In the wake of the Oregon Daily Emerald strike, I’ve heard a lot of people on campus say that it was little more than a publicity stunt. I’ve even been asked if I regret supporting the strike. The short answer is no.
Even if the methods and process of the strike were a little dubious, which even some of the ODE staffers will admit, I still support the decision because I think independent newspapers are a vital public service. Believe it or not, all of these “obsolete” newspapers still act as a powerful check on government, and student governments and college administrations would like nothing more than to be free of them.
For example, the faculty adviser of the student newspaper at Clark College was mysteriously denied tenure after she pushed the paper to do more critical reporting on the administration. (She also fought the administration’s desire to pre-screen articles.)
Or there is there is the ongoing battle at Montclair State between the paper and the student government. The paper is currently suing the student government for breaking public meeting law. Last year, the student government froze the paper’s budget during a battle over the government’s decidedly odd habit of meeting in private.
OR take Western Oregon University for another example. WOU fired a faculty newspaper adviser and disciplined a student journalist after the daily paper revealed a serious privacy flaw in WOU’s computer system.
These are all examples from college papers, but this happens at every level. David Simon, creator of The Wire, recently wrote an article about how the city of Baltimore is running ramshod over public record laws in lieu of an aggressive newspaper presence.
Which is why I can’t fathom why some technophiles and bloggers are gleeful about the death of newspapers. I mean, if you like your government to do whatever it pleases without oversight or accountability, by all means, throw a party because the future’s looking great.