We are not corporate media

Jan 222008
Authors: Sean Reed

Apparently, transparency between students and university administration is not something valued by CSU President Larry Penley.

At approximately 11:30 a.m., the editorial staff got wind of a secret meeting between our favorite university president and key members of the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

The subject of the meeting — a possible cooperative relationship between the university and Gannett, their publishing organization. Loosely translated – they were talking about a takeover.

The fact that the university would even consider selling a student organization that has operated for 117 years is a travesty, but what is particularly disgusting is the manner in which they attempted to start negotiations.

This morning was the first time that any members of student media — including professional staff — were alerted to the potential discussion of a sale, but several sources, including Bob Moore, editor in chief of the Coloradoan, indicated the meeting had been in the works for a while.

It is unclear when exactly the date of today’s meeting was set, but it is clear that today’s discussions took root in November when, according to Moore, the Coloradoan contacted the president’s office to discuss the student paper, clearly sensing an opportunity to move in on our paper in the wake of the Sept. 21st Our View splash.

Penley, probably not a fan of the criticism solicited from CSU’s student paper or of the negative feedback from the editorial, likely saw this as a golden opportunity to get rid of an especially pesky thorn in his side, hence his agreement to hear the Coloradoan’s proposal.

What happened next is typical Penley.

Rather than alert the members of student media of the discussion, Penley opted instead to pursue the talks in a clandestine manner reminiscent of his move to amend the Long Bill last spring to allow a drastic tuition hike to pass without any input from students.

Unfortunately for Penley, Luke Ragland, director of legislative affairs for ASCSU, sounded the horn and alerted students they were being duped.

After the fallout from the Long Bill, Penley sent an e-mail to all students apologizing and pledging “more open and direct communication in the future.”

From the manner in which Penley and his staff behaved today, it is clear these were hollow words.

When asked the nature of the discussion, Brad Bohlander, the president’s spokesman, had only scattered information to give us and referred to the meeting as an informal discussion solicited by Gannett and assured the gathered Collegian staff that, at the moment, the university was not yet given any thought to changing the structure of it’s relationship with the Collegian.

Later, however, an e-mail statement by Penley to the student body contradicted these statements. Penley openly admitted that Gannett contacted him late last semester and they had discussed setting up a meeting to consider “possible collaboration,” between the university and the Coloradoan.

I may be reading into this too much, but the fact that Penley scheduled a meeting to discuss a partnership between the university and a publishing company in regard to the operations of the student paper sounds like he is considering changes.

Of course, there is evidence suggesting Penley is planning an even more drastic overhaul.

In an e-mail to the Collegian, Greg Luft, chair of the journalism department, said this was more than just an informal meeting.

He corroborated Penley’s statement that Gannett had reached out to the university, but went further to say that Moore had told him they were interested in “taking over management of the Collegian as a private, for-profit entity.”

Penley is attempting to sell a part of our university’s history and lied to the students of CSU about it.

He would do well to remember that his job is to support the students of CSU, not sell them out.

The Collegian staffers are students, too, Larry. Don’t sell us to corporate media.

Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column usually appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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