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In College, a Clear Place for Journalists

September 21, 2010

The Forum
In College, a Clear Place for Journalists

High schoolers anticipate it for years; adults reminisce. In these four years, under the right circumstances, a student can define his happiness, his passion, and his character. All evidence points to the affirmative: college has the potential to be the best time of one's life.

But there comes occasion when that experience is threatened, sometimes by students or alumni without the facts of policy and intent, other times by administrators too forward-looking, too cautious or proactive. Some have forgotten what college is supposed to be about, years later holding only a framed diploma and fading memories.

It seems the more years that pass from graduation, the further people are from the reality of what it means to be here – to still have those four years of freedom, during which we first begin to understand the true meaning of action and responsibility.

In a democratic society, there are protectors against a similar brand of lethargy. Journalists exist to remind citizens of their civic duty – and to hold officials accountable for infringing on the rights and well being of its people.

College journalists have a like mission: to constantly remind their administrators, be they students associated or deans in charge, of the hopes, desires, and expectations of its students. Those students have to be knowledgeable, responsible actors, and we, their journalists, must be the medium.

It's not all about the here and now, of course. Being a student and a taxpayer are both deep investments, and long-run returns are expected. Twenty years later, alumni should have more than memories to show for their college experience. Administrations are required to look forward.

Students must be held account as well. When they betray a system that was built for their benefit – when they take for granted how good they have it – they cannot reasonably blame their indiscretion on the system itself.

But when a government loses respect for the past, it begins to fail its people, who are prideful of place and, in many ways, defined by its history. Colleges and universities, which attract students with seemingly endless options, are no different. Students choose allegiance based on a culture they will identify with throughout their careers.

So journalists have an important place in college. They are placed in a microcosm of the "real world"; they have the chance to protect an invaluable moment in the lives of their peers. They can be the medium that makes certain college is experienced under the right circumstances. But loyal students, with a duty of their own, must give them something to report.

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