Issues and The News – IC’s New Media Policy

By | October 4th, 2012 | Buzz Blog, Media Criticism, News & Views, What's Happening

President Tom Rochon, image via Ithaca.edu

2,027. That’s how many of us made up the class of 2013 my freshman year.

2,027 minds relaxing as the deposit check was sent in; 2,027 awkward faces smiling for ID picture at orientation; 2,027 lottery numbers fighting HomerConnect for freshmen housing; 2,027 hungry stomachs waiting impatiently for Sunday brunch at the Terraces; 2,027 voices complaining when the weather turned cold in early October.

2,027 reasons why Ithaca College was the right school—but for me, there was always only one reason I became a member of the overwhelming class of 2013: The Department of Journalism.

I didn’t come to Ithaca College because I wanted to be a student. I came to Ithaca College because I wanted to be a journalist.

The curriculum promises active education. We aren’t just told what makes a good story—we write good stories. The line between the classroom and the newsroom blurs a little more everyday as we apply those technical skills—in writing, interviewing, editing, designing and more.

And once we’re armed with these abilities, we go deeper by learning the rights and responsibilities; the problems facing journalists historically and currently, ethically and legally. As journalists, we look for every side of the story. In exchange—with classes like Ethics, History, Government and Media, Independent Media and more—we are given the entire story.

We are taught how to be journalists and then what it means to be a journalist. Rather than being questioned, we are encouraged to question the world around us. For me, the goal was never about my grade. The assessment of my education, I always believed, was its “real world” value. Despite the exams, required blog entries, deadlines, articles and an impossibly long research paper, I never felt like I was being tested.

Until now.

By instituting this new media policy, President Tom Rochon has successfully gone against everything I have been taught as a journalist.

With the new system that filters not only the sources, but also their messages, it completely undermines our ability as journalists to determine who is the most appropriate source to contact, a skill we learn heavily in Journalism Research.

This controlled and limited dialogue and prohibition of multiple perspectives diminishes our ability to act honestly and independently, a virtue held high in Journalism Ethics, while impeding the goal of upholding the value of objectivity.

This is the kind of bureaucratic self-interest that Independent Media warns us about: when self-interested groups not only get involved in the content, but also in the nature of the messages being disseminated.

The new policy sounds eerily similar to the efforts of Edward Bernays, who—according to Journalism History—rocked the journalism world with his innovative notions of public relations and propaganda.

Journalism History also exposed us to people like Walter Lippmann, who believed that journalists were to serve as the middlemen between policymakers and the public. He explored how, when too much access to the public is given to a single source of authority, democracy is threatened. This allows propaganda to thrive.

Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model suggests that one of the most influential ways institutions (in this case, the college) can promote self interests, is by controlling media sources as a way to filter their own agenda to the public.

By this definition, the goal of President Rochon’s new policy is perpetuating propaganda dressed as a poorly disguised effort to focus on his “actual job.”

Unfortunately for the President, I have an “actual job” as well.

In my education, I have come to believe that it is the responsibility of the journalist to serve the public by acting as a watchdog to governments, administrations and other authorities that may abuse power. I uphold the Society of Professional Journalist’s goal to “Seek the truth and report it,” and to do so while acting accountably and independently.

Lippmann warned future journalists to learn to recognize the difference between “news” and “facts.” It may be the “news” that will orchestrate student journalists through Dave Maley, but that won’t stop anyone from seeking the truth and reporting.

I have been lucky in my three years on campus that I’ve been encouraged to learn in a way that is engaging and think in a way that is critical.

At the core of information gathering is six seemingly easy questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?

When it came to defining my own identity as a journalist, I knew the who was taken care of, and the how and what would be covered along the way. However, it wasn’t until my involvement with the student media that are currently being threatened that I began to formulate an answer to the why.

Why am I a journalist? Simply put, because of issues like this. Because as a journalist, I have a voice and I’m going to use it. I’m part of a world that’s constantly evolving and always learning. I’m in an environment where I’m not just welcome to, but encouraged to question authority and the world around me.

I had accepted that I had an impossibly long deadline for when and where this dream of becoming a “real” journalist would become a reality—although, ideally, it would occur in Manhattan, immediately after graduation.

But if this policy raised my awareness to anything, it’s that it’s happening here and now.

We’re journalists—not journalism students, or even student journalists. It doesn’t take a diploma, a byline or inclusion on an exclusive list to identify who we are or what we do. We’re defined by an underlying drive and common goal to spread the truth to create engaging conversation and informed citizens—despite efforts to stop that.

I chose Ithaca because I needed an environment that fostered that kind of passion. I chose to be one little fish in a big pond of 2,027.

But I didn’t choose journalism—it chose me. Because whether there are 2,027 voices, 2 million voices or one overpowering voice, there are some voices that can’t be silenced.  

    Buzzsaw Also Recommends:
  • Guest Commentary: Former Editors Respond to Media Policy by buzzsawmag-import (October 8, 2012)
  • Buzzsaw Staff and Alumni Call for Repeal of Ithaca College’s New Media Policy by buzzsawmag-import (October 5, 2012)
  • Victory With a Grain of Salt by Gena Mangiaratti (December 5, 2012)
  • Media Mirage by Kyle Robertson (May 1, 2013)
  • Reflections on the “Journalism Major” by Gena Mangiaratti (November 8, 2011)
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