FROM THE EDITOR: Reflections on role of campus newspaper
September 8, 2011 1 Comment
Another year has begun for Transylvania University and for The Rambler, a publication that has not always had a consistent presence on our campus. There were many years when the newspaper that you’re holding didn’t publish at all and others when an issue might surface once or twice a semester.
In the past four years, however, The Rambler has been revitalized and rebuilt into a student publication that this campus can be proud of. It’s no small feat for a staff of approximately 20 students to write, take photos, create art and design a completely original six-page issue on a weekly basis.
What’s even more amazing is that we do this with no reward but our own satisfaction when we hold that product in our hands, and the positive feedback we receive from our audience — you.
Since my labors as the design and layout editor of The Rambler for the past 2 1/2 years have finally paid off, I get column space where I can introduce myself to the student body, as well as let you all know my goals and hopes for the paper.
I’m a native of West Chester, Ohio, a farming community that has been turned into suburban hell by the construction of the IKEA store and countless other retailers and neighborhoods. I graduated in a class of about 800 students from Lakota West High School, where I was the editor-in-chief of Voice, our student-run newspaper.
Four years later at Transylvania, I’m now in charge of The Rambler, in addition to being on the women’s golf team and working at the Writing Center as a tutor. I’m a writing, rhetoric and communication and English double major, and this past summer, I was privileged enough to intern at Business Lexington, a biweekly newspaper.
That amazing experience has made me even more excited to be The Rambler’s editor-in-chief for this school year, and I aim to make The Rambler an even more integral part of our campus. We have an incredible staff of talented and intelligent students, and I know that with all of us working together, we will be able to bring the Transy community information and entertainment.
So as part of this introduction, I’d like to share a few things you may not know, and some that you may have forgotten over the summer recess.
The Rambler is a student-run newspaper, not an independent newspaper, and it’s important to understand the difference. The Rambler is run by students, with the guidance of an adviser, but it is printed under the auspices of Transylvania University. In other words, Transylvania picks up the tab for printing The Rambler each week during the school year.
Does that mean that administrators, faculty, staff and even trustees can tell the student staff what to run and, more importantly, what not to run? Technically, the answer to that would be yes. Transylvania University is, in essence, the publisher, and the publisher has the right to publish whatever he or she sees fit.
Luckily, however, Transylvania University (i.e., the administration) saw fit some time ago to give students the right to publish this newspaper free of censorship. It’s in the student handbook, but we’ve excerpted it for you:
“Student-directed publications that are published under the auspices of the University and/or are funded by the University shall be free of censorship. The University shall honor this freedom by publicly recognizing and protecting the student editors’ and managers’ right to establish editorial policies within the bounds of prevailing legal and journalistic standards. Specifically, student editors and managers may not be suspended or removed in response to pressure by individuals or groups disagreeing with editorial policies, positions, or opinions.”
Does that mean that The Rambler can publish anything it wants, without boundaries? No, definitely not. With every privilege and right comes responsibility, and in our case, our responsibility is to establish editorial policies “within the bounds of prevailing legal and journalistic standards.”
And if we fail in doing that job by producing a publication that “endangers lives or property or is patently defamatory,” the student handbook states that the university reserves its right to censor distribution.
So as you can see, this student publication was created for a particular role, but it has also been given careful boundaries.
The purpose of any student newspaper can be summed up with the following in mind: It should chronicle the campus experience, documenting events that range from athletics to administration changes; it should provide an open forum for students, faculty and staff to collaborate and discuss important topics; it should serve as a watchdog that can alert the community of important goings-on; and finally, it should function as an educational tool, preparing all students involved in its production for their careers beyond college.
From a student’s very first day at Transylvania University, he or she is forced to ponder the concept of a liberal arts education. What is it? What purpose does it serve? How does it differ from vocational training? How can we use it to its greatest potential? And so on.
The Rambler, whether for the students working to put it together or for the students, faculty and staff who pick it up and read the words that have been written, is a tool that exemplifies the aims of a liberal arts education.
These aims are to bring together several elements in order to evaluate, analyze and synthesize information into a final product that, first of all, neatly packages such exemplary thought, but at its finest, encourages others to think for themselves and even contribute to the ongoing conversation.
The Rambler has published some stories deemed controversial in the past few years, but we want you to understand that we do not make up the news. We are merely doing what we see as necessary — reporting the news and serving as a forum for students’ opinions, which they have a right to express.
Even though you may not always agree with what we print, I want you to understand two things.
First, we want you to respond to us. We want you to write a letter to the editor. We want you to write a guest column. We want you to respond online. We want your thoughts to be heard and stated plainly for all to see. That’s one of our goals.
Second, our motives are not malicious in any way, shape or form. Good reporters do not run around looking for scandalous stories to sensationalize. But if something does go amiss, or something incredibly important happens, it is a paper’s responsibility to report on it. The paper was created to fulfill such a role, and it must do everything it can to accomplish its goals. Our aim is to be as professional as possible.
There exists a mutual kinship — between a newspaper and its readers. Hopefully such a dynamic exists on this campus.
Just remember that we, The Rambler’s staff, do this because we love this paper. We love this school. We want every aspect of Transylvania to be envied among other colleges in every part of the nation, and that includes our newspaper.
We are passionate, and I urge you to find something you can be just as passionate about that will help transform this campus into one that has seized all of its potential. After all, we are pioneers.