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The student press and politics

by on March 3, 2013

Dan Reimold over at College Media Matters wrote up an interesting post about the news editor at The University Daily Kansan, the student paper at the University of Kansas, who also serves as a senator in the school’s undergraduate student senate.

To many, it would seem that obvious conflicts would arise here. The student senate, after all, is a focal point of coverage for any college newspaper, and to have a senior editor at the paper also serve as a voting member of that governing body seems improper to many observers.

But the paper’s editor-in-chief told Reimold that the news organization stands to benefit from the arrangement, because it gives staffers a greater knowledge of the organization.

I think in the long-run, it benefits the Kansan by having staff members with a more firsthand knowledge of student senate and its inner-workings because jumping into covering that beat can be very difficult for reporters to navigate the magnitude of people and committees involved in such a wide-reaching campus organization.

That’s an interesting point-of-view. Does it benefit the paper by having someone with an insider’s perspective? Or is the whole setup just messy?

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3 Comments
  1. Felicia Cohen permalink

    This to me a serious conflict of interest. As a senator, I feel as though he could submit a column- from the senate, and try and publish it in the college paper, and hopefully, with cooperation, have it published regularly- though newspapers are not required to publish anything from a special interest group (or anything submitted at all).

    This is a conflict of interest because it does not leave any room for analysis or outside views. As a senator, big decisions may be his own point of view, no matter how controversial, and he may see something that has a lot of grey area as very black and white. He would not fairly be able to report a situation- it would be biased no matter what. Also, it is deceiving to the reader, not labeling it as a senate submitted article, as not all readers will know who he is.

  2. Kristina Kulyabina permalink

    This is yet another tricky dilemma. It makes sense to attain information from someone who is knowledgable about the group in order to report events and issues correctly. It’s like if someone was writing a financial piece and asked his peer who is an economics major to explain some economic terms to him to help him write the article in a comprehendible manner. I don’t see any problem with the senator being a part of the paper unless he specifically writes articles about the senate because that can potentially skew his objectivity. I think you should be able to live two different lives as a journalist without having one interfere with the other. For instance, I am currently waitressing at a new restaurant, but I would never write a review about it because I know no matter how hard I tried I would probably end up boasting about it. I’m not even sure if you are allowed to do that anyway…But either way the senator should not report on any events because it would not be a fair reflection but he should help his peers if they ever have questions about the dynamics of the group.

  3. It definitely helps to have some knowledge of politics and student run government, but I think being such a big part of both the paper and school senate is really crossing the line. Him being the editor of the paper, he will probably have at least some input in most stories, including ones about on-campus politics. Most good journalists should have a great deal of background knowledge about the subject they are covering, but this is clearly a conflict of interest and “knowing what he is talking about” shouldn’t be an excuse to let him cover the government. People who have never been politicians are perfectly capable of understanding and being knowledgeable about politics without ever actually holding office.

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