Matt Carberry (kingpin248) wrote,
Matt Carberry
kingpin248

On collegiate journalism.

Though I never wrote for either The Cornell Daily Sun or The Hofstra Chronicle, I have a soft spot for both papers. And both have crossed my radar particularly closely in recent days.

On April 20, the Sun ran four pages of content about a certain plant associated with that day of the year, including depictions of said plant's leaves on the cover. I didn't think much of it until last Friday, when the paper ran the editorial "Protecting Our Independence." Copies of the cover on newsstands in the administration building had their covers removed. To borrow the words of Jackie Chiles, the Sun's editorial board was shocked and chagrined, mortified and stupefied! They "find this to be an affront to [their] editorial independence," and conclude by stating that "[c]urbing speech, no matter the scale, has absolutely no place on a college campus." I agree, and applaud the paper for bringing this to light.

But when I first read that piece, I shook my head and chuckled, because I felt the Sun was very late to the party on this issue. Specifically, I recalled another editorial written twenty-six months ago, in which a different editorial board made an astounding claim. Urging the addition of an anti-discrimination clause to the Code of Conduct, the Sun "[denied] that Cornell should provide such unrestrained First Amendment rights to its students in the first place." I made a comment on Friday's editorial pointing this out. Shortly thereafter, I realized that there had been three editorial board changes since February 2010 (the Sun hands off to a new board at the beginning of March), and thus the current board has no holdovers from the 127th. I wrote a letter to the editor pointing out the discrepancy. I also reminded the current Editorial Board that it has taken an unequivocal position from which it cannot retreat for the remainder of its term, lest it be revealed as blatantly hypocritical. As yet, this letter has not run, but I don't blame the Sun if it doesn't - this being the last week of publication for the academic year, I'd understand if as much space as possible were being held for departing seniors to write their farewell columns.

The title of Friday's editorial - and the words "Independent Since 1880" that appear atop the Daily Sun's masthead - ring ever more true in light of what's going on at my real alma mater. Tonight, Hofstra's Student Government Association will decide on a new allocation of club space on the second floor of the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center. Should it be approved, the Hofstra Chronicle will be forced to vacate its current space in room 203 and move into a much smaller room across the hall. The Chronicle has been in its current location for about half a century. Put another way, that's two-thirds of the entire history of Hofstra University. It's the only club - and probably one of the few things on campus whatsoever - whose history runs all the way back to the founding. While such other traditions as the "Flying Dutchmen" nickname and the "football team" have passed into antiquity, the Chronicle remains. It's as much a part of Hofstra as any of the buildings on its campus.

David Gordon's letter to SGA lays out the facts well. But I was more moved by the thoughts of Jerry Beach '96 and Ryan Broderick '11. Reading about the connections between generations and the relationships forged in the Chronicle's newsroom reminded me of the band room at Cornell. When I was in Ithaca a month ago, I sat in that room again, and remembered the spot where, on my third night at Cornell, I saw something that made it clear I was in an entirely new world. I imagine that the various Chronicle staffs have their own sets of similar memories. So even though I've never stepped foot in room 203, I can appreciate the importance it has to a great number of people.

I'd say that the justifications for booting the Chronicle out are insufficient. But that would be inaccurate, because I haven't seen any such justifications offered. It's really too bad that the Chronicle doesn't have the resources to break away from Hofstra's club structure (at least, I don't think it does). Change solely for the sake of change is bad enough - but possibly worse is change for the sake of generating warm fuzzy feelings for the members of what Broderick called a "pretend congress."

(EDIT, 2 May, 10:15 pm: I just received an email from the Sun's editorial staff informing me that my letter will run in Thursday's edition. Here it is.)
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