‘New Voices’ for an old problem

Sarah Lentz, Opinion Editor

Our first issue of the semester finds the staff of The Wayne Stater dealing with some of the same issues that filled our pages last semester.

Variety is the spice of life but when news continues to unfold, we have to cover it.

Obviously, some stories are more controversial than others. And, just like last semester, there are stories that the powers that be wish we wouldn’t dwell on.

Unfortunately, that’s just not how newspapers in the real world work, and our two main concerns are giving our readers the stories that they won’t get anywhere else and training our staff for the type of work they can expect in the real world.

Some have criticized our paper for not being fair and balanced in covering Dr. Karen Walker’s dismissal proceedings.

We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that we would love to be able to give you the views of everyone involved in the situation, especially any comments from the administration, the advisory committee or from the NSCS board. Any comment that is, other than “no comment.”

We understand that certain topics can’t be discussed at length, per employment agreements and confidentiality and we deal with it as best we can.

We also understand that some questions are uncomfortable for certain people to be asked, but sometimes, difficult questions have to be asked.

Walker’s story has dominated our paper, especially our opinion page, because it is so strange that a tenured professor was dismissed. That’s just not something that happens every day.

Without the safety net that tenure usually insures, many of the sources we rely on for information don’t want us publishing their name. That is not ideal for any publication. We can only assume that they prefer not to be named because they are worried about the ramifications.

Over the course of the last couple of semesters, we’ve been worried about ramifications over certain stories as well, and that’s unfortunate.

Yes, we are a state-funded school and a state-funded paper, but we shouldn’t have to question whether someone is trying to intimidate us into not running stories. We shouldn’t have to worry about the future of our paper if we deem our news and editorial content important and someone else disagrees. Right now, these are concerns that we do have to deal with.

Luckily, last week the “New Voices” bill was introduced in the Nebraska State Legislature by Sen. Al Davis. The bill seeks to protect college journalists’ right to freedom of speech and press even if they are funded by the state.

“College students at public institutions need a free and independent press to address issues which are relevant to students, and a press in which they can place full confidence,” Davis said in a Student Press Law Center press release.

As long as news coverage, opinion content or advertising isn’t libelous, dangerous or disruptive, this bill would give student journalist like us protection from the types of undue worries mentioned above.

Controversial news is always going to be breaking on our campus and it’s our goal to cover everything we can. There is a palpable ominous feeling within our campus media and that’s unfortunate. If it takes a bill like “New Voices” to give us the peace of mind that we need, so be it.