Bowling Green State says it 'will take no action that interferes with the independence of the BG News'

The Undergraduate Student Government tabled a resolution on Monday calling for oversight and an evaluation of the student newspaper, The BG News, at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, according to a report from The BG News.

But the school itself hasn't seen the resolution, and it plans to take no action, according to a statement posted Friday afternoon by Bob Bortel, director of student publications. Bortel shared the statement on an alumni Facebook page. It comes from Dave Kielmeyer, university spokesman.

Statement on the tabled USG resolution

Bowling Green State University has not seen the tabled Undergraduate Student Government resolution concerning the BG News.

However, the University will take no action that interferes with the independence of the BG News and the publication’s First Amendment rights, just as we will not interfere with or restrict the operation or rights of the Undergraduate Student Government or its members.

The opportunity to learn about the fundamentals of journalism and news writing by working at a student publication is an important part of our journalism curriculum. Likewise, participation in USG provides leadership development opportunities and practical experience in collaborative governance. Both experiences are integral to the University’s educational mission.

Dave Kielmeyer
Sr. Director of Communications and University Spokesman

On Friday, students sparred with BG News staff through a series of editorials and letters to the editor.

Eric Juzkiw, a student, wrote this on Friday:

What USG is attempting to do is to simply ensure that the newspaper is reporting stories accurately and correctly so as to ensure that students do not have any unneeded repercussions based on falsities reported by The BG News.

The word “censorship” was never used by USG when discussing the resolution, and yes, I was there as a non-voting party for the entire discussion. What USG did discuss was the potential idea of a way for individuals to see articles before they go to print to aide in the editing process.

From what I see, this is where the censorship aspect may have been misconstrued. This process of allowing external parties to review articles would simply be to help make sure all facts and quotes are correct. It would not impact the overall purpose of the article, it would just help ensure the articles being reported have their facts straight. And, thus, it would not in any way censor The BG News or infringe upon The BG News’ freedom of the press.

Misquoting people shows the student newspaper doesn't respect those people, he wrote, adding that the paper often had errors, misinformation and only reported on what it thought mattered.

So The BG News needs some reevaluation. It is something that can be a very great resource to campus and great way to recruit new students to help with enrollment.

On Friday, David Neely, the student government group's former vice president, called for accountability in the student newspaper and then asked some questions of his own.

How is the paper independent when it relies on University resources to function? In case you are curious what I mean, one example would include the use of West Hall and the student dollars that ensure that building remains functional throughout the academic year. Another would be the adviser being paid by the University under his title of director of the School of Media and Communication. Yet, the paper want to claim independence from the University because it sells advertisements for its operating budget?

Michael Horning, an assistant professor of Journalism, wrote Friday that errors don't equal the right to curb a free press.

USG has suggested in its resolution that some form of oversight be imposed on The BG News because its reporting has been flawed, inaccurate, misspelled and not always representative of views of students who have complained to student government.

While some of these claims are indeed causes for concern, they are not legal grounds by which a university can impose restrictions on the press.

A number of BG News alumni also weighed in.

It’s worth remembering these freedom of speech and press lessons are being given to an organization that has presented the University’s student body with two consecutive years of unopposed presidential races. Perhaps USG members should spend less time flexing their questionable journalism chops and worry more about their fellow students [just 8 percent of whom voted in USG elections during the past two years].

To be clear: The BG News is itself subsidized in some part by the University. Money, though, does not equal editorial control.

Lisa Halverstadt is now a reporter for the Voice of San Diego, and in 2007 and 2008, she was the editor of The BG News. There's always been tension between the student government and the newspaper, she told Poynter by phone, just like there is at most college campuses. The student press reports on the student government, often pointing out flaws in plans or a lack of power. It's not PR.

As she now tells sources who want to have a hand in what she's writing, "that's not the role of journalism."

On campus, it might be time, she said, "to just explain the role of journalism and how we do our jobs and how it helps society."


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