Monday, March 07, 2005
Journalism "rules": There's an inside-baseball controversy at Rutgers University over the school paper's decision not to publish an investigative article -- and to not accept the article as a paid advertisement. If you follow the links, you can find the article -- an "expose" of some of the perks student athletes receive.
The article has some pretty obvious problems -- a major one is news value. Student athletes get perks -- that's not news to any college student. If I were the editor, I would've sent it back for more reporting -- it's definitely one-sided.
Setting that aside, what's really scary is the chairman of the Rutger's journalism department.
John Pavlik, chairman of the university's journalism department, decreed students in its investigative journalism course may not write about the university. He says he wants students to see "the real world" -- as if Rutgers were, somehow, not real.
There is, however, an enormous difference between encouraging students to look for stories beyond campus -- and forbidding them to look into what happens on campus, especially when it's a publicly funded campus and could use all the scrutiny it can get.
"It was an educational decision," Pavlik says. "There's a difference between teaching journalism and practicing it."
"We tell students to mine the campus for stories," says Linn Washington, a Temple professor who teaches investigative reporting.
David Klatell, vice dean at Columbia, called Pavlik's comments "utterly incorrect -- we do not have such a policy, did not have one, and would not have one."
"Well, I'm surprised," says Pavlik, who taught at Columbia. Guess we all are.
I'm surprised that Pavlik is surprised. Somehow a university newspaper isn't supposed to cover the university? Is he teaching journalism or public relations?
When I was in college, I won the California Intercollegiate Press Association's first place award for investigative reporting, along with Len Arends, for a long report on a harrassment/whistleblower case against Cal Poly's vice president for information systems. It was the second piece I'd written on the v.p. -- neither one of them was something the v.p. would cut out and put in his scrapbook.
I'd be wary of hiring a Rutgers j-school graduate if this is the sort of "education" they're getting.
Journalism's problems are largely self-inflicted.