Today, Adam posted a welcome message for both veterans and virgins of North Park Street, highlighting our commitment “to expanding campus discourse and discussion.”
In this post, he hit on a salient point regarding the traditional campus media scene:
This has been often true insofar as local political coverage has been concerned even in recent years: See, Madison media clearly SLACked on the job in December (Jan 2011), The Badger Herald, blogs and the District 8 race (Feb 2011), BH columnist gets District 8 all wrong (Feb 2011), A Protest News Coverage Prediction (April 2011), If my critique of the Badger Herald’s New Badger Partnership coverage needed any more evidence (April 2011) for a few examples.
Many times the issue at hand has been a fundamental lack of understanding of the historical context in which local and campus decisions are made, sometimes the issue has been accepting the spoon-fed version of events from a single source and sometimes its just been driven by lack of subject matter interest.
This is not to say that all coverage has been bad or that the campus papers are incapable of producing higher-quality articles. In fact, my belief is quite to the contrary. There have been a number of reporters, editors and editors-in-chief over the past six years as I have paid attention who have written wonderfully insightful articles on a daily basis and who have delved into some of the core issues impacting UW students, and I consider a number of them to be personal friends.
What is the purpose of this post then, you ask?
It’s a call to action. I call on the Badger Herald and Daily Cardinal from the editorship on down to do more than merely write words on a page, but to truly understand the important issues that only a campus paper can cover.
The leadership at the Badger Herald, or at least the remaining few I know, have the potential to make this happen. I’m particularly hopeful for the Herald opinion pages, with Addie Blanchard at the helm of the editorial board this year. I know very little about those running the Cardinal this year, and I can only hope they produce better results than years past.
Below is the beginning of my battle cry:
Pay attention to ASM and ASM constitution - what so many campus reporters and editors have foolishly dismissed as unimportant dribble and mindless resume-building in fact has been the foundation of a new direction of First Amendment jurisprudence, can impact the overall direction of the University leadership and directly determines how much money students pay to be on campus. Student Government to a student paper should be like Congress to the Washington Post.
Understand and report on the impact of City Council activities - pay attention to the great things District 8 Alder Scott Resnick is doing as the student representative to the city. Also, don’t give the mere superficial explanation of a decision passed by the council, probe for the impact such a decision might have on the student community or Madison at large.
The Chancellor Search is a big fucking deal - For the future of UW, the new Chancellor’s impact will be greater than that of Deepwater Horizon to the Gulf Coast.
Cover student orgs doing big things, not just big student orgs doing things - With such a vibrant community of student organizations on campus, many of whom have substantial impact, there is no reason to cover the same large org over and over again.
Cover national elections from a Wisconsin angle - Every other news outlet is covering the 2012 elections, and most students who care will get their news of national political happenings from anyone other than you. However, you do have the unique opportunity to cover the elections from the Wisconsin angle, or perhaps better yet, the Madison angle. How will candidates fare in Wisconsin (or take it hyper local – dorm by dorm)? What will be the policy impacts on UW students (not any student, but UW students specifically)? How will research at the UW be affected? Give unique “this place coverage” to these national campaigns.
The County Board does exist even when there isn’t an election - Hold elected representatives accountable, especially when they are representing students.
Students turn to much more knowledgeable sources when seeking opinions about national issues - one of the most appalling things to witness year in and year out, is the non-substantive, cookie-cutter, could have read it in Sports Illustrated for Kids article about abortion, global warming, the debt ceiling, 2nd amendment issues, etc., by someone who has really no clue what they are writing about. Let HuffPo, WaPo and CNN columnists take on these issues; stick to the area where local student journalists can and should excel: local/student issues.
I am hopeful that these words will resonate with the campus media (I know you read our blog), and that they will seize the opportunity to produce quality coverage. Even if they don’t take to heart my call to action, know that here at North Park Street, we will continue to sift and winnow for you, our Badger Faithful.