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Thursday August 31, 2001
The New Civic Journalism
In Drumming Up Support for
College Sports Arena Donations
Ethics Standards Breached!

By Howard Hobbs, Ph.D., President
Valley Press Media Network

     FRESNO STATE -- In recent months a new “Super Fund” has emerged on campus. It is a concept that sports enthusiasts will drool over. Even concert followers will. But with the major portion of the construction costs coming from ticket sales, privacy suite leases, and taxpayers picking up the tab, the campus Arena may turn out to be a civic journalism story too big to sweep under the indoor-outdoor carpet.
     The use of special interest journalism by a public institution raises some ethics questions. Has the administration taken over the student run, Daily Collegian ?
The answer seems to be a resounding, "Oh! No!" But, in recent days the university has published a number of self-promoting stories placing the university administration in what is clearly a conflict of interest with the university administration in both the role sponsoring the site and also implying that it is the "official" student news service on campus.
   The administration discloses only in its hidden source code, however, the Fresno State News publication is a tri-weekly "Fresno State Official News Site: complete coverage of all major news events at California State University, Fresno. Updated several times daily.
    It was, perhaps, too smart, by half, that the appears the same week that he McClatchy Corp. which publishes the Fresno Bee, asked university president John Welty, Ed.D. to provide documents listing all of the names of those persons and corporations purchasing million dollar Arena privacy suites leases advertised on the Web site. At that point, Welty denied the request. In so many words, the President of California State University, Fresno told McClatchy, the university didn't have any records of the transactions.
    In the weeks that followed, McClatchy obtained a subpoena for the records. Welty stalled. McClatchy appealed to the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Fresno and obtained an Order directing Welty to provide the documents to McClatchy. Welty then turned-over the documentation he had previously claimed no knowledge of.
    This scenario took place during the Summer recess at the University and in the absence of a viable campus newspaper most students have not been informed of this fiasco.
   So much for the ethics of the university's civic journalism commitment. It is quite transparent. Students who are just returning to the Campus this week are discovering the university administration has adopted a political strategy thwarting traditional reporting methods of the student newspapers and local media for political reasons in the failed attempt to suppress criticism by its own students and surrounding community.
     The high stakes at play in the university arena financing gambit bring the attention of students and taxpayers to bear on the unethical use of civic journalism to selfishly promote improper means to achieve a result which the university cannot openly disclose to its students, staff, employees, and the public at large.
     These events raise questions about the ethics of the administration and the long term objectives set by the current leadership at Fresno State.  The Daily Collegian, should activate its Daily Collegian campus Internet link to report to its campus community readers and improve its level of coverage. It has not posted any stories nor updated content since May 2000. That move is highly unlikely in that the Department Chair of the Mass Communication and Journalism Department is currently vacant.
     Worse yet, when a reader searching for the Collegian WebSite actually finds the site buried in the archives of the Mass Communication and Journalism Dept. and goes to the Collegian "News" link, here is the unwelcome greeting displayed on the PC screen --:

"Not Found. The requested object does not exist on this server. The link you followed is either outdated, inaccurate, or the server has been instructed not to let you have it."


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