Monday, January 29, 2007

Maybe I'm biased, but...

Michael Levandoski and all other Collegian readers who write letters to the editor criticizing the Collegian,

Thank you.

You not only read our newspaper, but you also have the initiative to write and tell us what you think of it.

You have knowledge of current events and you care about the world you live in.

You hold us accountable.

Seriously, thank you.

However, I do have a bone to pick with you – particularly those of you who accuse us of being "biased."

You’re right. The Collegian is biased, just like every other media outlet, organization, professor, student and human being.

You caught us – we’re human too.

And that means we are literally incapable of producing content free of bias.

Just like every artist is incapable of drawing a perfect circle or every teacher is incapable of inspiring all students to learn, we are incapable of achieving perfect objectivity.

That’s not what we’re complaining about, you say?

It’s the big stuff – the "liberal" bias that bugs you, right?

Fair enough. It’s true that some of the students who work at the Collegian lean to the left in their political ideologies.

It’s also true, however, that some of the students who work at the Collegian lean to the right.

I would estimate that we’re fairly representative of the Penn State student body in terms of the diversity of our politics.

We’ve got our weirdos; most of us are somewhere in the middle.

That leads me to address Mr. Levandoski’s specific gripe with the Collegian. Levandoski, in his
Jan. 24 letter to the editor "No coverage of march shows Collegian’s bias," accuses this newspaper of choosing not to run AP coverage of an anti-abortion march in Washington, D.C. because of our "clear bias."

Allow me to explain.

Our newspaper changes every day. Obviously, the news is different every day. But what you might not realize is that the space available for news content also changes every day.

Some days we have so much extra space that we have three or four pages of Associated Press content. Other days we little space and therefore no room for state, national and international news. We’re a local paper, so our emphasis is on local news.

However, when space allows, we do our best to give our readers the most important and relevant news from outside the borders of State College.

What’s my point, you say?

My point is simply that what you might think is a sign of clear bias may actually be a regular casualty of how newspapers operate.

Did we rationalize that an anti-abortion rally was not worthy of coverage in the Collegian because we disagree with that particular view? Heck no.

Lots of big news never finds its way into the Collegian’s pages. And it’s got nothing to do with bias.

So please continue to let us know when we screw up – maybe even when we do well.

But before you jump to conclusions, you need to understand how this place works.

Otherwise, you’re just biased.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Attention class...

I’ve often thought that if my career in journalism doesn't work out, I’d almost certainly be shuffled into the high-pressure, low-pay profession of teaching.

You might say I have an affinity for poor economic decisions.

But there’s definitely a part of me that wouldn’t mind lecturing, with chalk and ruler in hand, to a bunch of munchkins.

I guess I like to be in control.

There is some irony here considering the fact that there are few environments I despise more than a classroom. If there’s even the slightest reason to skip that 11:15 class, I’ll find it and use it.

You’ve heard of professional students? I ain’t one of them.

Truth is, I thrive in the working world. I like to be doing, not listening.

Still, I might have been a teacher in a past life. And if things don’t work out as planned in this one, there’s a chance I’ll find myself in a classroom once again.

Being the editor in chief this year has given me a chance to do a bit of teaching – not in the traditional sense, of course. But I still felt like part of my job was to impart the knowledge I’ve collected during the past three years and share it with my staff.

They’re probably sick of listening to me, so I need a new soundingboard.

Dear readers, this is where you come in.

I started this blog as a means of educating readers on the newspaper industry and the role of journalism in society. I’m putting that aside for a moment and opting for pure trivia.


Random Collegian trivia fact No. 1: Staff members don’t get "paid" for working here. Most editors and some reporters/photographers do receive a stipend for the many hours they put in, but the Collegian’s student staff members are essentially volunteers.

Random Collegian trivia fact No. 2: Contrary to popular belief, the James Building (where the Collegian’s newsroom resides) was not named after yours truly. Someone with a lot more money earned that honor.

Random Collegian trivia fact No. 3: The Collegian is a self-supporting, independent business. We rely heavily on revenue generated from advertising, which is sold by the Collegian’s Business Division – also composed of students.

Random Collegian trivia fact No. 4: You might think students only pick up the Collegian for the crossword puzzle, but you’d be wrong. According to an article written by the Collegian’s general manager Gerry Hamilton in the newly released Collegian Chronicles, students look for news in these pages. Campus news, national and world news and State College news top the list.

Random Collegian trivia fact No. 5: Actually, this is a newspaper fact: Letters to the editor submitted to the Collegian for publication can be edited for length or content. I know that’s not really trivia, but it just really irks me when people complain that I "ruined" their letters when I simply edited them to make sense.

Class dismissed.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

History in the making

Two days and counting…

I’m anxiously awaiting the soon-to-be snippet of television history during which Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert and Fox’s Bill O’Reilly trade places on each other’s programs.

I might even interrupt my Collegian hours to experience this spectacle first-hand. From the dawn of my Collegian career, only last year’s Super Bowl and the 2004 presidential election have met the same standard of must-watch television.

Colbert, the host of the Colbert Report and an expert in sarcasm, has based his own character on the persona of O’Reilly, an authority in provocation and a leader in the cable ratings game.

I guess I just want to see if O’Reilly is as skilled at being funny as he is at making me angry.

My loyalty to Comedy Central’s fake news fetish began with Jon Stewart about three years ago when I was a naïve college student and budding journalist.

I find it slightly ironic that my favorite television program makes fun of my career choice.

But alas, I cannot deny the comedic genius of Stewart and Colbert.

Now I’m anxious to see if O’Reilly is capable of turning my winces into laughs.