Should the Student Press Have Opinions About the Outside World?

Should the student press have opinions about the outside world?

That was the question under consideration fairly recently in The Rebel Yell. In its first summer edition, the UNLV student newspaper featured an op-ed from doctoral student Dede Anderson criticizing the paper’s new policy of sticking to local or campus-specific commentaries in its Opinion section.

As editors explained in a brief note after Anderson’s piece, “The Rebel Yell is taking a hyperlocal focus on its content. The Opinion section is now urging its writers to reflect this style.”

In response, Anderson argues this urging is not reflective of everything students want to read — or write — about within college media. As a Rebel Yell contributor, she also believes the restriction is a direct infringement upon her First Amendment rights.

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A portion of her op-ed, which to their credit editors published as the lead in the Opinion section:

“Apparently it is not acceptable to have an opinion about anything other than the student government, organizations, classes or UNLV itself. I was recently informed of this new limitation and had an immediate reaction. . . . Instead of being able to read opinions on a myriad of topics that affect not only our small community, but also the nation and the world, you will now be throttled down to reading about opinions that pertain only to a tiny segment of the community. . . . I want UNLV to aspire to be the best it can be in all respects, as I am sure all of you might agree. Why shouldn’t our paper tackle the big ideas of life and not be afraid to consider all opinions and ideas without anger and judgment? Why shouldn’t we, the student body of UNLV, lead the country in exploring new thoughts and stand alongside NPR with the motto of ‘All Things Considered’?”

I’ve reached out to Rebel Yell’s current EIC Alexia Shurmur for her perspectives on the paper’s new policy. I’ll post her response if and when I hear from her.

In the meantime, what do you think? Should student press opinions stick to what its staffers know best and cover most? Or should they cover the whole wide world, when pertinent– from the student perspective?

Related

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Comments
5 Responses to “Should the Student Press Have Opinions About the Outside World?”
  1. Allan says:

    As a former college newspaper editor, I struggled with this often. I often wanted to push for broader perspectives, while the rest of my editorial board wanted to stay hyper-local. If you have something meaningful to say from the student perspective, I see no reason not to say it. Students may not look to you for their primary source of national news, but that doesn’t mean they won’t read a thoughtful take on what the presidential election means to students, for example. Don’t pretend to have expertise you don’t have, but be willing to engage any issue that is relevant to your readers.

  2. Geoff Lister says:

    Can I provide the insight that Andrew Coyne can on the front page of the National Post?

    No.

    Can one of my writers argue as eloquently about world economics as Paul Krugman can for the New York Times No. Do my readers care about our story on world hunger? According to my web stats, no.

    Student papers are in a unique position to talk about what is happening in their immediate community and provide coverage that no other outlet will touch. Readers no longer stick to one paper and we compete with two free dailies and two free weeklies that publish about the world and Vancouver.

    But nowhere else can you hear about other UBC students, what’s happening on your campus, and get a decent opinion about what that means for you. Our rule is simple: Did it happen on campus, to/with/because of a UBC community member or did it affect the university/university community? Then go for it. Otherwise we leave it be.

  3. Derrick says:

    As a current EIC of a student newspaper, I think the problem is simply one of focus: your newspaper should do what it does well. If that’s hyperlocal coverage, then good on you for sticking to that. No one else can do that better. I would imagine that the Rebel Yell’s editors aren’t trying to “limit writer’s views” as the contributor put it, but instead are trying to provide students with a product that does one thing as best as it can, and they want to ensure there are diverse opinions about local issues. In my view it is their job to ensure that this type of content is included, which explains the policy, though as Allan says above, if someone has something meaningful to say from a student perspective that shouldn’t be restricted either. It was not clear to me if the policy is there to encourage more writing about campus issues or to completely block out writing about other topics. If it is the first one then there is really no issue here, though if it is the second one they may want to rethink taking such a hard line.

  4. Erik says:

    Someone apparently doesn’t understand the First Amendment. Quick hint: It does not require newspapers to print whatever anyone wants them to.

  5. Kelly says:

    As a former student journalist myself, I believe college students should absolutely have the right to voice their opinions about those matters which they feel strongly about whether they be at their college campus or abroad. College students are the youngest generation of adults and our views will shape the near future of this world we live in. We need to join in on the conversations taking place in our country and the world and in all aspects. How and why can it be considered appropriate to have an opinion about our university’s new dining choices, but not about new laws and political leaders? Is the college campus not affected by things too? I’m sure plenty of students have a lot to say about The Affordable Care Act knowing that in October of this year “insurance supermarkets” will be open for business. I know people who lie on both sides of the debate behind this Act. Will this not affect college students? And what about the LGBT community? Why do the laws being passed in The Supreme Court have to stay outside of the student newspaper. This is history in action and we are members of our country and, even larger, the world. Students should be encouraged to say what is on their mind. Maybe, just maybe, then our current leaders will hear us and acknowledge us.