Last semester, The Hatchet’s editorial board began a series of editorials to encourage debate on the selection of our next president. Since the last piece in this series, the presidential search committee selected Steven Knapp, provost at Johns Hopkins University, as GW’s next leader.
While the search is no longer in progress, the topics of the editorial board’s series still remain extremely important and applicable to the incoming administration. There is perhaps no issue nearer to our hearts than the strong support that campus media has enjoyed over the past decade. As incoming president, Knapp should make a concerted effort to continue a culture of openness and support for student-run journalism.
Under the leadership of Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, campus media has enjoyed a period of prominence and importance. As campus media outlets around the country have been subject to restrictions and censure by administrators, GW officials have been open to discussion with this paper and a number of other campus media outlets. It would also be remiss to ignore the fact that it was President Trachtenberg who pushed for The Hatchet’s editorial independence in the early 1990s.
Most importantly, a culture of openness to and serious consideration of campus media has developed under Trachtenberg. University staff commonly read The Hatchet and other publications and pay attention to the buzz on campus. Ultimately, students benefit from a common source of information exchange between leadership and the University population.
The arrival of a new president next year will likely bring new faces in the various departments throughout this University. While new blood may spell a fresh direction for GW, it also potentially means that a culture of openness toward the media may wane or disappear completely.
President Knapp should take the lessons of the past decade and embrace the student media groups that report on the happenings at GW. By taking the lead in accepting the student press, other departments will likely follow. In continuing a culture of openness, the new administration will find it easier to bring students and faculty on board for major initiatives and to build prestige for the school.
As a bustling campus in D.C., one of the great hubs of journalism, it is especially essential that GW leadership continue to treat campus media as a serious force for informing the entire GW community. Doing so will not only promote an atmosphere akin to the real world of journalism, but it will also attract prospective students interested in holistic training for careers in the media.
The limited state of GW TV and the relative scarcity of student print or Web publications leaves room for improvement in the current state of campus journalism. Continued support for campus media and interaction with various outlets will encourage more publications to join the field and will encourage competition that will result in a better quality of reporting.
Ultimately, the foundation for a strong campus media culture is already in place, and many students recognize this unique feature at GW. President Knapp should continue this commitment to open communication, and ensure that campus media thrives and receives the recognition that is so vital to this University.