Faculty tackles Journey

I read Wesley Martin’s defense of his Face-off column published in Journey magazine, and I’m happy he mentioned that the journalism faculty were not pleased. I was one of those faculty members.

I did not speak directly to Mr. Martin, but my sentiments were expressed and addressed in his newspaper column. Therefore, let me respond.

I am sure faculty across this campus are railing against the journalism faculty in astonishment wondering how could we let this happen. The answer is quite easy. How could we not?

We don’t usually practice breaking the law by infringing on student’s first amendment rights. We are not censors.

We don’t always like what they publish, but the tenets of our profession say that we must defend their right to have their say. But with this right comes responsibility, particularly social responsibility. Perhaps that caveat was overlooked or forgotten.

We do lend advice to student editors, but the onus is on them to heed the advice. No grades are assigned for work in student media.

I have not read the column in Journey magazine because I choose not to be offended. The article’s contents were whispered to me during a faculty meeting.

I am happy that I was forewarned, but other readers might not be as fortunate. There is the problem.

In journalism, most of the time we don’t know the magnitude of an offense until it has occurred.

We must apply our skill to choose the correct words to address a topic that needs discussing. We should not call so much attention to the writing until the message is lost. That would be poor journalism.

The naiveté of the newspaper column concerns me.

Acknowledging that the piece only reflects the views of the writer is grossly na’ve. Writers don’t get to make that call and don’t determine how their literature is used, disseminated or criticized. The readers do.

Once the ideas have been catapulted into the marketplace, the writer has lost control and must deal with the accolades or backlash without rebuttal.

I applaud the aspirations of the student editors who work in student publications. This is a pay-your-dues profession.

One day, they will write for Cosmo, Maxim, or even Esquire, but there is still much learning to be done.

Furthermore, those publications do not have to be the standard of this student body. Students should be in the business of fostering new and creative ideas, not solely mimicking those of mainstream media.

Perhaps that’s a life lesson that will only be learned through experience. Therefore, as a faculty member, I am obliged to let life be the teacher.

Valerie D. White is an assistant professor of journalism and former adviser of The Famuan. She can be reached at valerie.white@famu.edu.