Sept. 17, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • 11:05 PM EST
Oh my God! It's an up-to-date posting with a valid opinion (but with a generic First Amendment graphic - geez, you can't get it all).
Hartford native Elizabeth Torres is a solid human being. She is a survivor, and she is only a college student, attending Central Connecticut State University. She is a journalist and an activist.
I’ve known Elizabeth since 2002. And last spring, I was eating lunch with my mom and my niece at a restaurant in Watertown when Elizabeth called my cell phone.
She could barely contain her outrage with the “satire” rape story in the CCSU weekly newspaper the Recorder. She wanted the editor fired, and she was passionate about justice here.
We discussed how the staff at Echoes from the Streets, where Elizabeth and I worked together, might have handled the problem of printing stories like that one. She calmed down, and looked for a more reasonable, than emotional approach.
Editor Mark Rowan stayed on. But I am sure Elizabeth’s Boricua blood is boiling right now over the cartoon that Rowan and the Recorder just published that suggests sexually abusing a kidnapped pre-pubescent Latina.
Since I am in Bermuda right now, I can’t phone up Elizabeth and ask her what she thinks of the cartoon. If I know Elizabeth, though, she is at the front lines of the controversy. And I hope she has less mercy on the editor now than I counseled her to have back in the spring.
Clearly, as far as student journalism goes, the CCSU Recorder is stirring the pot, but in the wrong way. I read at CTLocalPolitics.com that the problem is not just bad editorial judgment, but a recruiting issue.
The Recorder can’t find good students to work for it, the argument goes, so it relies on “less talented” students to fill space, and thus the stupid stuff gets into print.
Yes, staffs are thin at college papers, what with students having to work six jobs to pay for their education. But the recruiting issue at the Recorder is a symptom of the larger problem with scholastic journalism: lack of support and vision for the school news missions at all levels of education in state.
The CCSU Recorder or the ECSU Lantern should be dailies; training grounds for critical thinking skills where solid reporting examines the repercussions and achievements of taxpayer funded higher education.
At ECSU, the Lantern had similar issues with recruiting, and like its counterpart the Recorder, with creative thinking in terms of how to frame news and deal with the events at hand.
While the Lantern is not so controversial, I sat in on several editorial board meetings, and was less than impressed with the operational quality of the weekly paper.
The Lantern lacked the funding to do even a basic website two years ago. Now it has a site, but it is not what a small liberal arts college weekly’s website should be. I want and expect more.
If the CSU system seeks to build a reputation for being an inexpensive liberal arts alternative, it must have leadership to fix the newspaper problem. CCSU doesn’t even have a journalism major, yet it runs a newspaper. That must change.
Well done, the CCSU Recorder and the ECSU Lantern should be producing journalists and citizens. Wouldn’t it be fun if the controversy the campus papers generated was because good reporting raised questions about how the legislature underfunds higher education?
Instead, at CCSU at least, ignorance rules the roost because the system as a whole lacks a larger vision for campus and student communications. Yale University a few years ago saw communications as such an important discipline that it added courses.
We are not seeing that at our public universities. The communications department at Eastern is minimally connected to the Lantern, even though Professor Edmund Chibeau is the moderator, there isn’t a strong bond between class work and journalistic activity.
A more formal connection should and easily could be established. I will assume that the situation is similar at Central. Please correct me if I am wrong.
An improvement in the academic infrastructure to train print journalists at these schools would prevent mistakes like this, and none of us would be wringing our hands when dumb college kids show poor taste in print.
Why aren’t the CSU papers and communications departments building high school journalism programs statewide so that a pipeline exists to fill these print institutions with solid talent?
No one in the state of Connecticut right now could tell us how many high schools have newspapers, or how many students participate in high school or college level journalism. Why don’t any CSU communication departments have interns tracking this and other student communication barometers? In Colorado, California, Minnesota and Iowa they have such infrastructures in place. Where are we?
Within CSU, public-minded journalism education should be a fundamental goal. Perhaps by paying student journalists, or by offering student journalists tuition free education, we could get students like Elizabeth Torres to participate and write for the Recorder.
Right now, Elizabeth has her hands full with other extracurricular activities, like creating organizations to represent Latina interests on campus. But were there financial rewards for participating in journalism like she had at Echoes from the Streets, I am sure she and other students would join.
I sincerely hope that David Carter steps in to analyze the system-wide failures of the j-departments in CSU and make our state university system a national leader in public journalism education.