Journalism in danger

In autumn, the editor of the Rocky Mountain Collegian, a student newspaper at Colorado State, came under pressure from numerous sources for the message of a staff editorial; the now infamous “Taser this: F— BUSH!”The storm has passed, but there are still-lingering questions of freedoms and freedom of speech – especially within the realm of college journalism. We do not necessarily agree with the message of the Collegian, but we support, above all, their ability to express their own opinion as an independent student publication. But for the Collegian, it did not stop there.The very same paper has become the target of possible acquisition by media giant Gannett, a corporation that owns dozens of daily newspapers including USA Today and the BurlingtonFree Press. Whether or not this was brought on by the sour taste left by the editorial we have no idea.What we do know, though, is that Gannett already owns two college newspapers in Florida — one at Central Florida and the other at Florida State.This scares us. While Gannett’s acquisitions may not necessarily prove detrimental to individual papers, such moves nevertheless invite the opportunity for what should be free and independent sources of news to become exploited and consolidated by profit-driven corporations. And there are other problems facing us. Most recently — this past January — we learned that the Student Government Association (SGA) at Montclair State University in New Jersey froze the account of the student newspaper, The Montclarion, effectively prohibiting their publication in print. The reason? The Montclarion had asked for and been granted money for private legal counsel by its SGA — the paper, as a direct subdivision, wanted non-SGA legal representation for their actions, all in the pursuit of media freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights.The publication was seeking advice on how to gain access to SGA meetings under public meeting laws in New Jersey. The Montclair SGA president and treasurer moved to freeze the account because the leaders of the paper would not cede their correspondence with their attorney — the Montclair SGA requires that all organizations’ records must be open to them at all times — under the principle of attorney- client privilege.The struggle at Montclair has implications that reach far beyond the borders of the New Jersey campus. It’s an issue of independence and of freedom of the press and, as we have hinted at here, the foundations of an independent press, and therefore the foundations of our democracy are in danger.We support The Montclarion’s pursuit of independence. We consider it vital to a healthy society, and hope that you do too.We ask that students all across the nation, and the numerous papers representing their institutions join us in solidarity and support of The Montclarion and any other papers that may feel threatened by similar circumstances.