The student newspaper at The College of San Mateo is feeling pressure from the school’s administration. The following are some excerpts from an editorial The San Matean published, authored by editor Margaret Baum:
- After 81 years as a student-run First Amendment newspaper, the future of The San Matean is in jeopardy. Faculty-driven recommendations for restructuring the journalism program threaten the paper as a bi-weekly news medium.
A faculty committee presented recommendations from a Program Improvement Viability review that included journalism courses to the Academic Senate in December. The PIV document makes a point that the newspaper needs to be improved: “This committee does not want to impact students’ First Amendment rights to choose the stories covered, but to make this print product one that reflects well on this program and the campus.”
“I respect and understand First Amendment rights, and a student paper should be produced by students with no interference,” wrote President Michael Claire in an e-mail. “But with that right comes the responsibility of producing an accurate paper that is well written.”
While The San Matean appreciates the stated intention of both the faculty and the president to respect First Amendment rights, both statements indicate a desire to control the quality of the newspaper.
The school cannot stop speech because it does not make the school look favorable, said Adam Keigwin, chief of staff for state Sen. Leland Yee, a champion of student First Amendment rights. Misspellings and grammar are protected speech; unless you are committing libel, this is covered by the First Amendment, Keigwin said.
While The San Matean strives for quality and has won many awards, the purpose of a student-run First Amendment newspaper is not to “reflect well” on the campus. The purpose of a student newspaper is to provide campus news coverage and to help students to learn the craft of journalism. A large part of that learning is experiential, and includes making, and learning from, mistakes.
Every publication includes mistakes. The PIV document itself uses “breath” for “breadth” several times. The San Matean strives for accuracy and prints corrections for errors.
One of the recommendations in the PIV document is consolidating communications and media courses under a single digital media program. Classes for the new program are being piloted this fall.
The PIV reads: “There would be five capstone opportunities for the media students … The San Matean, or a similar newspaper, would be the first capstone class/project. The current newspaper publication should be put on a short hiatus and then resurrected and incorporated into this new program. The hiatus is necessary for more investigation to be done on how other college newspapers function, verifying that our program is robust, challenging and one to be proud of.”
“The paper is not being cancelled, the paper is not going on hiatus,” said Kathy Ross, dean of business and technology.
A study of community college journalism programs conducted by journalism professor Toni Albertson at Mt. San Antonio College revealed that of 19 programs put on hiatus, none were restored.
The San Matean appreciates faculty efforts to revamp communications curriculum represented in the PIV, and the administration’s decision to not place the newspaper on hiatus while program changes are being implemented.
… When Ross was asked if the paper would still be printed on a bi-weekly basis, she said that the paper may only come out every three or four weeks.
The San Matean is published for free under a bi-weekly printing agreement with The San Francisco Examiner. This generous donation valued at $16,000 has been granted annually since fall 1993.
“If we lost the free printing agreement then we would need to cover the printing costs out of our operational funds,” said Claire.
… The San Matean is even more concerned how a decrease in publication frequency would affect the newspaper’s value to its readers.
Newspapers must be published on a regular, frequent basis to attract and serve an audience seeking information on issues and events of concern to them. Our readers expect a paper every other week that covers topics relating to educational and extra-curricular pursuits.
… We want our readers to understand that while it is the goal of The San Matean to produce a quality publication, any dictation by faculty or administration of quality standards or how they should be achieved — beyond design of a supportive journalism curriculum — impinges on students’ First Amendment rights.
We invite comment from the entire campus community at firstname.lastname@example.org and on our website at http://www.sanmatean.com.