Student press should be considered marketplace of ideas

There’s no mincing words— the Undergraduate Student Government does not understand the First Amendment, nor does it operate within the realm of logical thinking.

Their recent attempts at taking unwarranted editorial control of The BG News deserve nothing else than harsh rhetoric and a stern rebuke.

If it can be believed, USG recently made a legitimate try at unilaterally becoming the newspaper’s gatekeeper. As in, they would approve stories before they ran.

Besides the obvious perks [subsidized tuition for leaders, shiny gold resume stars], the desire to be involved on campus and to “make a difference” probably exists in the hearts of some members. Many probably study political science and have aspirations of one day serving in a legitimate legislative body, and we as journalists relate to and commend the notion of public service.

But maybe their time is better spent back in Political Science 1000. The First Amendment explicitly protects the free press. If they’d like a refresher in subject of prior restraint, take a Journalism ethics and History class instead. Or perhaps that representative can save some time and Google any number of countries with state-run media [see: Vladimir Putin’s RussiaToday].

College campuses are meant to be an open marketplace of ideas. One would think student representatives would defend that notion of free expression from their peers and the independent press.

American ideals should be upheld in all circumstances. This is why The BG News exists and why peaceful protesters of all kinds are welcome and seen throughout campus each school year.

It’s worth remembering these freedom of speech and press lessons are being given to an organization that has presented the University’s student body with two consecutive years of unopposed presidential races. Perhaps USG members should spend less time flexing their questionable journalism chops and worry more about their fellow students [just 8 percent of whom voted in USG elections during the past two years].

To be clear: The BG News is itself subsidized in some part by the University. Money, though, does not equal editorial control.

This funding is given for the same purpose as the newspaper’s other donations throughout the year— to support student journalists and their hands-on, professional experience.

When it comes to editorial discretion, discussion regarding the ideas and topics covered should be encouraged. That dialogue should come naturally, whether it’s the tiniest newspaper or the New York Times.

In the news business, there are countless decisions made. Every word, story, headline, photo, caption, font and more— each element of the paper is there for a reason and represents a choice made by somebody before the stories and newspaper goes to print.

In the end, journalism is generally conceived by people doing their very best to serve their communities and adhere to modern news conventions. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn, and every story produced that helps better inform these communities is a success to build upon.

That is a lesson USG— an organization performing weekly theatrics to empty seats— clearly does not understand.

Tyler Buchanan, ‘13

Erin Cox, ‘13

Nathan Elekonich, ‘14

Max Filby, ‘13

Andy Ouriel, ‘10

Marisha Pietrowski, ‘11

Stephan Reed, ‘13

Ryan Satkowiak, ‘13

Alissa Widman, ‘12

Alaina Buzas, ‘10

Heather Linder, ‘11

Kate Snyder, ‘11

Taylor Etchison, ‘10

Asia Rapai, ‘12

Sean Shapiro , ‘11

Gina Potthoff, `10