Stony Brook Journalism Students Face Source Stonewalling

Student journalists at Stony Brook University are facing a stonewalling from campus sources that is undermining their ability to practice and learn the craft, a professor in the SBU School of Journalism wrote earlier this month.

According to j-prof Barbara Selvin, a heavy-handed university media relations team has increasingly “created an atmosphere in which nearly every administrator refers all questions to [the media relations head].”

As she posted on her blog (screenshot below), “Those who spoke to student journalists directly in the past have gradually stopped doing so. Officials deny student reporters access to any event that hasn’t received her explicit approval for coverage. Last month, one of my colleagues had his broadcast students turned away from a hot-dog eating contest because she hadn’t signed off on their presence.”

The post has sparked intense online discussion, including more than 30 comments from SBU students and alumni- and an impassioned response from Lauren Sheprow, the head of SBU media relations.  It also spurred an editorial in last week’s Stony Brook Press, headlined “Stonewall Sheprow,” confirming Selvin’s criticisms.  As a portion of that piece notes:

Lauren Sheprow, the Director of Media Relations, has spearheaded this tug-of-war [between SBU student media and media relations] with an incessant expansion of control, a frighteningly stalwart commitment to bureaucratic paperwork and a stance on public relations that leaves little growing room for educational journalism. Sheprow has become infamous for her ability to circumvent and stonewall student journalists, as well as exercise Media Relations’ grip over an increasing amount of the campus, from RAs to dining hall managers.

In an e-mail to the Press, Sheprow stated, “I appreciate that students have assignments to complete . . . at the same time, it is up to individuals on campus to decide if they want to participate in interviews.”

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