Though it didn’t make the front-page headlines, a recent news article shared the experience of student-journalists at Liberty University.
I am very thankful for the relationship the Optimist has with President Schubert. He is open and honest with us about things going on around campus. He reads the paper and has even extended words of encouragement on multiple occasions.
But I fear the rhetoric of the Liberty University administration is an example of how some alumni and students expect the Optimist to perform.
Jerry Falwell, the university’s president, along with other faculty members, consistently spiked and discouraged news stories that had negative implications for the school. Falwell expressed that the newspaper had been “established to champion the interests of the university, disseminate information about happenings on Liberty’s campus.”
Bryce Kirk, the dean of the school of communication & digital content, told the newspaper staff in a meeting, “Your job is to keep the LU reputation and the image as it is. Don’t destroy the image of LU. Pretty simple. OK?”
Reading this as a student-journalist, I was disappointed. I’m thankful to my advisers as well as the faculty and staff who invest their time in making our newspaper credible and thorough.
Our job as journalists is not to make anyone or anything look better. Our job as journalists is to accurately report happenings that affect students and the campus in general.
We will make mistakes and be open to accountability and repercussions. But ultimately, we need the support of the student body to report facts, not just information that makes people feel better.
ACU has blessed me in numerous ways and provided opportunities that I wouldn’t get elsewhere. But ACU isn’t perfect. Part of our job is shedding light on the imperfections and the mistakes our university makes. We are not a marketing or public relations publication for ACU; we are fact-reporting students.
I’ve never hated ACU. There are a lot of things I disagree with and a lot of things I wish administration would address, but my goal as editor-in-chief is to inform students as much as possible — on the good and the bad — as fast as possible.
If the football team has a losing record, we aren’t going to sugarcoat it. If a student gets reprimanded for actions in a dorm room or a relationship, we aren’t going to beat around the bush.
We won’t stoop to shallow expectations and an all-happy, all-positive narrative. We will fairly and accurately report the news.