Written By: Brian Lombardi
*This is an opinion piece of why The Fitchburg Point is in trouble and how it can be fixed*
The College Newspaper Production class at Fitchburg State is the driving force of the school’s publication—The Point. This class gives students a taste of professionalism, and these students should be actively learning how to operate a newspaper. A strong paper with well-written articles should be the goal of the class. That being said, this objective is rarely met, and doing the same thing repeatedly teaches the students nothing. Repetition of a weak approach only guarantees a future of weak results.
“A collegiate publication should have a higher standard for their articles,” Senior Tim Murphy wrote in a Facebook status Thursday night. He’s right, although the problem stems from the course objectives rather than the writers.
At the start of the semester, a student is elected as the managing editor, and both the managing editor and the class is required to fulfil a quota of written articles. The course description on the syllabus says that it provides “Practical experience in content creation, design and production of a biweekly college newspaper.” Although this dynamic is very hands on, it promotes laziness among the class. One goes in with the mindset of “write these; get the grade,” and then they leave the class with no experience.
There are no guidelines to follow, and as a result there are no expectations. The issue with a student run paper under the umbrella of the university is that the writers take advantage of a particular freedom that nullifies professionalism. “Tasks related to copy and production flow [should] mirror those of a mainstream newspaper,” the syllabus goes on to say. However, the participants in the class seldom commit to that statement. These writers try to entertain using popular formats, controversies, and ultimately clickbait. This isn’t writing, this is attention seeking.
The representation of FSU doesn’t matter when it comes to the online paper. Fitchburg State officially has its social media campaign, Falcon Buzz, and the admissions blog to speak positively of the school— it’s in the job description. The Point is the student newspaper, not Fitchburg State’s. A writer for the point is allowed to say what they want, but freedom of speech shouldn’t justify cheap writing. Does the problem lie in the foundation of The Point, or in those who write for it?
If it’s the former, it may be best that the newspaper doesn’t rely on a required class. Currently, minimum effort is put forth so a writer can receive a participatory letter grade. The paper should only publish what is worthy of being read, and not simply whatever is submitted. Journalism should not be as subjective as the course encourages.
“So you have two options: make it a school run organization, or a student run club,” Murphy suggests. “Involve the English department! Convince writing professors to offer extra credit if you get published.”
The Point was once a club, but it didn’t work out. What if it’s the latter? All students have open submission to the point, meaning anyone can write for it. There’s a stigma of the paper, but the reality is that it’s your paper. Student involvement is not a pillar of the university. To blame a particular group of students required to run the point is a bit silly. If you want better content, you should create it. That’s the point, and is the foundation of The Point.
How do we fix it? This is on you. How would you fix it? You actually have the power to do so if you wanted, and the majority of students unfortunately haven’t considered this.
The school newspaper should be an opportunity for up and coming journalists, writers, or active community members to share their work through a legitimate outlet. Articles should be published for content and as long as that responsibility is dependent on a class, rather than divided among interested students, not all “staff members” will put in the work required. The Point should have a solid reputation as the school’s go-to news source, but first it has to earn it.