week, Albion College temporarily shut down Albion Pleiad, a student-run online newspaper, because of inaccuracies in a story published on the death of a student at Alma College. Central Michigan Life also published a story on the student, Sean Murawske, who was found dead Jan. 14.
Pleiad’s editor-in-chief admitted that quotes were taken out of context and “fact-checking policies were not followed,” but having an administrator suspend publication rights is an unprecedented university overreach.
In December, Grand Valley State University’s student newspaper, Grand Valley Lanthorn, published a story and editorial on the university’s practice of naming rooms and buildings after donors.
The Lanthorn story examined the trend of university buildings and rooms being named after corporations. Last year, 31 rooms at GVSU were named after corporate donors.
The editorial criticized the university for “selling out” to donors and earned Lanthorn editor, Lizzy Balboa, a phone call from administrators and a letter to the editor which called the newspaper staff “ignorant” and suggested that staffers who do not appreciate university donations should return their merit-based scholarships.
“I’m concerned with academic freedom,” Balboa told The Grand Rapids Press. “It’s difficult for me to understand that there are some questions that are off limits.”
In January, the University of Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily, published its investigation on the alleged sexual misconduct of a former football player Brendan Gibbons.
Gibbons was accused of sexual misconduct in November 2009. The Daily’s investigation looked into why he’s never been charged and why he separated from the university in December 2013.
After the story was published, U-M failed to invite The Daily to a press conference last week regarding Gibbons.
Student media is for the students. It is unacceptable for administration to interfere with student publications and its effects are chilling on our first amendment rights.
Like our student press peers, CM Life aims to hold our university to a high level of transparency. It is our newspaper’s mission to bring students accurate information, and we feel our administration and faculty are willing to join us on this mission.
We pride ourselves on communicating effectively with university officials – and, in turn, we appreciate their consideration and respect while we report the news that matters most to our readers.
We are student journalists. We are learning our craft, and continuously trying to improve our performance. To do that, we need the participation of the people around us.
That’s why we insist on in-person interviews – not email communication. That’s why we are constantly seeking story ideas and feedback from our readers. What we do in our newsroom cannot be replicated in a classroom, and that’s why the ability to continue this work is so important.
Explaining concepts to novice reporters, many of who have very little background with the topic they’re reporting, takes patience and professionalism – and we need that from administrators and faculty to continue to perform well at our jobs.
However, we make no excuses for inaccuracies, and we expect to be held to the highest of standards.
In recent months, we’ve encountered many sources who have provided information, however, some are not always willing to provide us with the necessary collaboration.
We need to work together and we’re happy to say most of the CMU community feels the same way.
The community’s willingness to participate ensures that we provide the most complete version of any story. Regardless of past experiences with CM Life, our staff changes radically every semester. There will always be a mix of those with experience and those who are just getting their first bylines in the paper.
Our ability to provide readers with interesting and important stories depends largely on our relationship with university officials. We need to continue to grow together.
We stand with our fellow college journalists across the state and wish them encouragement and support. It’s unfortunate that other colleges and universities do not treat the press with the same openness, transparency and fairness that they deserve.
We value the working relationship that we have between the student press and our university administrators, faculty and staff, but that relationship can only flourish if the community continues to strive to provide a mutual level of dedication, effort and support.
That relationship relies on respect, and we expect it in return.