On The Slow Death of Student Journalism at Michigan

Yes, part of the changing ideology of the editorial page of the Michigan Daily is an institutionalized and regular hostility towards student activists. I first wrote about this phenomenon on February 2 after reading editorial page editor Jason Pesick’s signed editorial announcing the beginning of his term as editor. In it, he likens patriarchal administrators of the 1960s to a multiethnic coalition of student organizations who boycotted the newspaper last year. In this brave new world of fiercely professional journalism, apparently if you dare to criticize the newspaper, you are fair game for attack – whether you are an administrator seeking to expel students, or a student activist seeking fair treatment in the media.

Mr. Pesick and the editorial staff of the Daily have taken it a step farther in today’s newspaper, running a full left-side editorial criticizing “inconsistencies” in the platform of Student Voices in Action, accusing them of being “loose with the facts.” It turns out that the facts seem fairly clear-cut, and the only inconsistencies I can find are with this editorial and the Daily’s own editorial precedents. Among their complaints – the Daily says that SVA should mention that President Coleman has pledged $500,000 to the University’s capital campaign, and that although the salaries of coaches Lloyd Carr and Tommy Amaker are high, “they fail to mention the importance of these two positions to the athletic department.” Yes, apparently “failing to mention” the arguments that might be made against your position means your entire organization should be the victim of a full left-side editorial attack, on the day when they need as much support as possible since they’ll be meeting with administrators about their demands.

Meanwhile, I would argue that it’s the Daily’s job to provide the facts about the situation, something it has failed to do. Almost every issue raised by Student Voices in Action has either been underreported by the Daily, or not reported on at all – in fact it is a testament to the knowledge and skill of the student activists involved that they have been able to sift through the facts on their own, independent any help from mainstream student media. Hopefully, the Daily news department is burning the midnight oil preparing FOIA requests to get to the bottom of the funding changes, aggressively seeking Royster Harper’s papers, and planning an investigative series on the budget cuts and the plight of minority students on campus. Although I doubt it – former Daily Editor-In-Chief Jon Schwartz said in staff meeting once that “The Daily used to do investigations, and now we have Rob.” And then he fired me a few weeks later. Hopefully, the editorial staff is trying to brainstorm innovative ways the University could find funding so that all-important student services can be maintained, and making sure they’re writing supportive editorials when the activists need it the most. Although today’s editorial makes me think that’s not about to happen, – however, I have a few ideas of my own, for what they’re worth. And after I hand in my 80-page honors thesis Wednesday, I’ll get cracking on the FOIAs.

In case you’re not familiar with my little saga at the Daily, not might be a good time to check out my “Inside the Daily” series, which I have available in print form if anyone is interested.

Author: Rob