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 FresnoStateNews.com 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."