Rider implements media access policy

By Theresa Evans

A new Media Access Policy was implemented immediately after Jonathan Millen, dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences (CLAS), announced the policy in a campus-wide email on Nov. 8. 

The policy was created by a committee composed of administrators, faculty from the department of communication and journalism and students involved with campus media. 

President Gregory Dell’Omo directed Millen to form the committee and draft the policy.     

“Working through the summer and into the fall semester, the committee researched policies that have been enacted on other college campuses, reviewed professional guidelines and assessed the immediate needs of the Rider campus community,” Millen wrote. “Beginning with a presumption of openness, the challenge was to balance the expectations of the media with the right to privacy by various stakeholders in a variety of different circumstances and scenarios.”

According to Pamela Brown, director of the master of arts in business communication program, within the last year there were “disturbing incidents” where campus media was denied access to campus meetings and events. The policy was created to clarify what events campus media has access to. 

“The membership mix of the committee—representatives of the journalism faculty, student media, University Communications, the CLAS dean’s office, student affairs and legal affairs—was ideal for addressing the issues while considering the interests of all relevant groups,” said Brown. “Our discussions especially were enlightened by the input of the student members who will be affected regularly by the policy as they endeavor to provide the campus with thorough news coverage. Of course, the policy also addresses access by external news media.”

The policy indicated that even though Rider was a private institution, the university was open to the public and the media. 

It was stated in the policy that “The university’s starting position toward media is a presumption of openness. External media access, however, may be managed to protect the learning environment and members of the university community’s reasonable expectations of privacy on a residential campus.”

Shanna O’Mara, a former journalism major and managing editor for the Rider News, believed that the policy is necessary for student media. 

“Student journalists are in an unusual position because they are not third-party reporters who have no personal stake in the matters being investigated or discussed,” she said. “They are also not blindly loyal members of the university community.”

O’Mara was denied access to meetings and events during her time at Rider. 

“We are taught to be fair but critical, curious but respectful,” said O’Mara. “I was turned away from some Rider meetings and events because I was representing a media group, but I was also a student who cared about the issues at hand like the fate of Westminster Choir College. It was uncomfortable to be told to sit in the hall while my classmates were welcomed into a forum or to be told my presence made parents, students or administration feel threatened because of what I may write in that week’s paper. 

I was shut out and silenced to prevent them from being shut out and silenced. It made no sense, and the rules seemed to change every time the Rider News or another media group challenged them. I hope this new policy provides the consistency and clarity we’ve needed for quite some time, especially recently as the university undergoes some major changes.” 

The policy promised student media the same freedoms granted to external media with limitations only during private events, emergencies and circumstances where there is an expectation of privacy. 

“Through lively discussion and goodwill, I believe the committee crafted a very good policy,” said Brown. “I’m pleased it has been adopted by the university.”

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