This newspaper has serviced the College since 1868 and is proud to be the oldest independent weekly student publication in the country. Yet despite this tremendous history, Amherst lags behind its peers in recognizing the value of journalism. The College takes a hands-off approach to its student newspaper, thus insuring The Student’s independent credibility; but by the same token, it views the student newspaper as just another club activity. Therein lies the problem. Journalism is, and must be, so much more than just another campus group.
Journalism is a cornerstone of a functioning civil society, and with media distrust at an all time high, clearly something to be desired in America. Conscientious reporting and investigative curiosity are not only hobbies, they are the embodiment of the pursuits we value — our right to discover truth is every bit as self-evident as the rights of life and liberty.
Journalism is a barometer of a campus’ intellectual and political vibrancy. Campus publications represent open forums of discussion and expression, and student journalism is a direct exercise of our agency.
What does it say about Amherst, then, that journalism is not recognized as a vital practice and valid field of study?
Faculty, administration, alumni and staff rarely engage with students interested or involved with journalism beyond the cursory involvement with the Student through casual skimming or interview giving. There is no active promotion, infrastructure or publicization of activities or avenues through which students can learn about journalism and get involved with not only campus-wide but also community wide and city-wide publications. Even the decision of the administration to leave the provision of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to the AAS, and also work out the details of online access when the time had come to do so, is telling.
The most important source of administrative support, however, is the provision of academic resources for students seriously interested in journalism. Through the College’s forays into the fields of engineering and architecture, it has already demonstrated a willingness to lax its rigid definition of what constitutes a liberal arts education.
The next step must be to add journalism as one of the subjects in which students can take classes for credit in, introduce faculty who are interested in exploring the field, and possibly work towards introducing some sort of five college certificate or program for students interested in making a career out of this crucial field. This is obviously not to say that the ethics and objective writing of journalism detract from the liberal arts enrichment in any way.
How can there be open dialogue, democratic debate and clear presentation of student issues on campus when the institution refuses to look at the field of journalism critically and analyze its ethics and instill those values into its academic programs? How will there be any commitment to the democratic process in an institution that closes off the routes to learn how to participate meaningfully in journalism?