Letter from the Editor: Why Student Media is Important

There is a poster in the hallway of the Communication Department that reads “Accountability is key. Find the facts. Find the truth. Present that to the audience.”

This quote by renowned broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper, boils down to the very essence of student media and free press. By finding the truth, student journalists are practicing both their chosen craft and exercising their First Amendment rights.

With the presence of student media on a college campus, students are given a look into their own community as they consume a document that is written by them and specifically for them.

As a co-editor of this publication, which has been a fixture on our campus for over eighty years, I am disheartened at the fact that we are viewed as not being “student friendly” with our content. I am disheartened at the fact that our student newspaper is not considered important enough by the powers-that-be to be fully funded in order for students to have hands-on practice in their chosen career field.

The Chase is a part of a curricular program. This newspaper is a practicum class, and is required for all communication majors to take as part of earning their degrees. This program prepares students for a real newsroom and gives them a chance to spread their wings and learn amongst their peers as to what should be done when producing a news publication.

This semester has been a learning process for all students involved, myself included. This concept--learning--is what a practicum class is based on, and to have this opportunity defunded is an atrocity to students, staff, and faculty alike.

As one member of the Student Fees Board stated, “We didn’t want to leave them with nothing, no starting point. It was more like ‘what can we leave you with where you can do something with it, and make it the best and come back to the Student Fees Board and say ‘this is the progress we’ve made.’” Contrary to popular belief, student fees allocations do not rollover to the next fiscal year.

The money The Chase has leftover is currently in the form of pending transactions for previous prints from this semester and towards computers, which have not been updated since the Communication Department was built in 2006. Without updated computers, our staff writers are unable to utilize their newsroom, as the proper software needed is too far advanced to install on the computers. This issue was explained in detail to the Student Fees Board in both the application submitted for the meeting and during the presentation given. With these necessary purchases, The Chase has been left in the red for the fiscal year of 2016-2017, and unable to print the campus news that our student body deserves.

By defunding the student media, both The Chase and the student radio Houndwaves, the Student Fees Board has violated the First Amendment rights of not only myself as an editor, but every single student in the practicum class, and every single student on campus. According to the Student Press Law Center, “student government officials are subject to the same First Amendment restraints as school administrators. For example, they cannot punish a paper’s staff or advisor or withdraw a publication’s funds for content-based reasons.”

By being told that the decisions of the Student Fees Board are “absolutely final” and that there is no need to revisit the issue, we as journalists are obligated to investigate this claim and attempt to understand why we are being silenced.

Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of Student Press Law Center, put it in the simplest terms: “This move reeks of a retaliatory motive to starve the paper to death.”

If you have any comments or suggestions regarding this particular issue, please do not hesitate to contact me at emma.pennypacker@enmu.edu. Your input is greatly appreciated.

Regards,

Emma Pennypacker

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  Eastern New  Mexico University's student publication of The Chase is a member of the Associated Collegiate Press.

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