Friday, April 06, 2012

An Apparent Victory

The "issue" that I mentioned in my last post regarding the newspaper ended so agreeably that it was almost anti-climactic. Easy battles are good, but they make for less interesting blog posts.
The original problem that I wrote "consumed the lion's share of my time and effort today, doing things that I hate doing, because they involved interpersonal communication" was a change in the college's social media policy. This had started last semester when the Bryan Web Communications Department started trying to reign in the Facebook fan pages, twitter profiles, blogs and other methods of online publication that students had created to represent clubs, organizations and sports teams on campus. 
The new policy required anyone with a social media account that used the name of the school or any organization officially affiliated with it to surrender login information and top-level administrative rights to the WCD. It also required users to accept an agreement that gave the WCD the right to remove or edit content that fell under a certain set of criteria. 
While I can understand the reasoning behind the policy, it created a number of concerns for the newspaper. 
First of all, it meant that a department we might conceivably have the desire to write about would now be controlling our content, which brings up some serious issues of journalistic integrity in general. 
More specifically, Triangle has not always gotten along well with some departments within the college––particularly those that have reason to be concerned with the school's image. The WCD, as evident in the very nature of the policy, is concerned about the schools image, and while the agreement ostensibly only gave them the right to remove content that was offensive or inaccurate, it's easy to imagine how the temptation might exist to remove stories reflecting badly on the college even if they were truthful and tastefully handled. 
Finally, the policy was relatively redundant, as the newspaper's faculty advisor within the journalism department already has administrative access to all of its social media accounts, and he is fully capable of monitoring the content himself. 
For all these reasons, we refused to give up the login information when asked last semester and left for Christmas vacation with the request that the WCD speak to the board and approve an exemption for Triangle for the policy. I had assumed that that is what happened. 
Unfortunately that isn't what happened.... only they never told us that that isn't what happened (I suspect intentionally). So last Thursday, when we were informed that we had hit the deadline for surrendering the login information, we didn't have time to appeal it in any official way. 
Instead, we spent the next two business days running around trying to get faculty to sign a petition to the Academic Vice President for Triangle to be given an exemption––for real this time. This was hard to explain because the WCD had played it (intentionally or not) so that it looked like we had procrastinated or been too lazy to appeal at the committee level. That's not true, but that's what it looked like. 
I only met with a few of the faculty myself, but it was discouraging because they all said no to signing (if I were in their place, I probably wouldn't have signed it either though... it's hard to bite the hand). It was also awkward because I got assigned to speak with the biology department, in which I only actually know one professor. 
On Friday, the Academic VP canceled a meeting to see the petition with our Editor and Chief and Assistant Online Editor, which in the past has been a sign that nothing is going to happen. So things weren't looking good over the weekend. 
Then, beginning of this week, the meeting happened, and... he completely agreed with our concerns. While the new social media policy will still go into place, Triangle will have an exemption written into it, and we will even get to help write it. 
So, as long as all of that actually happens, we should be in good shape, and those of us who are graduating this semester will be leaving future staffs with a newspaper, not just the college's second PR department.  

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