Newspaper task force flirts with censorship

Editor’s Note: I compiled this editorial that ran in today’s newspaper; however, it is a complete collaboration of The Sunflower News (the student newspaper of Wichita (Kan.) State University) editorial board. It is the first editorial this school year to run unsigned by an individual editorial writer. The decision to do so was made because of the importance of the subject matter.

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Today a task force to review The Sunflower News will meet for the first time.

This is a result of a proviso that was attached to The Sunflower News’ money in the student fees budget.

Originally, this task force and the proviso signified an illegal blockage of funding for the student newspaper serving Wichita State based upon varying reasons, which included content and advising reasons.

However, WSU President Don Beggs has signed the budget and, in a letter provided to this news outlet, approved the release of funds for the newspaper because he viewed the very appointment of the task force to have fulfilled the proviso.

Others may disagree with his interpretation, but the seemingly most important issue is that funding will be released as scheduled.

The fact of the matter is, though, the task force still exists, and although First Amendment violations of censorship via withholding funds has been averted this go around, The Sunflower News believes the task force should be rendered useless even further by being removed altogether.

This seemingly toothless tiger has sent the wrong message to the public and the students of WSU.

The message appears to be that The Sunflower News is a rogue paper and has no intention of being a quality paper of which everyone can be proud. On the contrary, members of the staff make the best paper they can with the resources available.

No one is infallible. Everyone makes mistakes because everyone working for the publication is human.

The Sunflower News takes every step necessary to correct mistakes when they are made known to the staff. At times such corrections are done behind the scenes via personnel matters.

The staff welcomes criticisms and critiques. It helps the publication be the best it can, and

The Sunflower News has several avenues through which readers, regardless of affiliation with the university, can voice their feedback — positive or negative. This can be done in online story comments, U View messages, letters to the editor or speaking with publication board members.

It has been proposed that this task force will be doing little more than critiquing and criticizing the newspaper, but with so many mechanisms already in place, the task force becomes an unneeded redundancy.

Furthermore, the existence of the task force creates a recipe for censorship in coming years.

First Amendment rights, which guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to both journalists and non-journalists alike, are at stake. Although the campus’ free press is not being censored this year, it sets a bad precedent because this task force will now have an entire year to gain validity in its prying into the content of The Sunflower News.

So when next year’s budget is proposed, who’s to say this task force won’t make a recommendation based upon its inquiry to not give The Sunflower News as much funding as it may require?

This could continue year to year until the life of The Sunflower News is extinguished.

At this point, there seems to be nothing preventing such a thing from happening.

Obviously this would adversely affect The Sunflower News, but it also would create a very slippery slope for the entire campus community.

Everyone, whether a member of a specific organization or not, would have to be mindful of exercising First Amendment rights because doing so could catch the attention of this task force, which could result in a similar review and possible forced curtailing of any actions deemed to not be in accordance with standards that are yet unclear.

The task force should be removed, and it is in the best interest of everyone that is a part of the WSU community to voice such a notion.

Its very existence could chill the free thought and speech on this campus.

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About toddvogts 674 Articles
My name is Todd Vogts. I like the color green, riding my motorcycle, and being with my family and friends. A good book is a perfect companion for me any time, and I'm an author and journalist. Visit my website at www.toddvogts.com and follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/toddvogts.