Understanding the Curious Position of The Weather Vane

When Lynda Nyce, Ph. D., the candidate of choice for Undergraduate Dean was visiting us last week, I had one question for her: “How do you see the role of a student news- paper on the college campus?” This is important because while the Weather Vane is a student newspaper, EMU provides operating space and Co-Editors are approved by the Undergraduate Academic Dean.

The Weather Vane does occupy a curious place on campus. It is a student newspaper and fully independent. At the same time, it holds itself fully responsible. Moreover, it is fully integrated, operating as an interface between students, faculty, and administration.

Students own the Weather Vane. It is run entirely by students and is funded by advertising proceeds and undergraduate student fees. Be- cause of this, we are able to operate outside of administrative control. The Weather Vane was under prior review at one point, copy was re- viewed by the President’s office prior to publication; such oversight is now

known to be unethical in regards to journalism and is unhelpful in the academic community. We have freedom to pursue and publish any newsworthy story even though, as the College Media Adviser’s Code of Ethics notes, “the publicity interests of the university and the news goals of the student media are often incompatible.”

Despite this freedom, the Weather Vane remains fully responsible; the Co-Editors in Chief claim responsibility for any and all faults within the final production. The paper holds to a set of guiding principles—honesty, comprehensiveness, impartiality, accountability, responsibility, decency, sensitivity, and independence—that are in line with standard journalistic ethics.

The paper is also fully integrated into the campus community. All students can write for the paper, and all are welcome to send in a letter to the Editors. Students can receive credit for joining the paper (COMM 342A Cam- pus Communications) or for work study pay. Despite being focused on cam- pus, the Weather Vane also goes off campus and reflects on EMU. It is not a work produced to give the university good publicity; we recognize that our work is taken as representative and therefore strive for excellence.

Given this complicated relation- ship, the question of the Weather Vane’s role on campus becomes complicated. Pulling from the Weather Vane Constitution, the purpose of the paper is fivefold.

First, the Weather Vane is to inform students of campus news. We are, after all, a newspaper serving under- graduate students. To this end, we try to cover a broad range of experiences and events.

Second, the paper is uniquely placed to serve as a critique of campus life. When events are mishandled, decisions could have been made better, or campus atmosphere turns sour, the Weather Vane is an outlet to give those convictions voice. I think of Mariah Elliot’s article from last week, “Silent Sufferers: Depression at EMU Should be Addressed,” as an excellent example. Having full freedom allows for the pa- per to serve as the student body’s con- science, even when it is difficult to hear.

Third, the Weather Vane is the student voice. This is the function of the opinion pages every week, where individuals can share about topics they find interesting.

Fourth, the paper represents a significant learning opportunity for students. Ostensibly, knowledge of journalistic ideals and gaining practical experience are the primary educational output. For myself, I have start- ed to learn how to work on a team, how to be a humble leader, how to make mistakes gracefully, and how to persevere in the face of adversity.

Finally, the work of the Weather Vane represents an important historical record of campus life. Our cover- age now will become an interesting commentary for the future. Being a history major, I may be more appreciative of this aspect. However, for those who wish to understand more about the history of EMU, I would recommend visiting the historical library to page through old Weather Vanes.

This is the position of the Weather Vane on campus: Independent, responsible, and integrated. The pa- per produces coverage by students and primarily for students with an eye to inform and critique.

Joel is a Senior History/Peace- building and Development major whose back-up plan is to own a walrus farm.

Joel Nofziger

Categories: Opinion

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