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Journalism Majors Suffer at the Hands of LIU

By Angela Alfano
Co-News Editor

Students at Post have all heard the word “portfolio.” Whether it is for a project in a course or a final product during a semester, students have been asked to collect their finest work.

As a journalism major, creating a portfolio of published works is a given. It is a goal that is set early on in the deciding factor of selecting that particular major. Internships and jobs alike don’t want to hear about what you can do; but rather see what you have done. Having a physical, tangible copy, or e-portfolio, of published work is essential for one’s future career. The perfect way to gain hands-on, practical experience prior to graduation is through a school newspaper.

At Post, the student body is fortunate enough to be part of a smaller campus. One may say it is included in the tuition. Journalism students have the opportunity, and are encouraged to join their campus newspaper. Because there are not thousands of journalism majors to contribute, the newspaper is a student run “club” that allows students of all majors to have their work published and create their own voice.

As one of the current news editors of The Pioneer, it is my job (and the job of Brian Riley, my coeditor) to find topics for campus news stories as well as write and edit those stories. Part of the title includes delegating selected stories to staff writers.

Annual tuition for Post is just under $35,000, according to Universities are often compared to businesses. Thus, as paying customers, quality customer service is implied. Yet, week after week, journalism students working for the school newspaper are dismissed by administration and staff when asked for simple comments or quotes. More often than not, the staff writers are unjustifiably ignored. This is a customer service fail.

The Pioneer editors invited Michael Berthel, Director of Campus Life, and Abby Van Vlerah, Dean of Students, to one of their early staff meetings to address these concerns. Berthel and Van Vlerah both expressed their “concern” for the constant adversity. The duo encouraged amateur journalists to do interviews via email and said to expect a response within four-tofive business days, longer than The Pioneer’s staff writers are given for stories; despite the endless number of credible journalism professors who adamantly advise against email interviews. Who knew an email reply took longer than Amazon shipping! The reason for the delay in answering questions, even about the most basic matters, is allegedly because the information they provide is seen by many eyes to have a polished yet vague press release feel. It has happened consistently every week since I have been news editor.

Just this past week, The Pioneer faced rejection from various sources. Assistant A&E Editor Thomas Gillen contacted a fellow student who works in the office of Campus Life, for simple, non-controversial information regarding the spring concert. Yet the fellow student told Gillen he couldn’t say anything because the information had to go through “marketing” first.

Even the Tilles Center staff has informed writers that they could not respond to requests for information without speaking with Dean Van Vlerah first. Staff writer Shelby Townsend also experienced rejection, in a more passive approach, while working on a story about the new director of the photo department. After Townsend sent an initial email, which went without response, she then called the office of the associate professor. There, she reached the receptionist who told Townsend to send the professor an email. All requests sent to the faculty member went without reply.

Haley Rydowski, another staff writer, wrote an article about the technological renovations that were being done around campus. When she contacted the IT department in search of a representative to comment about the progress all refused to comment.

Even as an editor with a seeming position of authority, I have suffered the rigmarole that is LIU Post. Most recently, I was writing a news brief regarding alcohol and women, which required a quote from a representative of the campus counseling center. With unreturned phone calls and unheard messages, the brief went without a quote from an LIU representative, something the Pioneer editors do not want to do.

Journalism majors are suffering at Post and are experiencing the cold shoulder from administrators and staff members. As I near my graduation in May and apply for jobs using the skills that I have acquired as a journalism major at LIU Post, I have found that my experience as a journalist at Post is a limited one that does not provide students with adequate support from their alma mater.

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