Let’s face facts. The Leader did not attend Student Government Association’s Sept. 7-8 Student Organization Recognition and Training. We didn’t attend last year either, but faced no penalty.
By Sept. 28, our editorial board was discussing a letter from SGA saying due to this infraction we were no longer recognized or funded as a student organization.
Naturally, we turned to our faculty advisor, Ron Wiginton, and asked, What do we do?
“Be journalists,” he said. “Report.” And then the question of self-censorship is raised:
Would running a story about our conflicts with EC’s government torpedo efforts to regain our full status and reclaim our funding?
We worry it might.
The success or failure of a newspaper depends upon its ability to report fairly, honestly and independently.
When a newspaper is reliant upon government for funding, its ability to exist is jeopardized.
For years, this has been the relationship between The Leader and SGA.
Like other organizations, The Leader has filled out budget requests and submitted office allocation forms for years – all in concordance with SGA bylaws.
When a government funds a newspaper, the reporting of that government by the newspaper gets called into question. Such has been the case of The Leader.
Frankly, if people don’t believe what we’re reporting, then we are no longer a newspaper.
What would the reputation of the Chicago Tribune be if it were funded by Mayor Daley?
We have lobbied for years for the creation of a media board so media groups on campus can have an allocations group separate from government, thus eliminating this risk.
We think the proposed Communications Council is a step in the right direction. As a proposed umbrella organization under SGA’s new allocations board, the Council will acquire funding for campus media groups.
However, the board will be headed by SGA’s vice president of finance and the associate dean of students. who along with SGA’s president will also be responsible for appointing all other members of the board. This makes us skeptical of how objective the board will be.
This new allocations board just adds a layer between campus media and SGA. The funding is still being granted to media organizations such as The Leader by a government-appointed body.
Additionally, students applying for positions with the Student Activity Fund Allocation Board are not required to represent any campus constituency.
As stated earlier, to objectively report campus issues, including those that involve administration and student government, we cannot be reliant upon them for funding.
Administration and student government should not have the power to hold our dollars and cents hostage. Make the separation permanent and obvious.
Only our internal barometers, guided by a commitment to truth and accuracy, should determine our content.
Censorship and the mere threat of it, is an issue pertinent both to the staff of The Leader and to the readers that rely upon its reporting of campus issues.
As the motto for the Daily Eastern News states, “Tell the truth and don’t be afraid.”