Letter to the Editor: To The Northern Light

Come celebrate 30 years!

By: Daniel Ribuffo

For those who don’t know, my job is the USUAA Speaker of the Assembly. This position requires me to be a non-biased member of the student government. That is to say, if an argument were to be taking place on the floor, I have to maintain neutrality and allow both sides of the argument to be presented. I hope you understand, now, my problem. For me, an unbiased member who allows everyone to share an opinion, to have to come out and speak against this paper means that the situation has gotten to the point where I am now compelled to say something.  This is a sad state of affairs.

I did not endorse the budget because I feel that by passing a favorable vote for the budget of The Northern Light we would be sending a message to the students as a whole and the writers of The Northern Light that we are alright with the quality of the writing and substance that is in the paper. I feel that this is not the case. The paper has, on many occasions, misrepresented peoples’ words , along with having sloppy grammar and poor spelling. I’d like to state that this is not based upon an isolated incident; this is a chronic (weekly) problem. The articles are poorly written and the subject matter is rarely newsworthy. Most of the articles are full of exaggerations and unsubstantiated claims that detract from the truth and are being used to attempt to increase the readership. Such instances like printing a photo of our empty office on a Friday, and alluding  that this is the norm is proof of this. There is a term for this type of journalism– it’s called yellow journalism. Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 10th Edition from 2009 states the definition of yellow journalism as: “the type of journalism that relies on sensationalism and lurid exaggeration to attract readers.” I feel that The Northern Light is a textbook case of this.

Addressing my concerns of how the newspaper affects us: The paper has rarely, in the two years I’ve been a part of USUAA, printed something that portrays us in a good light. That is to say, the bad outweighs the good. When representatives from The Northern Light came to the General Assembly meeting and gave a short list of positive articles, there was a lot of concern about how many negative articles were in print. They consistently print articles that portray USUAA as this dark looming “cloud” that sits above the student body simply waiting to “rain” on them. To say that we as an organization have done nothing good isn’t true. A lot of work is done in committees before being brought forth to the General Assembly. I have not once seen a writer from The Northern Light at the Student and Academic Affairs committee, and I would wager the same goes for every committee. I feel that writers for this paper forget that we are students and not by any stretch of the imagination perfect, and that we are volunteers willing to put in our time for the greater good. They simply stop at our titles and use that to “fight the man,” hoping to increase readership. One may wonder why USUAA is so looked down upon, and have trouble bolstering its numbers. This may be due to the repeated negativity that this paper gives us. Why would anyone like to be a crew member on this supposedly sinking ship?  The Northern Light puts us on the defensive. We cannot anticipate every thing they say, and to change someones mind when their first impression is negative is incredibly difficult. I am not trying to say that everything about us needs to be printed to make us look like saints, but credit should be given where credit is due.

I have a few personal reasons that I feel are relevant to add to this as well. As Speaker, I have used this title to attempt to sit down and discuss concerns with the Executive Editor, and each time my requests have been ignored. On one occasion, times simply didn’t work and when I sent a counter proposal for a meeting time I never received a response. Another time I was simply ignored outright. I cannot be expected to continually extend an olive branch when all I receive are arrows in return. I also feel that it is irresponsible of University Employees to be allowed to harass students, with no recourse, under the guise of the First Amendment. As a fellow UAA student employee, if I were to behave in a manner like The Northern Light, I would be terminated without hesitation. This is, in essence, a case of harassment masquerading as the first amendment. A true journalist would know that they are protected, not that they can hide behind this.

In closing, I feel that I must reiterate that there is a problem. Please do not mistake this as wanting censorship– that is a far cry from the truth. It is, however, a rampant misuse of the power the newspaper holds, to report in the manner that they do. This problem is, in the most simple of terms, a blight– one that must be stopped.

1 COMMENT

  1. I find it especially interesting that while you tout the fact that the members of USUAA are in training, you so blatantly expect perfection from the reporters and staff of The Northern Light. Not only do I find this to be a severe hole in your arguments against TNL, but I also find it to be extremely ignorant of the needed personnel, time, and effort it takes to produce a paper of TNL’s size on a weekly basis. These “student workers” are not only producing articles week after week, but they are also carrying full-time class loads, arranging interviews, doing research for their articles, and, just maybe, trying to squeeze in a social life in between all the craziness.

    I am not and never have been part of the staff at The Northern Light; however, I have worked as a contract reporter for KRUA and understand the time it takes to not only write a script for my stories, but also to arrange interviews and find the people necessary to make a story work. My stories were never perfect, but I learned a lot along the way with the help of KRUA’s staff. At my previous college, I was also the co-editor of our newspaper which was published monthly. Work on a monthly publication was nuts; I was constantly assigning stories, editing pieces, as well as writing a couple of my own stories. No doubt a proofreading error slipped into the final copy every now and then, and not all of my staff reporters were ready for the New York Times. But we were students, and we were learning.

    Despite problems between TNL and USUAA, claiming that their “sloppy grammar and poor spelling” is grounds for not approving their budget is ludicrous, as well as bundling all writers for TNL into a group that, you say, writes “articles [that] are poorly written and the subject matter is rarely newsworthy.” Just as you’re asking TNL to let USUAA learn, as students, and to let you do your jobs, leave this type of criticism to the editors of TNL to help their writers grow into professional journalists and writers.

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