Societal Ignorance

It is a shame that in today’s society people are still ignorant to the rights and responsibilities of journalists, and even more important, student journalists. Every day, student newspapers are ridiculed for not serving as public relations tools for student organizations, administration and faculty.

This is not the job nor purpose of journalism. Journalism is the practice of presenting facts and descriptions of events with the attempt to inform, entertain and sometimes persuade the public to take action. Journalists do not have to promise prominent placement or even coverage of a story. And finally, a student newspaper should reflect the work of student journalists.

The editorial staff of The Hampton Script at Hampton University made an admirable move by refusing to print a memorandum written by the university’s acting president JoAnn Haysbert on the first page of the newspaper’s Oct. 22 homecoming issue. The editors said the first page is reserved for news, ran a news story on the same topic of the memorandum on the front page and ran the memorandum on the third page.

Furious, the administration confiscated the entire press run of the newspaper and transported it to a storage area. The editorial staff was placed in a difficult position. Either stand behind their initial decision and forfeit the homecoming issue, or redesign the newspaper, to the administration’s liking, and have a newspaper they could not completely call their own.

Sadly, on Oct. 24, the editorial staff of The Hampton Script gave in to the administration and agreed to print the memorandum on the front page. The acting president agreed, in exchange, to create a task force to better understand the purpose of the newspaper to the university. With any luck, this task force will inform the administration that the student newspaper was not placed on this earth to serve as a public relations tool for the university, or for anyone.

The editors of The Hampton Script call this a step in the right direction, but in reality, it is a step in the wrong direction for student journalism. A professional newspaper would never print a memorandum from its corporate office on the front page of the publication, even if it meant a reduction in funding, hostility toward the editorial staff or unjust punishment. Student journalists are placed in difficult positions every day but must remember they are training to one day become professional journalists in every aspect of the word. If Haysbert wrote a memorandum about a new program to recycle dust would The Hampton Script be forced to print that on page one, too?

Elizabeth Broadway for the Editorial Board