As student journalists, we are taught to be bold, courageous and curious about the world’s events, both big and small. Always ask questions, never settle for “no,” drive for success — these qualities are drilled into our heads as we embark on our professional journeys. We can’t allow these traits to be taken away from us, or else we sacrifice the journalistic integrity we sought at Rider.
Working within the student media, we are responsible for covering every campus event and news story out there. We keep the campus community informed, impartially reporting on instances of conflict and controversy.
With the ongoing events regarding the sale of Westminster Choir College, some administrators have made it difficult for student reporters to do their job. Last week, The Rider News was restricted from two meetings about the future of our Princeton campus. The first was a Nov. 2 faculty and staff meeting with President Gregory Dell’Omo, Westminster College of the Arts Dean Marshall Onofrio, Board of Trustees chairman Robert Schimek and general counsel Mark Solomon. A security guard outside Bristol Chapel stopped two Rider News reporters from entering the meeting, claiming it was open to “faculty only.” Two Westminster professors found out and led the reporters in.
The second event was a parents’ forum on Nov. 4 in Hillman Hall. The Parents of Enrolled Westminster Students group requested a meeting with these four men under the condition that press be restricted from the room. The reporter was kept outside as a vote was held to determine whether or not she should be allowed in. The parent who helped organize the event said the majority initially voted to allow the reporter in, but then the minority argued against it, shifting the group opinion. University spokeswoman Kristine Brown confirmed this. The reporter was not permitted to argue for the community benefit of press access, and she was forced to wait in the hallway for three hours until parents exited the meeting and decided whether or not they wanted to speak on the record.
This comes just one week after student journalists were told they couldn’t live-tweet the Kate Hudson event as an academic assignment. Professor Nancy Wiencek wanted to give students in the Rider Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America an opportunity to live-tweet. However, students were prohibited from taking photos and covering the event. Wiencek was told that there were no press passes available and if students wished to attend, they had to purchase a $40 ticket, after the first 200 Rider students recieved free admission. Audience members spotted with phones out were asked to put them away before the event even started. At an event with seating for 1,000 and no reasonable expectation of privacy, the university administration chose to adhere to the demands of a celebrity and an outside event sponsor, Princeton Healthcare System, instead of upholding the principles of learning and knowledge-sharing that are critical to the mission of any academic institution.
A large percentage of our grade as communications and journalism students involves going to events to live-tweet, take photos, record and report. The fact that we are being banned from covering these events is inappropriate, when we are expected to put into practice what we learn in the classroom. How else are we supposed to gain knowledge and hands-on experience within the industry?
A dangerous trend has begun; outsiders are being allowed to decide when and where we student journalists can report, and Rider’s administration is not stepping in to protect us. Some pay over $40,000 per year to attend this school and learn a profession that our president is not allowing us to practice on our own campus.
The blockage of student media access and coverage is simply unacceptable. Student journalists should not be forced to listen through the cracks of a door in an academic building to get important news. We should not have to worry about our grade dropping because of the refusal of social media access or photo restrictions.
College newspapers are expected to be experts on their college campuses, but this is unrealistic if we aren’t able to practice extensive coverage. We are not the bad guys. We keep the student body and faculty members informed and we do it fairly. We have every right to take notes on school events, interview students, staff and faculty members and dig deeper into our stories as future media professionals.
We attend Rider for its remarkable communications and journalism majors, award-winning newspaper, TV and radio stations, but there is no way to continue this credibility and success if we are unable to report on crucial events within our own campus community.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the opinion editor, Hayley Fahey.
Printed in the 11/08/17 issue.