© Eli Justin Bortz
Survey of Electronic Publishing, Spring 2003.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Several studies have attempted to explore the different problems college newspapers can face when publishing in a public university setting. The historical precedent for rather subtle, but occasionally blatant, censorship is very real, and provides a cautionary note for campus journalists.
The University of Massachusetts Example
University newspapers would naturally want to avoid instances of discrimination within their pages, and several institutions have taken steps to avoid it at all costs. The University of Massachusetts provides a curious example of what might be termed "reverse censorship": the guaranteeing of newspaper pages to various minority groups that may hurt the reputation and quality of the publication.
Karen List examined the University of Massachusetts and their publication, The Daily Collegian. In 1978, the Collegian made the decision to include a special interests section focusing on women's issues and creating a woman's editor staff position after pressure from women's groups and university officials increased. As List explained:
"The Collegian argued that women's news should be distributed throughout the paper like any other news and that feminist opinion belonged on the editorial page in part because other special interest groups would demand similar concessions. The woman continued to argue that the paper should provide a forum for advocacy journalism written by people who were aware of the issues and capable of enlightening readers, if not persuading them to their positions." Guaranteed Pages, 226
The argument that other special interest groups would demand their own pages proved very real as time went on, eventually precipitating more problems and more demands outside the expressed mission of providing objective journalism. Various religious, gender, and sexuality groups won more concessions and more pages within the Collegian. Soon the question of content quality became a primary concern:
"The Collegian's challenge is in miniature the dilemma posed by the concept of social responsibility in a free and democratic society: How can the press recognize, define, and meet its social responsibilities without at the same time sacrificing its ethics? The page recognizes the pages' lack of professionalism in some cases because of inadequate basic reporting and editing skills on the part of those producing them. These inadequacies make the pages difficult to read and increase the danger of libel suits." Guaranteed Pages, 230
This problem is faced by all student newspapers attempting to balance fair and accurate reporting with the concerns of quality and responsibility. It is a decision that can create more problems as solutions are found.
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