Eastern Progress staff editorial: Restricted access limits our learning

By Eastern Kentucky University’s Progress Staff

With today’s platforms and the overload of information available at any person’s fingertips, almost anyone can pass as a journalist and shape the news to reflect his or her own views. This creates potentially dangerous trends in how people consume their news, and most importantly, it sets low standards for how real journalists should operate. These things make it imperative for aspiring journalists to truly understand their job and how to do it effectively. This is what makes student newspapers increasingly important.

As an independent student newspaper, The Eastern Progress serves as a voice for the campus community, just as any non-collegiate newspaper serves the community it covers. Let’s also not forget that we’re students trying to learn a craft that will hopefully lead to success in an increasingly competitive field. This requires a level of cooperation with offices around campus and access to the sources we need to do good reporting. Without that, how can we learn?

This is hardly a problem unique to Eastern’s campus, but one that’s been prevelant at Western Kentucky University, University of Kentucky, and campuses nationwide.

When journalism students at Keene State College in New Hampshire asked their administration over the summer to provide them with clearer guidelines on press access, they were not granted an interview with anyone involved with the situation as “nobody could comment on the matter.” The students were instead told to email their interview questions to the president’s office and were told the president would “respond when her schedule permits.” Student papers, such as ours and Keene State’s, do not allow email interviews because it is not good interviewing or information gathering practice. Answers become scripted.

We’re experiencing similar issues here at the Progress. Some personnel have denied us interviews while others insist on exchanges over email. This has prompted an intervention from university brand management officials to regulate how we gain information and serve as middlemen in the interviewing process.

This has extended beyond the Progress. Department of Communication students who are pursuing stories for class, outside of the the Progress, have felt the effects of university personnel’s apprehension to go on record. Numerous students have been rerouted, declined and offered unacceptable methods in getting interviews and information for stories on important matters like parking or budget cuts. Their opportunities for learning are being stunted, and their first experiences as reporters are discouraging rather than exciting. By avoiding cooperation with students, university employees are failing to uphold the purpose of the university itself: to educate.

We’re not asking for special favors, and we’re not asking EKU administrators to make our lives easier. We know what we signed up for, and we enjoy the work it demands. We’re only writing this to ask for clarity and cooperation in regards to how we can go about interviewing university employees.

The Progress is going to continue to serve the student community and inform them on what is happening on campus. In the process, we’ll continue to learn and work towards being good journalists.

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