Breaking the barriers

Student journalists face roadblocks in efforts to be ‘fair, accurate and complete’

On Thursday, April 27, The Equinox contacted several members of the Lloyd P. Young Student Center Administrative Office staff regarding the retirement of Student Involvement Support Assistant Deborah Edwards and the effect her retirement will have on the student center. Initially, Edwards was willing to speak with The Equinox and scheduled an interview. However, in an e-mail dated May 1, Edwards stated, “I really don’t have any information on this issue.”

Similarly, Director of Student Involvement Jennifer Ferrell said that she would be happy to speak with The Equinox, but that she first needed to “route this request” through Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations Kelly Ricaurte. In an e-mail dated May 1, Ferrell stated, “I won’t be able to share any additional thoughts with you at this time however, I have been assured that the college is looking closely at each position and determining how to move forward, based on the needs of the college and students.”

The Equinox also contacted Edwards’ Student Involvement Assistant Bryanna Pearson on Thursday, April 27 for comment. On Saturday, April 29, Pearson replied to The Equinox stating that she had no comment and referred the reporter to Ferrell. In an e-mail dated Monday, May 1, regarding Pearson, Ferrell stated the exact same text in a second e-mail, almost as if copying from a script. “I just wanted to follow up on your note to Bryanna. I won’t be able to share any additional thought with you at this time however, I have been assured that the college is looking closely at each position and determining how to move forward, based on the needs of the college and students,” Ferrell stated.

The Equinox contacted President Anne Huot on Thursday, April 27, and a second time on Sunday, April 30, regarding staff replacement. The Equinox did not receive a reply until Tuesday, May 2. The e-mail, which came from Executive Associate of the President’s Office Cindy Krautwurst stated, “The quickest way to get a response to interview requests is to go directly to Ricaurte who works with reporters to facilitate these requests. President Huot wants to help and due to her schedule, the best way at this point to do this is by sending her the questions, and she can reply by email as her schedule permits.”

Because of the barriers created by the KSC Marketing and Communications Department and the inaccessibility of staff for public comment, The Equinox has been prevented from telling the story of a long-standing and valuable staff member and the effect her retirement will have on the Young Student Center.

Although this is personnel issue, the difficulties The Equinox faced in attempting to tell this story exemplify a pattern of suppression and obstruction that has been building since Fall of 2015.

Restricted Access 

Student journalists work hard and diligently to provide a service and produce content for students and the campus community. The Equinox follows a strict code of ethics, and its mission is to be “Fair, Accurate and Complete.”

With that in mind, interviews are essential to the news-gathering process and help to provide balanced and informed content. Answers given during an interview help shape the story. However, when student journalists are denied the right to interview administrative, faculty and staff members, it makes it very difficult for student journalists to do their jobs and cover all needed bases for a fair story.

When public relations’ policies and processes create barriers for the student press, vital stakeholders and information cannot be included, thus making for an incomplete product.

In general, journalism students have been redirected and ignored when asking for interviews and information. This not only affects writers for The Equinox, it also affects students in journalism classes who are covering stories for a grade and any other campus member who might be impacted by that story.

Regardless of the nature of the story, The Equinox aims to serve its community by providing relevant information through an unbiased lens. Above all else, The Equinox values good journalism and expects the same of its editors and staff. But teaching and doing good journalism is all but impossible when campus community members seem to feel obligated to remain silent.

Currently, student journalists must go through Ricaurte to interview with any of the cabinet members, or to cover a story on “significant institution-wide or departmental-wide issues” and safety concerns on or off campus, according to Marketing and Communications Student Media Interview Guidelines for Staff Members.

This should mean that staff members are free to participate and speak freely in student media interviews regarding all other matters without going to Ricaurte first. We will continue to work around any barrier the administration creates and if denied access, we will be taking note.

Denied Funding

With a staff of more than 100 student journalists that have rotated through our newspaper during this current academic school year, The Equinox serves as the “Student Voice of Keene State College.” On April 14, KSC Student Assembly Treasurer Casey Matthews informed all student groups and organizations of their awarded budget for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Of the four organizations with the largest cuts to their budget, three were student media: The Equinox, WKNH and Kronicle. Out of all student clubs and organizations, WKNH and The Equinox had the largest cuts.

The allotted money available for student clubs and organization budgets was cut by 12.5 percent between this academic year (‘16-’17) and next academic year (‘17-’18), dropping from $800,000 to $700,000, despite the fact that student fees will increase by five percent next year.

While the majority of student clubs and organizations did lose funding, others remained the same or even received increases to their budgets. The budget cuts, however, were not done equally. For example, The Equinox’s budget was cut by 45 percent, whereas the Social Activities Council’s (SAC) budget was cut by only 19 percent. In total, the budget cuts to these four organizations: SAC, The Equinox, Kronicle and WKNH, amount to $124,385. That amount, to only these four organizations, exceeds the $100,000 cut to available funding for all student clubs and organizations.

The Equinox understands the necessity of making budget cuts and is willing to make equitable sacrifices. But to notify a student organization late Friday afternoon, two weeks before the end of the semester, that their budget will be cut by 45 percent ($48,400) with no explanation, speaks volumes, especially, when the budget The Equinox was awarded will not cover operating expenses which includes printing, stipends and software licenses.

An appeal made Wednesday, April 19, was denied, but during a follow-up meeting with FCSA on Tuesday, May 2, the FCSA urged The Equinox to access the reserves and would fully support The Equinox during the process.

The Finance Committee on Student Assembly (FCSA) makes the final decisions on which clubs are cut and by how much. Student Assembly Treasurer Casey Matthews said, “When we sift through it [budget requests] and look at everyone’s requests, the money gets prioritized to what is benefiting most students and the whole student body.”

If this statement is true, the cuts the media groups on campus received would then be contradictory to their method of divvying up funds because The Equinox is open to all students, regardless of major.

With a weekly print readership averaging 1,300 and an online readership averaging 500, the newspaper benefits any and every student, faculty, staff, administrator, alumni or community member who decides to stay informed about what’s happening at Keene State College.

It is the duty of the student press to hold the college and its administration accountable.

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