Backtracking

The Central New Mexico Community Collage (CNM) administration must have realized that its impulsive and, as its sister publication the Daily Lobo called it, “authoritarian” censorship and closure of its student newspaper, the Chronicle, had caused them a tsunami of negative PR.  It backtracked and reversed itself in a day, returning the confiscated “Sex” edition, reopening the paper for business, and waxing on about  how student journalists had to be better trained and overseen.

What the public should be asking now is:

How well trained are CNM administrators in dealing with a modern student body?

What damage has the administration’s blunder cost this vital, publically funded institution?

What steps are being taken to educate the administration on how a student press is operated and what values it serves?

Was a PR company consulted to orchestrate this pirouetting turn around?

And if one was, how much did it cost the taxpayers? 

CNM explained itself saying it had been worried about the legal ramifications of a story quoting a high school student, one who advocates sexual abstinence. I don’t get it . But that’s not what they said at first when they closed the paper. They accused the student staff of bad judgment, of running a raunchy edition on contemporary sexual issues (that had no nudity or obscenity), and complained that there wasn’t enough “oversight” or, by implication, control of the staff.

One gets the feeling that CNM wants to create a journalism department that will produce docile reporters who won’t rock any boats. 

When an institution of higher learning has a student newspaper it must expect that its reporters and commentators will reflect the cultural viewpoints of a younger generation, will report on the school, and disagree with whatever practices they find offensive and say so, as the Chronicle has done in the past.

A student newspaper is not a mouthpiece of the administration. A school of journalism isn’t there to make little robots. It should teach the basic forms and tools of the craft, and the ideals of a free press – to find out what’s going on, report it as accurately as one can, admit ones mistakes when they’re made, and comment honestly on the pressing issues of the day. Oversight has nothing to do with that.

I’m glad CNM backed off. It might have apologized to the students, but that’s not good PR. I hope the administration comes to see that journalism at their school is being practiced right now the way it should be. It’s free, if beaten up, and it’s honest. Don’t change that.




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V.B. Price

V.B. Price is editor and co-founder of New Mexico Mercury. He is the former editor of Century Magazine and New Mexico Magazine, former city editor of the New Mexico Independent, and long-time columnist for the late Albuquerque Tribune. His latest book is The Orphaned Land: New Mexico’s Environment Since the Manhattan Project. He retired as the editor of the Mary Burritt Christiansen Poetry Series at UNM Press in 2010. He has taught in the UNM Honors Program since l986.

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