Columbia is known for welcoming students to the college in fun, eccentric and creative ways. Welcome Week, Vice President of Student Success Mark Kelly’s famed “Hell yeah!” Liturgy and Convocation encourage students to embrace their campus.
Some Chronicle staff members will not recall such easy-breezy memories of their first week of the school year, however, thanks to new interview policies that have not been so welcoming.
Our Campus reporters are ambitious, hard-working young journalists who strive to cover the college’s goings-on with accuracy and persistence.
Many of our stories require interviews with some of the college’s top administrators, and we have historically worked hard to orchestrate such interviews efficiently, respecting administrators’ time.
But a spokesperson said that our reporters no longer can reach out to administrators directly, which they have been allowed to do in the past, citing time management concerns.
The spokesperson promised that this new process would not stop interviews from taking place. However, the new process has made it significantly more arduous for Chronicle reporters to get in contact with the sources they need to report fully-developed stories.
For their part, some administrators have been cooperative and helpful to The Chronicle, consistently making sure we get what we need from them. Last year, President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim met with our management team on multiple occasions. Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden also made himself available more than once last year and Vice President of Student Success Mark Kelly is always quick to respond to The Chronicle’s calls.
That being said, it seems senseless that a college would make communicating with its own student newspaper so troublesome. These tactics are touted as efforts to better schedule interviews, but they delay opportunities for students to do their jobs correctly and keep the campus community informed.
The administration can justify making outside media jump through such hoops, but creating these obstacles for its own journalism students is not helpful to the students or the larger college community.
Meanwhile, when our reporters do get an interview with an administrator, they at times face undue hostility. During the first week of school, one higher-up reminded a reporter of her status at the college.
“In the context of this interview, I’m an interviewee and you’re the interviewer, but I’m an administrator and you’re a student,” the administrator said. The Chronicle staff is committed to carrying out the best journalism possible, but we can’t do that without access to those with needed information.
The administration should rethink its communication strategies and support opportunities for us to fulfill our mission. We are hopeful that these issues will improve as the year goes on and that the college will remember that some of the student journalists currently getting the run-around will soon be the next generation of Columbia alumni—individuals certainly worth communicating with more effectively.