Monday, April 18, 2005

A Learning Environment ...

According to a story that came over the AP Wire earlier today, students at the University of New Mexico are learning about the relationship between the government and the media on campus, and how that relationship might be developed once they get their degrees and head out into the real world.

full story - for now, at least - is available on the Albuquerque Journal's website. According to a story posted there, "high parliamentary drama unfolded at the University of New Mexico as student senators subpoenaed the editor of the campus newspaper, who refused the summons Friday. Marisa Demarco, editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo, replied: no way - she won't appear for questioning before the student Senate."

According to the article Justin Crosby, vice president of the Associated Students of UNM, the student government, said senators want to quiz Demarco about issues such as how editors decide which student events to cover and where articles are placed in the paper.

For her part, Demarco responded in an editorial that the subpoena is an unprecedented attempt to involve student government in the operations of UNM's student newspaper. She also pointed out that all members of the UNM community have equal access to the editorial staff of the Lobo, and that concerned students, staff members, faculty members or other readers can make appointments any time.

She's right, you know. And as a former contributing writer to the UNM Daily Lobo, I've e-mailed her to voice my support - for what it's worth - for her stance.

Writing for the school paper, and perhaps preparing for a career in journalism, is not confined entirely to learning the AP Style Manual, and the fundamental rules for reporting, photography and production. It also involves learning about the role of the media in society at-large, and the all-too-common attempts by governing bodies to define that role to their greatest advantage.

The journal article goes on to say Demarco received the subpoena one day after the Lobo published an editorial critical of student Senate candidates. That editorial, "Irrelevant agendas sap interest in ASUNM," questioned the relevance of issues raised in a recent student government election.

Coincidence? Maybe ... or, maybe not. Ask ten people, and you're likely to get eleven different opinions on that question.

As for Ms. Demarco and her staff, my advice is to remember they are in college ... a learning environment, so take good notes. Because what you're learning, today, in the student world, will help greatly, tomorrow, in the real world ... and that's not just helping you, the individual pursuing the trade of a journalist, but the community as a whole that will rely upon you and your product.


Pancho said...

I assume that the Lobo is the "official" newspaper of the U of NM, sponsored and funded by the University. Should't the student government, the official representatives of the sponsoring body have a say so in it's affairs. The matter would be different if the paper was an off campus privately funded publication.

Jeff said...

Very good point ... if the student government believes that there is some kind of infraction involved, that some law or line of the newspaper's charter has been broken, then, YES, by all means, they should say/do something ... they might even be obliged to do something under their own charter as a student government.

If, though, student politicians just want to complain about how editors decide which student events to cover and where articles are placed in the paper (a complaint heard by journalists at ALL levels, on an almost-daily basis), then they can come down to the paper's office and present their concerns.

But the credibility of a newspaper (on or off-campus) relies upon the belief that - short of engaging in activities that break the law - the paper is free to do the best job it can in reporting the news, and is not answerable to unwarranted government intrusion into that process.