Facebook Group Condemns Chico State Student Newspaper

A new Facebook group criticizing The Orion at California State University, Chico, has ballooned to more than 900 members.  It has even prompted a story in a nearby alternative weekly.

The group, “Students Against The Orion Newspaper,” asks potential members: “Are you tired of the slanted reporting by The Orion? Are you tired of The Orion bashing your student organization, never reporting anything positive or constructive about your groups?”  (If you answered no, you probably should not join the group.) :-)

The paper’s most outspoken critics fall into two main camps (although not exclusively): 1) Students affiliated with campus Greek organizations concerned about what they feel has been repeatedly anti-Greek sentiments in the newspaper.  And 2) Student participants or supporters of the “moderated tag game” Humans versus Zombies, who remain angry about a mid-April Orion opinion column bashing the game as “shameful and outright disgusting” and calling student players “childish punks,” “miscreants” and “morally incompetent.”

The Facebook group is called "Students Against The Orion Newspaper."

The focus of the group’s ire and the venue in which critics are carrying out their anti-Orion crusade are interesting for three reasons:

1) Shows a lack of understanding about the function of a student news outlet.  For example, Larry Pinto, the group’s founder, complains about an Orion article discussing the minor controversy of a fraternity selling sombreros on César Chávez Day to raise money for charity.  In Pinto’s view, “the paper should have recognized the group for handing out informative pamphlets regarding Chávez, in addition to raising hundreds of dollars for a good cause.”  In his words: “The Orion is far more concerned with reporting scandals than they are with covering the good things student organizations accomplish- the civic engagement, fundraisers and community service.  Why doesn’t the Orion talk about when the students do things right?

My answer: Because the Orion is not your PR machine!  Groups raise money for things all the time.  That is hardly ever worth an individual story.  When a frat engages in an ethnically questionable decision that sparks students’ concerns, that’s a story.  It is not about the fact that it’s negative.  It’s about the fact that it’s newsworthy.

2) Shows a lack of understanding about the role of opinion writing. Apparently, some students are teeming with anger over an Orion opinion writer’s negative take on this HvZ game.  As an Orion piece mentions, “There are 300 comments and counting on Anthony Siino’s opinion column about the Humans vs. Zombies game- by far the most attention and public voice a piece in the Orion has received in a long time.”

Now is it students’ right to vent and offer feedback?  Yes.  Should editors have slightly toned down the more inflammatory portions of the columnist’s rhetoric? Perhaps.  But blaming the newspaper for a single writer’s anti-HvZ stand is misguided.  The newspaper is not necessarily anti-HvZ.  There are probably staffers who support the game.  Opinion columns are meant to reflect individual authors’ views.  And an opinion section is meant to reflect a diversity of opinions.  A lone writer does not like HvZ.  That is not the Orion‘s fault.  In fact, the paper should be celebrated for offering him a free space to offer his views.

3) Provides further proof that social networking allows for a new form of organized protest against the campus press.  This is the latest in a string of Facebook groups formed to combat perceived or actual student media injustices.  While the groups’ credibility and intentions vary, the method they are using to express their mad-ness (at times without the hyphen) exposes a powerful truth: Angry readers no longer have to write a letter to the editor or start a full-blown alternative outlet to get their voices heard.  With a few keystrokes and e-mail invites, they can start a storm, in this case one large enough to force a meeting with the incoming Orion editor and a story in the local press.

A student plays dead in a Humans versus Zombies contest at Goucher College.

P.S. It must be written, the Chico News & Review article touting the critics’ complaints is quite biased, starting with the headline, “Newspaper Under the Microscope: Chico State’s Student-Run Weekly is Unpopular with Many on Campus.” My question: How is a single Facebook group expressing anger about some of the newspaper’s content equivalent to it being put under the microscope? That is just inflammatory. The sub-hed, meanwhile, is just inaccurate. Chico State has more than 17,000 students. A bit more than 900 have joined the Facebook group bashing the paper. That does not make the paper unpopular with “many on campus.” That’s less than 5 percent of the student body (and that’s assuming the group members are current Chico State students)!

2 Responses to “Facebook Group Condemns Chico State Student Newspaper”
  1. Michael Westendorf says:

    Excellent analysis, Dan. Spot on.

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