Training Reporters To Promote Government

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

If newspaper reporters largely seem to act as press agents for government programs, perhaps part of the reason may lie in the practical training they receive in college. “If you want to find a place where freedom of the press is increasingly restricted by official policies, you need look no further than American’s colleges,” John K. Wilson writes on the academe blog maintained by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). “As colleges become increasingly worried about PR, they have concluded that the easiest way to stop negative media coverage is to ban the media.”

“Harvard’s media relations policy is one of the worst,” Wilson asserts. He quotes the university rule that “Reporting, photographing, and videotaping are prohibited on campus without prior permission.”

“It’s absolutely astonishing that universities with journalism departments ban all reporting on campus unless it’s approved in advance by the administration,” Wilson argues. He has a point.

We get the Crimson and most of the stories in it look like university press releases. It’s not much of a leap to go from superficial coverage of university programs, replete with canned statements handed out by administrators, to uncritical reporting on local, state and, of course, federal government agencies.