Student government must recognize press freedom

On April Fool’s Day, a day known for jokes and satire, The Daily Campus runs a yearly edition of fake, satirical and humorous articles known as The Daily Scampus. Buffalo State College’s student paper, The Record, ran a similar type of issue known as The Wreckard. While both issues were similar in nature, there was a glaring difference in the response from the student body.

After publication, The Record was informed by United Student Government Executive Vice President Emily Leminger that “some of the topics discussed in the ‘Wreckard’ satire addition were offensive to members of Buffalo State and the surrounding community.” As a result, the paper was told their accounts were frozen, essentially removing all of their funding, and that they were to remove all copies of the satirical issue from the campus. After sizable backlash from social media, the student government reversed the decision and restored The Record’s budget. However, for the decision to have even been made in the first place is a blatant disrespect of the freedom of the press.

One of key tenets of any college newspaper is editorial independence. A newspaper should not simply be another media outlet for the school, but rather be able to explore and report stories even if it expresses something negative about the school or one of its institutions. If the student government can essentially shut down the newspaper whenever it reports something the body does not like, a dangerous dynamic is created, which limits the freedom of press. The outcry was not even due to an actual story in The Record, but rather stories that were meant to be taken as jokes and satire.

Ideally, a college newspaper should be financially independent from the university and its student government so as to maintain editorial independence. With the downward trend of newspaper revenues, many college newspapers need to turn to the school for funding in order to run day-to-day operations. Even in these situations, the university or student government should recognize the importance of a newspaper’s autonomy and respect that freedom of the press.

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