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Opinion

Student Voice not just about campus

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September 20, 2007

In the midst of creating a weekly newspaper, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Since the beginning of the semester, more than a dozen student journalists have been busy reporting on events and people on this campus, making sure they have accurately captured the facts of their assignments. Photographers have been out and about, too. The past several days have seen increased activity on the third floor of North Hall as editors of the Student Voice have spent long hours refining stories and planning the design of this first issue of the new academic year.

Even I, the faculty adviser to the newspaper, have kept busy, badgering the editor with story ideas, helping the fresh business office staff get on its feet, and fussing over concerns like the budget and printing contract.

That is what it takes to produce a newspaper. The students whose articles and photographs you see in this issue, and whose editing and design skills have been tested, are learning about the kind of commitment needed to be professional journalists. Not all of them are bound for careers in journalism, but all of them are getting a taste for the responsibility they have assumed.

It is a large responsibility: informing the community about what’s happening on campus, bringing focus to issues of concern to students, challenging and even entertaining readers. It is a responsibility, I am convinced, that we often lose sight of as we devote our attention to preparing the next issue of the newspaper.

Two weekends ago I attended a conference in Latvia on media and democracy. The conference sought in part to understand the status of news organizations in a country that 16 years ago renewed its independence after a half-century of Soviet occupation. Once viewed as vital to the push for freedom, the media in Latvia now are dismissed by many consumers as mouthpieces for particular political or economic elites. Concentration of media ownership by home-grown oligarchs and foreign interests (even Rupert Murdoch has bought into Latvia!), lack of financial support for investigative journalism, questions about the ethics of those who work in media, and constant fights over funding of state-run radio and television are just some of the issues facing the country. Close up, it was heartening to see the passion with which conference attendees — media professionals, academics, politicians and consumers — debated those issues. Now, remembering the discussion from afar, I am reminded of the critical role journalism can and should play in the life of a community and a nation.

If I could inscribe a dedication into this first issue of the school year, my wish for the staff of the Student Voice would be to not lose sight of the big picture, or of their passion, as they go about their responsibility of covering the campus community. And for the campus community, I would wish that you remember this is your newspaper, too. Read it, use it, engage it.

Andris Straumanis is an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies, as well as the faculty adviser to the Student Voice.