Bruce Rauner’s action nothing short of disrespectful

By Editor-in-Chief

As a student journalist at Columbia, it is not uncommon to come to a journalism class on time and then be out the door, en route to a press conference, moments later. There is no better preparation for learning how to write hard news stories than to be thrown head-first into covering one.

 There is no preparation for the day when you become a headline, though, which was the case for a dozen journalism students at the college.

 On Sept. 16, journalism professor Curtis Lawrence took the 12 students in his political coverage class to a speech delivered by Bruce Rauner, the Republican candidate running against Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn for Illinois governor.

 When students initially arrived, they were denied entrance because they were four minutes late. However, several members of Chicago media outlets who arrived after Lawrence’s class were let into the press conference.

 Students in the class said that a representative from Rauner’s communications team told them that the other reporters were from “accredited media” and that the conference was for working press only.

 Since there is no organization that accredits media, what the representative really said was the Rauner campaign does not consider journalism students to be real journalists. The students waited to see if Rauner would be available to speak with them, but they were disappointed after the event when he abruptly left the conference without taking questions.

 It mystifies me why any professional with an iota of experience with public relations or the media would not see the inevitable headlines that would spring from such an action, particularly considering its message to voters.

 It was hardly surprising that Quinn’s camp immediately responded to the incident, with communication manager Brooke Anderson tweeting that Rauner was a “bully” and implying that Rauner’s team’s actions were predictive of the ways of his potential administration.  

 I am inclined to agree with Anderson, but I am more concerned with the ideology perpetuated by Rauner’s team that student journalists are not as important as the “working press.”

 I experienced a similar situation when I was a sophomore in my “Reporting and Writing II” class. My class had covered a press conference held by Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a factory in the Austin neighborhood of the West Side. Though we were allowed to stay, it was clear the other parties involved did not consider us to be real press and that we were viewed as a hindrance. As a student, such treatment can be pretty demoralizing.  

 Also, as the editor-in-chief of one of the best student newspapers in the country—and we have the awards to back it up—I am offended that student journalists would be treated in such a way, especially because I have seen 40 student journalists do amazing things every week when we go to press. Many of the staff reporters at The Chronicle have faced the same treatment that Lawrence’s class endured, too.

 The simple fact of the matter is that student journalists are the next generation of newspeople. What Rauner and other politicians should be cognizant of is that the people they snub now may very well be the reporters they are forced to deal with down the line.

 Student journalists deserve as much respect as is afforded to reporters from larger media outlets, especially when those very students will likely be casting ballots come election time.