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The Statesman

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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Newsletter

    GOVERNMENT AND JOURNALISM AT SBU

    Student journalism is an integral part of student life on a college campus,maybe not exclusively for student government, but I would argue especially forstudent government. We pass a multi-million dollar budget with students’#146;money, we speak with administrators regarding students’#146; concerns, and wedebate issues that are important to students. As constituents, the thousandsof students on campus have a responsibility and a right to know what is beingdone on their behalf by the government they elect.

    Of course, the easiest and most beneficial way would be direct contact. Speakingdirectly with student government officials while attending the various meetingswould be a sure-fire way to increase awareness. However, this cannot alwayshappen. Hectic schedules and activityconflicts no doubt prevent hundreds fromattending meetings in person, as they do on every level’#151;be it local, state,or national. People depend on journalists to keep them informed on a consistentbasis, and journalists depend on people to keep up-to-date on issues and givethem feedback. That circular relationship needs permanent strengthening at StonyBrook.

    To begin, the wide variety of media outlets on campus reach most members ofour diverse student body. Statesman, of course, is read by most on campus, whileothers such as The Press, Blackworld, En Accion, and Shelanu are all read bymany, while reaching out to a specific demographic of students. Moreover, WUSBand SBU-TV are other avenues that have the potential to be heard and seen byeveryone. All outlets, therefore, have the ability to bring students closerto the government representing them. The question, then, is how to accomplishthis important task.

    The easiest way, of course, is for the media to act as a ‘middle man’between students and the branches of government. Media coverage of meetingsand debates give journalists instant access to issues, sources, and quotes,which can then be transferred directly to the subsequent articles. For example,once the impeachment news broke during Spring 2001, two Statesman reportersbecame the Senate beat writers, attending the weekly meetings and talking withSenators themselves for quotes on the issues. Moreover, SBU-TV began filmingour meetings at around the same time, allowing students to see an unedited versionof the meetings from the comfort of their dorm rooms.

    While these were steps in the right direction, they should be expanded throughoutthe whole year. With Senate meetings being held on Wednesday evenings, studentscan get the news right away in Thursday’#146;s Statesman edition, and see themeetings on TV, ala C-SPAN coverage of the U.S. Senate.

    The Press and Blackworld, arguably the two most popular ‘special interest’publications, should follow suit. Naturally, since these publications are biweekly,the news won’#146;t be as fresh to students. However, the delay between issueshas its positive side as well. The time span allows more in-depth analysis,rather than just bare-bones facts, so reporters can provide a more thoroughexamination of recent events.

    Respective readers of each paper would benefit as a result.

    While reporters have a responsibility to cover student government meetings,so too do student government officials have an equal responsibility in havingtheir meetings more accessible to reporters. Senate meetings, as mentioned earlier,are scheduled favorably so far as Statesman is concerned, and their locationin the Union bi-level is onefloor above each of the publishing rooms, anotherplus.

    On the other hand, Polity Council meetings are held at awfully varied times.A meeting might be held at 8:00 am one day, and 5:00 pm the next. While difficultto find a time to suit everybody, these meetings should be held in a more uniformtime, and a greater advertising campaign should be instituted to inform peopleof time and place. Speaking of place, most Council meetings take place in thecramped quarters of the president’#146;s office. A more open space, perhapsin one of the SAC classrooms, would help to provide a more comfortable and accessibleatmosphere for such meetings.

    Furthermore, our media outlets would do well to throw their own opinions intothe mix more often. The editorial page of a newspaper is unique in that it isthe only section which is permitted to be subjective on the issues. The editorialpages of publications such as the New York Times and Washington Post are heldin high regard and carrytremendous influence. One could even argue that thesepapers are defined by their editorial page. All of our media should let theirreaders know the opinions of the editors, especially thoughts on administrativeactions and strong candidate endorsements during election seasons.

    So as we enter a fresh semester at the start of a brand new year, the forecastis bright. The media have proved themselves to be a viable force in our campuscommunity. The task in front of it now is to notonly continue the trend, butto surpass previous years’#146; efforts. With strong direction and a commitmentto students, our media will utilize its potential to attain a heretofore unknownstandard of excellence in the realm of student government coverage.

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