Oklahoma State Student Senate to Daily O’Collegian: Allow SGA Members to Write for the Paper (@OColly)

In a short, spirited column appearing in today’s Daily O’Collegian at Oklahoma State University, opinion editor C.J. Cavin is forced to reassert a longstanding rule at the paper: Members of the school’s student government are not permitted to serve on staff.

Late last month, the OSU student senate passed legislation stating that SGA members should be allowed to work for the O’CollegianCavin’s column is a response to a recent senate letter sent his way formally requesting the paper follow this new rule.

A portion of Cavin’s response: “While I am definitely against discriminating, it should be noted that this is still a newspaper and they are still a governmental agency.  Our job as journalists is to ensure government is transparent and that we are reporting on the actions of the organization.  In addition to not allowing members of SGA [to] work for the O’Collegian, we also prohibit writers from reporting on groups they are involved in so as to prevent any bias.  For example, our Greek Life reporter cannot be a member of a fraternity or sorority. . . . How much sense would it make if we allowed the government to regulate the free press? Most people would say it wouldn’t make sense.”

Apart from the cringe-inducing attempt by the student senate to force the paper to do what it wants, the related journalism ethics questions are interesting.

Among them: Should SGA members be barred from working for the student newspaper?  Are there any circumstances or roles that would be ethically permissible (say, movie reviewer or ad salesperson)?  Any other campus organizations whose members should not join the campus paper staff?  And what are the rules regarding coverage of individuals, events or issues with which the paper might have a conflict (say, something to do with its adviser, a fellow staffer, its larger student media board, the SGA finance committee that oversees the paper’s budget, its affiliated journalism program, etc.)?

What do you think?

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