Jan 302008
Authors: Faculty members of the Department of Journalism at CSU

The Department of Journalism and Technical Communication faculty and staff named below strongly object to any prospective acquisition of The Rocky Mountain Collegian by the Fort Collins Coloradoan relative to or any transfer of financial management and/or editorial oversight of our student-run newspaper to a private enterprise.

Although this matter is complex, we’d like to specify some vital reasons for our objection.

The lack of transparency at a public institution in the process relative to the initial meeting between your office and Gannett. Because this is a public institution and the newspaper’s existence is at issue, representatives from the Collegian should be included in any relevant proceedings. The secrecy, timing and lack of student media representation has set a negative precedent.

The prospect of losing an independent student medium. Disenfranchising our students’ voice is unacceptable, given their voice has been an integral part of Colorado State University for over 100 years. Combining two competing media organizations threatens the marketplace of ideas, thus democratic participation, for readers of both newspapers involved.

The prospect of there being no independent news entity covering Colorado State University. If the Coloradoan acquires the Collegian, no Fort Collins area newspaper, or major news organization, would be independently responsible for covering the largest employer in town and one of two major public universities in the state. It’s important that the private commercial newspaper and this large public institution remain separate. Journalists involved would experience an ethical dilemma and an inevitable conflict of interest, compromising the watchdog role of both newspapers in covering university affairs and actions.

Students learn, thrive and prosper in a public environment. Even the best corporate environment suffers from newsroom and news hole cuts, chills that can lead to self-censorship, forbidden language and coverage relative to “sensitive” and “close to home issues,” lowering of journalistic standards and other threats that would greatly encumber student journalism. When given responsibility, students will take the challenge. They learn from mistakes.

Profit, not education, would be Gannett’s primary goal. Gannett will not reinvest every penny into the educational mission, as is the case with student media. By running all students through a Gannett corporation, they may become “branded” and thus be received less favorably in the marketplace by other news organizations. Students do not currently leave the university with a specific corporate model trained into them.

The commercialization of universities. Let’s not allow privatization of our student press to be part of the Collegian legacy. Let’s not risk being the first school in the United States to allow a corporate takeover of a public medium that is opposed to that takeover, forcing the independent voice of students to become a commercial commodity.

Our department’s excellent relationship with the Collegian and student media. We believe we have an excellent department, an excellent student media and an outstanding mutually beneficial relationship. Student media have won hundreds of awards for journalism and media production since 1990. We do not believe an acquisition by the Coloradoan will enhance the university, the Collegian or our relationship with either of the newspapers involved. In addition, an acquisition would harm the integrity of our journalism program and threaten the quality of students we are able to recruit.

Students, faculty and staff alike welcome contributions to the program by the Coloradoan and Gannett, but not a takeover. Internships, scholarships, guest speakers and part-time jobs for students at the Coloradoan, and dozens of other Colorado papers and media, are the answer to continuing the tradition of exceptional student journalism at CSU.

Donna Rouner, Chris Bartholomew, Joe Champ, Cindy Christen, Clarissa Crozier, Pam Jackson, Kris Kodrich, Marilee Long, Jack Lovelace, Garrett O’Keefe, Rosa Mikeal Martey and Pete Seel are faculty members of the Department of Journalism at CSU. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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