Friday, January 26, 2007

The Gramblinite needs help

So after being suspended for about a day, now The Gramblinite-the student newspaper at Grambling University, pledges to use the Associated Press Stylebook (a journalist's bible) and is committing to reducing errors in content and grammar.

The student newspaper's advisor, Wanda Peters, is now willing to check each story for errors and style. And now, a copy editing course will be offered in the fall and teachers of journalism now pledge to actually teach news writing and AP style in their classes.

Wow. It only took being suspended for them to want to be better.

My only question is this: What in God's name was the university and student newspaper staff doing before this provost-imposed suspension?

When I first heard the news of the paper's suspension I was completely outraged. I was prepared to go to Monroe to fight for first amendment rights. I wanted my co-workers to join me. I wanted the students to be heard. I wanted to fight for our endless cause.

But when I went back and re-read the initial story, I understood why the university's provost took such drastic action. He cites issues of plagiarism and content errors since his 2004 arrival. Plagiarism since 2004? What took him so long to step in and realize the students weren't learning what they needed to in order to produce a paper? Nearly three years is a long time to deal with errors on that level.

I think its safe to say Provost Robert Dixon was embarrassed by the student paper and not because they may publish stories that are critical of the university but because the paper was proof that students weren't learning the proper skills necessary to become good journalists. The paper was a reminder that professors and student editors weren't doing their jobs correctly.

Although I still don't think Dixon should have suspended the paper--even if it was only for a day--he had the best intentions. No paper at a public university (or a private one but they have different rules) should be suspended based on content and no student paper should be forced by the university to allow prior review of its contents. But, the Gramblinite needs to do better.

My co-workers and I are still going to Grambling sometime soon to see what we can do to help.

I hope they get better since they now has an improvement plan in place.

But, dang...what took them so long?


Donecia Pea said...

See, the skeptic in me wonders about that whole thing. I mean why NOW would they call the paper out on plagarism and other wrongdoings? I just do not buy that the professors weren't teaching AP style and other basic tenements of journalism. So why would they pledge to do so now? It's no telling what kinda pressure is being put on the journalism dept. right now, not just from administration, but probably alumni and everyone else. They want it to go away as soon as possible. And I believe the only reason the administration even lifted the suspension was because of the amount of press they got on the issue - They weren't expecting the outcry to be so loud.

But, truthfully, before I go into full skeptical mode, I need to see a couple of these faulty newspapers prior to the suspension, even as far back as 2004.

Ashley Northington said...

I don't know what's going on at that university. It seems like a bunch of foolishness. And I think you're right about them lifting it after one day--they probably did not expect that type of outcry.

My issues still fall with the students. What were they doing? I've talked to some folks and they tell me the paper absolutely plagarized and absolutely had lots of errors. They know better than that. Everyone involoved needs to do better.

Melinda Williams said...

This whole situation bothers me. The Gramblinite has been less than outstanding for as long as I remember.
As an HBCU grad and as someone with friends from Grambling, I certainly don't want to rip the paper to shreds, but this seems like a systemic problem. The paper shouldn't have gotten to the point where the administration felt the need to shut them down and the administration shouldn't have even considered suspending publication. And really, faculty review is a dangerous road to travel down.
And I hope the new guidelines are just an excuse, because if these things weren't being done, these students really weren't getting their money's worth as far as their education.

Anonymous said...

As a editor with The Gramblinite, the entire staff did not plagiarize. It was a sports reporter that was previously editor-in-chief and had won numerous awards for outstanding sports writing.
As the managing editor I had no idea that he plagarized because he has always been a terrific writer.
For people to say that The Gramblinite has been a poor newspaper is a slap in the face. We win countless awards, one being named best HBCU newspaper 2001, 2005 and the last two years placing runner-up. We not only do good in HBCU competitions but since 2002 we have always placed Top 10 in SEJC( Southeastern Journalism Conference) which has schools such as Emory, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt.
In no way do we tolerate plagarism but we understand how it can affect a newspaper's credibility. When Jason Blair plaigarized at the New York Times, they fired him.The Gramblnite took the same approached. We also had sessions on copy editing and style and grammer.
However, as student editors we came up with measures to make sure this incident would not occur again.
We are student journalism, and we pride our work. For people to say that we have been plaigarizing for year's is crazy and heart felt. We love what I do, and we don't take the easy way out. If so, we wouldn't spend countless hours in the newsroom. Let's be honest, it only takes a 2 minutes to copy and paste a story.

Ms. Pea, the administration has been upset about recent articles in The Gramblinite about the alumni and the city of Grambling suing them. They tried to halt the press in a attempt to silence the students voice. And thats the TRUTH!

DeEric Henry