Archive for October, 2012

Tulane University is planning to build a 25,000-seat sports stadium on its New Orleans campus.  Will it fill up during home football games?  The Tulane Hullabaloo is suing to help find out.

The student newspaper has filed a lawsuit to obtain “turnstile attendance records” for Tulane football games played at the New Orleans Superdome, which serves as the current de facto home field for the Green Waves gridiron squad.

Hullabaloo editors are seeking the fan numbers, in part, to determine the suitability of the planned 25,000-seat stadium.  According to the paper, “[A] faction of neighborhood residents criticize Tulane’s plans to build a stadium of that size.  They [also] question the accuracy of the attendance numbers Tulane is reporting.”

Apparently, the Superdome records are being held in close confidence by a private company hired to run the stadium by Louisiana state officials.  Yet, the Hullabaloo asserts, “Under Louisiana state law . . . when a public entity hires a private entity to manage a state-owned facility, the records produced pursuant to that contract are public.”

To Be Continued…

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The editorial board of The Pitt News at the University of Pittsburgh has endorsed President Barack Obama for reelection, in recognition of his moderate success governing in the face of an opposition party comprised of “men and women who are nothing more than impulsive obstructionists.”

In an endorsement editorial published Monday, the board notes, in part, “No one would want to repeat the last four years.  Yes, the economy has begun a slow recovery from recession. The stock market is up, and unemployment has finally dipped beneath the level President Barack Obama inherited from the Bush administration. . . . And while Obama’s record has often been a disappointment– he promised to close Guantanamo Bay, to end unilateral drone strikes and executive signing statements and to make progress on global warming– by signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, fighting for a more fair tax distribution and standing up for equal marriage rights, Obama has shown he will fight for the underrepresented.”

The ultimate rationale for the board’s Obama support seems to be the sense that with the sitting president the country can at least know what to expect over the next four years.  As the editorial concludes, “With Obama, we can look forward to more moderate, at times progressive, policies and administrative continuity. With a Romney administration, we will see a huge question mark with unpredictable consequences.”

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Highlights from student press Hurricane Sandy coverage.

Email or tweet me with examples of your own news outlet’s Sandy coverage.

The Daily Orange, Syracuse University

Amid canceled classes– quite a rare event at Syracuse– The Daily Orange has published what its editor-in-chief Mark Cooper is calling a special storm edition. Among the articles in the issue: a retrospective featuring faculty and alumni memories of a 1998 Labor Day derecho (“a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm”)– the last time weather led to campus-wide course cancellations at SU. All DO Sandy stories can be found here.

The Daily Pennsylvanian, University of Pennsylvania

The Daily Pennsylvanian is maintaining an entire separate section on its website devoted to its Hurricane Sandy coverage, including a “Reporter’s Notebook” piece sharing one staffer’s glimpse of a local Red Cross storm shelter.  Earlier today, the paper also launched a Hurricane Sandy Storify to document the storm’s escalating impact on Penn and greater Philadelphia.

The Daily Collegian, Penn State University

The Daily Collegian put out a special PDF issue tonight, a digital version of the paper that was not able to be printed and distributed around State College, Pa., due to Sandy.  The one-word front-page headline reads simply: “Frankenstorm.”  Separately, one story posted by the Collegian online that caught my eye by staff writer Adam Lidgett confirms, “State College bottle shops are selling out of Hurricane 40 oz. Malt Liquor in nearly record numbers.”

The Harvard Crimson, Harvard University

The Crimson crew has been dutifully covering the storm’s run-up and touchdown at Harvard and within Boston, Mass.  The paper’s famed Flyby blog also features one of the more lighthearted Sandy stories I’ve seen so far: “The Official Hurricane Sandy Playlist.”  It is a rundown of a dozen storm-themed songs students should have on in the background while they study or party during their time off from classes.  Among the selected songs: Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks,” The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Still Raining, Still Dreaming,” and Adele’s “Skyfall.”

The Daily Princetonian, Princeton University

The Daily Princetonian is providing numerous updates to the Princeton community on its homepage and through its Twitter feed, including informing readers the school has switched to generator power.  Staff also put together a Sandy photo slideshow, including the shot below of two students cooking in their dorm instead of heading outside to find food.

The Hatchet, George Washington University

The Hatchet crew at George Washington University is all over Sandy’s impact on GW and D.C.  Along with a team of photographers snapping and posting shots of external and internal damage (including water leaking into dorm hallways), they are providing live blog updates.  One interesting news brief focuses on GW professors who held online classes today amid the university’s closure and obvious problems some had venturing outside.

The Comment, Bridgewater State University

Kaitlyn Wallace, editor-in-chief of The Comment at Bridgewater State University, has put together one of the more impressively comprehensive write-ups I’ve seen on the many sides of Sandy.  It includes a snippet on some student and staff concerns about how long it took for the school to announce its temporary closure.  And it mentions what must be a situation faced by a number of other schools nationwide– the BSU women’s volleyball team is currently stuck in Memphis after a weekend invitational due to canceled flights.

The Columbia Spectator, Columbia University

The Columbia Spectator is covering Sandy’s impact on Columbia University and New York City with brief bursts of live updates, mainly through its Spectrum blog.  The paper’s former editor-in-chief Nick Summers also snapped and posted a shot of half-lit, half-dark Manhattan (due to blackouts) that is achieving instant viral fame on Instagram and Twitter.

Connect2Mason, George Mason University

The latest post on the Connect2Mason Sandy live blog at George Mason University is a breakdown of what students can do for fun while riding out the storm.  Among the suggested activities from entertainment editor Helena Okolicsanyi: flashlight tag, board games, and building a pillow and blanket fort.

The Cavalier Daily, University of Virginia

The Cavalier Daily is live-blogging the storm’s similar impact on the University of Virginia and Charlottesville, Va., including through user-submitted photos.

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On Friday, The Washington Square News at New York University published an excellent special issue focused on numerous facets of the rapidly concluding presidential campaign.

As Amy Zhang, the student paper’s web managing editor, tells me, “Our goal was to move past the horse race media coverage of the election that is such an unproductive component of the political theatre during an election year.  For this issue, the WSN wanted to provide our NYU community with a comprehensive guide to all the issues that affect our generation.”

In an introductory editorial featured in the issue, Zhang reminds readers, “There is still a week left until the Nov. 6 Election Day, but that one day will decide the next four years of our lives.  In this issue, we have featured the topics that matter most to you, like health care, the economy, and financial aid.  We have outlined the platforms, ideals, and opinions of each candidate, and we haven’t forgotten other power players: the third parties, vice presidents, and first ladies.  We . . . [also] haven’t forgotten the goodies, like best celebrity tweets or election movies, that are a staple of the political theater.  We lay this information out before you as a tool to build your own truth.”

I’m a sucker for quality profiles, so my favorite portion: “Political Portraits,” a quartet of pieces focused on students active in various political causes– a reminder that issues raised by Romney and Obama extend far beyond the election cycle and campaign trail.

Click here or on the screenshots below to check out the issue.

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The Red & Black at the University of Georgia ran a full-page “trash-talk advertisement” in Thursday’s paper– against its own football team.  The ad, paid for by supporters of the University of Florida football program, features a strong-armed Gator with gritted teeth taking down a hapless UGA Bulldogs football player.

The image aligns with the thrust of the ad, which lays out a number of reasons “Why Our Gators Will Bury the Dawgs Little Bone . . . Again.”  The number-two ranked Gators are taking on the 10th-ranked Bulldogs this afternoon in a marquee conference match-up.

Red & Black editors are declaring the ad’s publication simply a business decision, telling one reader on Twitter, “We have to sell some ads to bring students free news.”  In the tweet below, they warn all readers about its appearance.

A tongue-in-cheek response from a CBS Sports blogger: “It’s impossible not to be sympathetic to a newspaper at any level looking for whatever revenue stream it can, but the line has to be drawn somewhere, doesn’t it? If funds are that scarce, wouldn’t a bake sale be preferable to publishing an ad like this? A dance-a-thon? Car wash? Talent show? Krispy Kreme dougnut sale? Overpriced chocolate bars?”

A more serious response tweet from a UGA fan:

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The University of Michigan has twice rejected a request by The Michigan Daily to obtain the graduate school application of alleged Aurora shooter James Holmes.  Holmes applied last year to UM’s neuroscience grad program.  School officials denied him admission.

They are also denying the Daily’s FOIA request to view the Holmes application because they feel it would be “an unwarranted invasion of privacy.”  As legal counsel to the UM president told the paper: “The release of a student application in this or other cases would have, we believe, deleterious effect on the applicants and on the admissions process, and we consequently believe that the university and the public are best served by protecting the integrity and confidentiality of that process.”

The University of Illinois, University of Iowa, and University of Alabama have already publicly released similar grad school applications submitted by Holmes.

Michigan Daily senior news editor Adam Rubenfire outlined the process to me: “I had originally made a FOIA request for Aurora, Colo., shooter James Holmes’ 2011 UM graduate school application, back in September.  Later that month, I was denied my request, and upon appeal I was finally denied just this Tuesday.  Because we’ve previously been concerned with the actions of the University FOIA office and particularly because three other universities in states with similar FOIA laws released his application,  I felt it was necessary to write an article about the university’s refusal, to help our readers understand the university’s handling of public records.”

Near the close of Rubenfire’s article, Student Press Law Center executive director Frank LoMonte makes two strong points: 1) Holmes is no longer a typical failed applicant.  2) “Clearly private information” can be removed or blacked out from the released application.

LoMonte: “Once a person is caught up in a nationwide headline-making crime, that person loses any reasonable expectation of privacy in information they filed with the government. . . . Typically, public records are not an all or nothing matter.  If you can remove the portions of the record that give away truly secret information, like a Social Security number, then you’re supposed to remove only those portions and disclose the rest.”

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A years-long newsbin and free press fight has reemerged at Oregon State University.  It involves OSU administrators, a conservative campus newspaper, and what one side sees as censorship and the other as simple enforcement of school rules.

The 60-second backstory: In early 2009, OSU officials suddenly removed a set of bins carrying the conservative student newspaper The Liberty from spots around campus.  At the time, admins. said their actions were in accordance with “an existing, unwritten policy that restricts where off-campus newspaper bins could be placed.”  It was also apparently part of a campus clean-up effort.

Liberty staff disagreed with those rationales, vehemently.  They pointed out the paper was an on-campus pub, published since 2002 and aligned with a recognized student group.  They claimed the bin removal reeked of nothing more than censorship and double standards, providing the longtime student newspaper The Daily Barometer with “special distribution” privileges.

A top Liberty editor said at the time: “Basically, we just want to have a couple of square feet on campus where we can place our bins.”  The paper filed a lawsuit.  A district court judge dismissed it, determining that the university had the right to afford its official student publications with certain privileges such as increased distribution that were not offered to alternative, independent or underground outlets.

The most memorable quote, post-dismissal, came from OSU’s news and communications director.  He declared the fight more a publicity stunt than an actual free press battle: “This was very much an exercise in increased visibility. The story line: a big, oppressive, liberal university squelches a small, defenseless, conservative magazine. We’re glad this matter has been resolved.”

That resolution, however, is now on hold.  Reversing the lower court decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is granting trial clearance for the Liberty to once again pursue their claim of campus distribution discrimination.

As one of the ruling judges noted, “The policy that OSU enforced against plaintiffs . . . was not merely unwritten. It was also unannounced and had no history of enforcement.  It materialized like a bolt of out of the blue to smite the Liberty’s, but not the Daily Barometer’s, newsbins onto the trash heap.”

A portion of a statement from the Liberty’s legal counsel: “Universities should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas.  Students don’t deserve censorship for having viewpoints that university officials don’t happen to favor. The argument that the independent student paper’s bins were confiscated to ‘clean up’ the campus was simply not believable.”

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