On August 17th, the staff of the University of Georgia’s independent student newspaper, The Red & Black, scored a victory for student newspapers across the country and for the integrity of modern-day journalism. Over the summer, the paper’s board tried to take editorial control over the daily out of the student’s hands and to give nonstudent managers the power to review the paper’s content before it was published, and even veto the decisions taken by student editors. In response, these editors took part in a courageous walkout, publishing their content on other forums, until the proposed changes were rolled back.
Student journalism is a valuable forum for discussion on university policies and serves as a check on the institutional abuse of power, largely because of its perspective. Granting anyone other than a student editorial review power over student-produced content would be antithetical to the goals of student journalism and open up the possibility of corruption. Students offer a unique perspective on universities, who through their own publications seek to cast themselves in the most positive light possible. Students, on the other hand, are best in position to experience the effects of the university’s policies and to comment candidly on them.
By challenging the status quo when the situation demands it, student journalists can have a real and positive impact over the world they are a part of. To provide just one recent example, this spring the Harvard Management Corporation announced it would not reinvest in HEI Hotels & Resorts, a company criticized for repeated allegations of labor rights abuses. The Crimson played a part in encouraging this decision through sustained coverage of these accusations as well as repeated calls to investigate the allegations.
As a matter of fact, by defending their journalistic integrity, student newspapers demonstrate their ability not only to be valuable members of the press community, but also their potential to be leaders in the field. This Tuesday, The Crimson announced a new policy severely restricting quote review, a practice which allows officials to edit their comments before they are put to press. It is this paper’s firm belief that quote review debases the basic principle of honesty on which journalism relies. Unfortunately, leading media organizations such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Reuters have all recently agreed to quote review, largely out of pressure from political campaigns. While we understand that such large media companies respond to different concerns than a student newspaper, we nevertheless would like to see more of the press taking the courageous stance, rather than the easy one, in this regard.
Despite the many struggles faced by journalism—whether high-profile lying scandals or widespread financial distress, to name just two—events at the University of Georgia have demonstrated that the industry has hope for a bright future. Congratulations to our peers at The Red & Black, and keep the old sheet flying.