Starting next week, I will take an in-depth look into the operations of college newspapers across the country to assess their level of collegiate press freedom.
Importance of free press
A free press is necessary in any functioning democracy; but it’s extremely vital in institutions of higher education, which are almost autocratic in nature with a controlling President or Chancellor.
While I think the intentions of most college administrations are good, they aren’t elected by the population they directly serve, the student body. This may be necessary because generally students don’t know what’s best for their own academic gain. But students can still get involved in administrative decisions by participating in their college’s version of a student government.
While the higher education model has its workable kinks and advantages, it requires a reporting service that hyperlocally checks a college administration or student government’s actions for the student body: a student newspaper.
I will follow these guidelines when conducting my research. I will add more points to this post during the research process because this is a new learning experience for me.
- I will go state-by-state and post my findings on this blog. I will start with my home state, Illinois.
- I will base my results on my conversations with student newspapers, college administrations and student governments at institutions with notable newspapers.
- Because I’m still a student at the University of Kansas and will not be able to travel, my interviews will be done through email and phone.
- I will do enough reporting to understand the structure of the news organization, college administration and student government.
- I will understand the relationships between the three organizations.
- I will consider the current media laws in each state while making a judgment on the level of free press at college media.
- I will rate schools in comparison to the state, not the whole nation; different states have different laws. This will be done after I have reported on all of the college newspapers possible in the whole state.
- I will use a traditional academic grading scale (A+ through D- and failing) to rate the different schools. Those grades will be based on scores from zero to 100. When I establish a solid criteria, I will post it on here.
As I said in my first post, I experienced an attack on student media firsthand. While this incident led to the creation of this site and my interest in college media rights, I will be as dispassionate as possible with my reporting. I want to expose violations of free press on college campuses but I also want to reward institutions that value student reporting with praise.
Because I’m an undergraduate journalism student and a news editor at a major daily college newspaper, my time is devoted first and second to those responsibilities. This project will be done during my free time (probably replacing video game time, which is a good thing right?) even if it may lead to a less comprehensive social life.
Enterprise reporting is new to me, and I consider this a tremendous project that will take me two or more years to complete alone. I may not even complete it, but the end result isn’t the goal. My aim for this project is to learn more about college media rights and share that knowledge with you through the experience of my reporting.
If anyone has suggestions on how I can better approach this project, please comment. I crave criticism and advice!