A call for help

The headline does fit this post. However, you’ll have to get through this history lesson first before it all makes sense…

As most people around here know, I wound up as a student at Rider University in the mid-90s after spending a few years trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

Just out of high school, I went to Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ, for a year and a half before I just lost interest. I was taking liberal arts courses and nothing was really exciting me so I withdrew despite only needing one more semester to get my associate’s degree. After a semester off, I went back as a business administration major. But then I realized I’m much better at spending money than I am making and managing it. Plus, it just didn’t mesh with my personality. So into my second semester as a business major, I dropped out again…this time for about two years.

In 1994, I was working in retail and realized I had been an idiot. I remembered how much I enjoyed writing for my high school newspaper years earlier and decided to return to OCC as a print and broadcast journalism major. As a result, I was in a couple of classes taught by a Professor Karen L. Bosley, the adviser to the Viking News, the student newspaper at OCC.

It was under Bosley’s tutelage that I honed my skill as a writer and editor. I seriously doubt I would have gone on to accomplish what I have without her. It was also Bosley who suggested one day that I check out Rider as a post-OCC academic destination.

So what is the point of all this and what does it have to do with the “call for help” mentioned in the headline of this post?

Well, thanks to OCC president Jon H. Larson and the college’s board of trustees, Bosley will be out as adviser to the Viking News next June. Why? According to this Asbury Park Press story, Bosley was told it was because the newspaper contained too many errors and that because students weren’t being properly prepared for the real world since they use Apple Macintosh computers rather than Windows-based PCs.

First of all, as RegretTheError.com shows, there are plenty of mistakes being made in professional publications around the globe. It would be great to publish an error-free newspaper, but considering I see a minimum of three mistakes a day in widely circulated Associated Press stories, I can’t imagine that has ever happened.

And if students are not being properly prepared for the real world by using Macintosh computers, then why is the Rider Journalism Lab chock full of Power Macs? My first experience with a Mac came in the Viking News office. Guess what computer I use at work today? Yup, you guessed it…a Mac.

If anything, the problem lies within the newspaper industry. During my time working at the Ocean County Observer and during a visit to The Times of Trenton in the mid 90s, I was amazed by the antiquated hardware and software being used in those operations. I don’t know if things have changed or not since then, but I wonder how exactly you can prepare students for the future when the industry for which you are preparing them is still living in the past.

But I digress…

This move by the OCC administration has nothing to do with errors in the Viking News or the students not being prepared for the real world. This has everything to do with freedom of speech and expression. The Viking News—or any collegiate newspaper run by students, for that matter—is not and should never be a mouthpiece for the administration. Bosley would not be doing her job if she put her students in that position. Student journalists need to learn how to be objective and fair, but they also need to learn how not to be puppets and pawns. If the students want to question the administration, that is their right as budding journalists.

I have read recent issues of the Viking News via the Web. There are no personal attacks going on. It is certainly not careless journalism. And I think it is one of the better student publications that I have seen. From a quality standpoint, the Viking News is right up there with many student papers at four-year colleges and universities.

And I don’t know how Bosley can do a better job advising the newspaper staff. Back in my day, she stayed with us all through our production nights, helping to edit stories as well as offering advice and guidance. That’s more than I can say for the advisers I had at Rider. Except for a couple of individual meetings, the only role they played was attending our Sunday night meetings and offering a critique of that week’s paper. I can’t imagine anyone thinking Bosley was not doing an excellent job of teaching her students and preparing them for the real world. Anyone who thinks she is not a great teacher doesn’t live in the real world.

I wish I had more time to write something more eloquent and compelling, but this is all I can muster at this time. However, if anybody who reads this cares enough about freedom of speech and expression, please take the time to e-mail the OCC President Jon Larson at jlarson@ocean.edu or call him at (732) 255-0400 x330 to let him know he is flat-out wrong when it comes to what he is doing to Prof. Bosley.

Thanks.

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