Dorianna Valerio, The Pioneer’s Editor-in-Chief from 2013-2014, contacted The Pioneer in response to Angela Alfano’s editorial in the March, 2 issue about the struggle journalism majors face at LIU Post.
That was very well written. It really is a sad situation. I faced some adversity as a staff writer and then as the coeditor-in-chief, but there was a slightly more open path of communication between administration and The Pioneer’s journalists. Not a lot, but much more than what it seems your staff has. The relationship between student journalists and the school’s administration is a complex one. Customer service and journalism are like water and oil in LIU’s case.
As journalists, we should never expect any source to help us even if it’s for something that sheds light in a positive way and would be in their best interest to speak on. As a student, you should expect that the school provides you the adequate tools to be successful in your field of choice. However, when that is journalism — the school administrators are still a business and want to protect their image. That’s a tricky place to be in. If they help you willingly then they are providing top notch customer service and can expect you to only produce favorable articles since they provided great services. Think about when you order food. The food comes on time and taste good. The company than is expecting you to give it a high rating because they met your needs. Better to be on the side you’re on than in bed with the devil.
As journalists — please expect a sources’ door to be closed on you time and time again. If you’re a journalist working within a business, (which is LIU), the threat is scary for them. The Pioneer is a credible newspaper and hard hitting stories can be especially damaging to them. I’m not saying what they are doing is right because it’s not, but as a business, they have the right to refuse to speak to reporters. It’s not fair, but using your platform to raise awareness about Post’s secretive ways is absolutely the best and professional way to do it. Don’t expect to get any more support from them. There are plenty of stories to tell — keep writing. Keep including in your articles that the school refused to comment. Don’t back away from the harder stories because you don’t have a comment from administration. I know you want to be fair and balanced, but understand that you are systematically being silenced. At this point you have no other option but to tell the stories the only way you can. Reach out to everyone and continue to include in your stories their continual refusal to comment. At the end it looks bad on them from a business perspective (if I were a graduating high school senior and I read the school’s paper and all the stories included “refused to comment” I wouldn’t waste my time). You do everything you can do with the cards you are dealt. Be fair. Be honest. And don’t give up.
Also, don’t be afraid to write and find stories outside the school for your own personal blogs/websites. While Professor Levin would love you all to have real experience working on a newspaper, she understands the value of great pieces for a great portfolio and will always work with you on any journalistic projects you undertake. Real world journalism is fun. Don’t be discouraged. Good luck!