Archive for September, 2008

High school and college educators in California who back student journalists’ free speech rights now have legal backing of their own to call upon when needed.


A new bill signed into law yesterday by the governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, makes it illegal to fire or otherwise discipline a teacher or adviser for supporting a student’s freedom of speech, including within journalism.


“Under the legislation, a school employee could not be ‘dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned, transferred … solely for acting to protect a pupil engaged in’ constitutionally protected speech,” a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed explained, partially citing language from the bill, which was originally called The Journalism Teachers’ Protection Act. The op-ed later declared: “By providing a narrowly tailored protection for journalism advisors, SB 1370 will help the next generation of media professionals and their mentors, without threatening the educational mission of our schools.”

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A journalism professor lightheartedly warned Texas A&M j-student Nicole Alvarado two years ago about her work on The Battalion student newspaper: “You will spend all your time in the newsroom. I don’t care what you say now-if you keep a job there, you will forget what sunlight looks like.”



In a recent state-of-the-newspaper address to readers, Alvarado, now Battalion editor in chief, happily admits the prof’s words had proven prescient. Her description of her current EIC duties provides a nice (timeless) glimpse into the work of a student journalist:


I find myself locked away in the basement of the Memorial Student Center five nights a week, eyes glued to a computer screen, watching the time with bated breath. Deadlines, stories, copy editing, AP Style…industry terms rush through my head as quickly as the second hand on the clock. The adrenaline rush and positive stress of working for the paper is what really gets my blood pumping. I can’t imagine myself being this happy with any other job.

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Student media in the Philippines currently face a number of challenges, according to a report from a newspaper in the province of Cebu. Chief among them: administrative censorship and a lack of funding.


One group working for the betterment of student journalists nationwide: the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.  CEGP is an alliance of roughly 750 student publications distributed at more than 500 schools across the country that declares itself “the national center for the advancement of campus press freedom.” Founded in 1931, it is the only student organization of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region.  One of the group’s mottos: “To write is already to choose.”



According to the CEGP head in Cebu: “As a campus journalist and as a writer, we help the masses and expose the ills of society. . . . It is up to the youth to be vigilant and to be critical minded especially in anti-people and anti-student issues.”

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From Kansas to Kerala, India, sex is stirring controversy within the college press.  As CMM previously reported, a Daily Kansan “sex issue” recently earned some naysaying and media rabble-rousing in greater Lawrence.  Now, a student magazine at a college in India is in the spotlight for a cover page deemed overly sexual.



As displayed above, the cover depicts the shadowed outlines of four children gazing at a poster of a nude couple engaging in some manner of sexual activity.  Magazine editors said the image symbolized the need for greater sexual awareness.  School officials and members of a government-backed students union are not amused.  According to the students union head:


The students have openly protested against such a magazine. They take it to their homes only after removing the cover page. Such a thing should not happen again.

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An interesting example of new media use engendering reader dialogue: The Daily Kansan‘s “Free for All” feature on Facebook that allows users to comment, complain, philosophize, and shout-out on any individual, subject, or event they wish.  The statements appear on the paper’s Web site and come with the promise that they “might just appear in the next day’s paper.” 


Referred to by students as FFA, the Facebook app has more than 1,200 active users and a backlog of more than 650 pages on the Daily Kansan site.  One Kansas alum’s take: “The FFA has always been a place where one can say rude/stupid/clever/ingenious/racist/sexist/nice/mean things.”  Three recent examples: “Why is it that black people can make fun of white people, but if a white person says anything, it’s racist?”; “I need a fake i.d….and pronto”; and “I hate it when the people next to you leave for the weekend and don’t turn off their alarm. So there you are snuggled up in bed at 7 and you are rudely awakened but the alarm.”


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A recent feature and separate editorial in The Chronicle at Duke University reaffirmed what The Chronicle of Higher Ed and CMM have previously written: The print versions of student newspapers are NOT in dire straits.


The main feature’s start: “The newspaper you hold in your hand has not changed dramatically since the 1970s. But the business side that makes The Chronicle‘s content possible has evolved to sustain Duke’s student newspaper over the years.  Despite the chill of economic downturn experienced by some commercial and college newspapers, The Chronicle remains relatively ‘insulated’ from both the shift away from physical papers to online content and drastic revenue decrease.


The Chronicle‘s basic argument: Ad revenue has dipped but not plummeted.  Student readers still want to pick up the print version before or after class (according to editors, the tabloid size helps).  And the paper has a “defined niche” audience that will not be unenrolling or losing tenure or alum status anytime soon. 


The separate editorial, headlined “Keep the Presses Hot,” also noted the significance of the paper’s role as “an institutional relic,” “a conduit for the student body to access relevant issues,” and a “written reflection of [Duke’s] identity.”


Although some newspapers have cut staff and distribution due to low profit margins, The Chronicle has been largely insulated from the economic tumult.

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Editors from 19 of the top college newspapers nationwide blogged in real time for The New York Times last night about the first presidential debate.  I’m currently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia without TV so I can personally attest their updates (literally from student centers and campus debate parties) were helpful to gain a sense of what was going on between McCain and Obama and to gauge initial student reactions.


Check out the full postGet background on the students involved.

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