Student journalists deserve respect from administration

In a semester filled with incidents that demonstrate Chico State administration’s strange commitment to avoiding transparency, a frustrating trend has been clear. Student reporters are rarely respected on this campus, and time and time again some members of our staff have been chided or treated condescendingly for seeking out more information, especially about safety issues.

That’s not to say all members of administration do not see our reporters as valid members of the media. There have been times of progress, and not all authority figures on campus have been difficult to reach or treated our reporters condescendingly.

For example, Chief John Reid has been willing to meet with us on several occasions throughout the semester, despite the recurring trend that University Police keep redirecting our staff to University Communications for information on some incidents. In contrast, other administrators often decline to comment, or worse, tell reporters that they can find the information themselves.

One reporter was told by an administrator that it was “rude” to publish “was not available to comment” in a story. I would like to remind readers that the media will always publish if an important source who could have added information to the story declined or was not available for comment at the time of the story’s release. We will do our best to try to get ahold of important sources, but we can’t always wait days before getting out a story.

That’s the nature of the real world, too. A reporter does not have to wait a week for you to decide to comment on an issue in order for it to be a fair story. We will always try to get ahold of you, but if you are busy, we cannot wait for your input. This does not make us biased or rushed. We’re simply doing what we can based on deadlines, as usual.

The same reporter was later looking for specific information for how our campus is prepared for evictions in case of an active shooter threat, including schematics and published safety plans. They were told that everything is on our website, and told that students need to find everything online themselves, rather than come to staff members for further explanations. This isn’t exactly what you’d want to say to a student who is reading about shootings on other campuses and wants some reassurance, or more resources from our staff.

In addition, other reporters were told that they needed to talk to the sports information office rather than going directly to athletes after games, as if seeking out these student athletes was going around the administration’s current system.

We were incredulous that as members of the press trying to provide more information to students about safety, they were treated so rudely. These experiences are condescending and inconsiderate of students’ needs. What if any average student would like the same faculty member to walk them through a security plan and explain what it means? Shouldn’t reporters be given the same help and respect?

Worse, treating student reporters as if they are out to push an agenda makes it look as if you have something to hide. It’s unacceptable that our reporters have been repeatedly talked down to, as if they aren’t real members of the media, or treated as if their efforts to dig deeper are threatening something about the campus’ image. Especially if it’s unexplained incidents like the Meriam Library evacuation in October that we’re digging deeper into. Why shouldn’t we want more information on these kinds of incidents? Why should a student journalist be ignored or chastised for pushing for more explanations?

It isn’t just us, either. I’ve heard from other members of the media in this town that get information from our police department and University Communications. As I’ve said before this semester, it all comes back to Gayle Hutchinson and her administration if they want to change this look for our school. And if not, we’re still going to be here demanding a higher standard of transparency for our fellow students.

I hope that Chico State begins to recognize the importance of the work we do as journalists and students, and have become more educated on how the media is able to work on our public campus. Whether or not they decide to make changes, we will still be here next semester to demand more accountability and better attempts at transparency that our campus so desperately relies upon.

Natalie Hanson can be reached at [email protected] or @nhanson_reports on Twitter.