BGSU student newspaper move generates controversy

By Tom Troy - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (TNS)

BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University administrators’ plan to move the student media organizations, including the student newspaper, from the journalism school to the Division of Student Affairs is generating concern.

Critics in the faculty say the move could be in the journalism program’s better interest, but the plan was hatched without faculty involvement and with too many unanswered questions.

The faculty were briefed in a 90-minute meeting Wednesday.

“We got no sense in that meeting that there was a fundamental understanding of day-to-day operations of Falcon Media. A lot of questions were generated, not a lot of answers given,” said Lori Liggett, teaching professor in the School of Media and Communication.

“The provost promised that from here on out there would be a lot of collaboration. Hopefully, that will be the case,” she said.

In an announcement that took the communications faculty by surprise, Provost Joe Whitehead Jr. mentioned halfway into a Feb. 19 letter about organizational changes that Falcon Media “will transition from the School of Media and Communication in the coming months,” with no elaboration.

Liggett shared a three-page list of faculty concerns, including requests for details as to how Falcon Media’s state-of-the-art broadcast installations and licenses will be managed and paid for in the future. She said students are assessed a media fee the School of Media and Communication uses to pay for the facilities, licenses, training, salaries and other purposes.

Whitehead noted that Falcon Media was previously under Student Affairs with other student organizations before being moved to the journalism school in 2014. Moving it out of the School of Media and Communication will give the students more exposure to other disciplines that will be valuable in their careers, he said.

“A big component now is entrepreneurship — working on projects and those types of things. It’s part of a larger effort to enhance student engagement,” Whitehead said.

And he said there will be no infringement on journalism independence.

“They are editorially independent. That will remain. It is a student organization. There will be no administrative oversight,” Whitehead said.

University senior Shaelee Haaf is the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, BG News. She said the students were not consulted about the change, and they have some questions.

“We’re asking a lot of questions and they’ve essentially told us they’re still ironing out the wrinkles. We don’t know what that means, either,” Haaf said.

At first blush, she said, being under the supervision of the Division of Student Affairs puts the newspaper in a potentially awkward situation.

“We’re supposed to hold this government entity accountable and we’re under direct supervision of them,” the newspaper editor said.

On the other hand, “This very well could be a good thing.”

The student newspaper is published each Wednesday and is also updated regularly online. It has up to 10 staff who write articles, edit copy and lay out the paper. It has sections for the campus, sports, entertainment, the city and opinion.

Liggett said that Falcon Media students need to be able to exercise their First Amendment rights without interference from the administration.

“Any university restructuring that proscribes, limits or makes these rights contingent is unacceptable,” she said.

Overall, Falcon Media has three full-time employees and seven part-time student employees, according to Michael Bratton, BGSU media strategist.

According to BGSU, Falcon Media had operating expenses of $504,355 in fiscal year 2020, for which $219,042 in revenue came from the $9 per semester student fee and $144,621 from advertising.

By Tom Troy

The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (TNS)

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