College newspapers – how independent can they be?

As I’m reading through The Ithacan’s coverage of the racial tensions that are happening on Ithaca College’s campus, one thought is coming to mind: how far can the school-affiliated newspaper go in its reporting?

To give a brief summary, racial tensions have reached such a high at the college of the students believing that the administration is not doing their part in handling racial issues, that in a meeting on Tuesday students walked out of a meeting with the school’s President and the like. (Here’s a more complete article about the event written by The Ithacan.) This is all following the Student Government Association of IC calling for a no confidence vote on President Tom Rochon.

Campus newspapers are meant to provide valuable experience to students in reporting the news and working at an actual news outlet, but how far can the newspaper go? I mean, their funding comes from the school, they’re affiliated with the school, and if prospective students and their families are anything like my mother, they are picking up the newspaper when they visit the college and learning about the actual culture.

Earlier this year a op-ed piece about the Black Lives Matter movement was published at Wesleyan University’s student newspaper. The Blaze reported days later that the student assembly at this college voted to pull half of the normal fund’s from the paper and discussions were being held about how the editorial process should take place at the paper.

This is just one example of how much power an institution has over a student-run newspaper, and how dangerous it can be to the reporting of controversial events that are happening on the college campus. And in this example, it was just the student government making the calls. So, how long will it be until the administration starts sticking their nose into The Ithacan’s coverage of the controversial administration? Only time will tell….


What is Real Journalism?

With the boom of news blogs and alternative media outlets over the past ten or so years, a question may have arisen in the public. Is what they see on these sites still considered, “real journalism”?

Journalism is defined as the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media. And that, is exactly what these new mediums do. News bloggers generally do fit within this definition; they gather the news, examine their research and report on what they have found. (Sometimes they even do original reporting, just like a good old fashioned newspaper or news station). And if that’s not enough support as a blog being considered a news source, the Associated Press issued an amendment to its members insisting that blogs be considered a news source in their sourcing in 2010.

So why do certain people continue to struggle with the idea of a blog being considered a credible news source? In 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said the shield law should only apply to real journalists. This was at the time of the Wikileaks explosion of NSA files, and Feinstein notably wanted bloggers to be excluded from the classification of real journalists, and to be able to press charges against them for releasing these files. She is not the only one who believes so either.

Blogger Joe Wilcox of “Oddly Together” writes of the large differences between blogging and journalism in a post titled, “The Difference Between Blogging and Journalism,” yet Wilcox defines what is a journalist to him. “Bloggers who don’t apply good standards of journalism shouldn’t be offered the same privileges as journalists,” Wilcox said. “Similarly, journalists who fail to apply the same good standards should be stripped of privileges and prestige.”

And this is what makes the most sense to me. Not everyone who blogs is a journalist. There are amateurs out there in the blogosphere who don’t follow any kind of journalistic morals or ethics and who do not report actual, factual news, but there are also reporters who do the same. It shouldn’t be a debate of “real journalism,” but “real journalists” instead.

The Dangers of the Commentary Section

On Tuesday in our Independent Media class, blogger and founder of Legal Insurrection, William Jacobson spoke about the quiet danger the comments section of a blog could hold. Blog visitors are enabled to use their words freely on the discussion boards and comments section of blogposts and while most of the time a beneficial discussion can take place, internet “trolls” creep in the dark corners of the internet waiting to wreck havoc. And these trolls could be more dangerous than the average blogger may think.

In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Jennifer Gobleck writes flat out that people who are trolls on the internet are terrible people. She continues with research from a study that had found internet trolls typically displayed the “Dark Tetrad” of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy and sadism. It is because of these personality traits that trolls tend to sit on comment threads and wait to annoy other actual users.

This phenomenon has made it difficult for bloggers, as Jacobson said, to leave the comment sections open and anonymous. While many want to see readers actively engaged in their material, they usually don’t wish to have to moderate the comments section like it’s a second grade playground. To be able to leave the section open, I think more and more bloggers will have to use accountability with their users; users will have to log in and give personal information to the blogs so that inappropriate behavior does not ensue, but this also creates an obstacle. Will readers continue to want to engage if it can easily be found out who they are?

Could the press save the public?

In 2010, the website Wikileaks published an array of government documents that exposed top-secret government actions (and wrongdoings) to the public. Chelsea (Bradley) Manning is the protagonist in this story, for he was the NSA worker that leaked these documents and in doing so, Manning proved that the media is the strongest sidekick the public will have in learning the truth.

It has happened before,a government official goes to the press to expose government secrets. The most well-known example is Watergate but there is a plethora of other examples. Because of the research paper I just finished I know that Ramparts magazine exposed the CIA of using Michigan State University as their gun-runners in the Vietnam Project. Without eager sources and willing media, the public would still be in the dark to almost all of the government’s secrets.

Whistleblowers, or a person who informs on a person or organization engaged in an illicit activity, in the story does the dirty work. They gather the intelligence, they risk their safety to expose secrets, but the media also puts their entire reputation at risk in publishing what whistleblowers have told them. Mostly because whatever they are about to report, the public is going to take as truth and that’s a lot of power for the media to have and abuse.

VoicesofNY Analysis

VoicesofNY is a an online publication produced by the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism that is applauded for the particular attention it spends on “ethnic media,” but I think the site could be applauded for so much more.

The news site was started originally as a reaction to the 9/11 attacks when the media was heavily criticizing the Muslim and Middle Eastern populations, and the Independent Press Association and Community Media Alliance decided that they needed to give a voice to people who fell into this category. Hence, in 2002, “Voices That Must Be Heard” was born. (Archive of articles from the original publication available here.) In 2011, CUNY obtained the site from the Community Media Alliance, changing the name to VoicesofNY and broadening the source of the voices by focusing it on all different minorities.

And this website does just that. On its main news feed page, it seems as if each article focuses on a different minority group and an issue that people of that minority group are facing. And the range of the issues covered go anywhere from hard news to entertainment to education, all easily accessible through a navigation bar at the top of the page.

But what this site does best off all, besides providing a variety of content, is they don’t try to exclude an ethnicity in their writing. There is no blame in their writing. The goal of this site is clearly to educate the public; to make all people aware of the issues that PEOPLE are facing.

VoicesofNY works well to bring together all ethnicities, to educate and to inform, and I think that this type of site would serve well to expand across the country.