For far too long The Stony Brook Statesman has continually provided a huge disservice to the Stony Brook campus community. Aside from its ad-laced razor-thin issues, sycophancy reluctance to hold elections for its officers and occasional plagiarism scandals, the quality of reporting does not impress. It’s not so much the fault of the contributing writers who work there, rather the mismanagement of the top editors who have, over time, dismantled the official paper of Stony Brook University.
The Press’ main concern with the deterioration of what once could be called a rival paper is the absence of competition. With the introduction of The Stony Brook Independent and Think Magazine, both originated from disgruntled Statesman writers, (as was The Press) one would think that competition in campus media would be at an all time high, right? Well, it’s difficult to determine which is best when you are comparing apples to oranges, pears and grapes, but when one of the more institutionalized contenders is rotten (hint: it’s The Statesman), that question becomes much easier to answer.
A good argument can be made that The Statesman deserves to be cut. There is no excuse for operating a campus newspaper with a consecutive deficit over two years that totals nearly $30,000. The excuse that advertising revenue has dropped can only go so far, at which point the editors of The Statesman should’ve realized that certain cuts would have to be made, perhaps to the number of issues they printed and the frequency.
But the bigger question at hand lies in the financial future of The Statesman and its larger impact on the campus and organizations such as The Press.
“The USG takes no stance on the quality of a publication,” said Moiz Khan, USG Treasurer when asked about if the quality of The Statesman had factored into the decision to cut the budget. “It’s their first amendment right to print whatever they want to write. While opinions might be brought up, it would be a violation,” Khan said.
But clearly, behind closed-doors, that’s what it is. It appears that senators and officials from USG are influenced by the poor quality of The Statesman in their decision to cut their budget, despite denying such beliefs in public.
This is both dangerous and immoral. Such a precedent would threaten the sanctity of any publication on this campus, importantly to us, The Press. The problem with judging quality is that it is highly subjective—hard to reconcile with the objectivity required when allocating funds for clubs on campus. Subjections cutting the news media would impinge a publication’s right to free speech; it would be, like Khan said, a huge violation of the USG’s responsibilities and more importantly the trust of the students who pay for an activity fee. Consider how there have been numerous conversations amongst USG senators and officials over The Statesman’s lack of USG coverage—in fact a number of Senators insultingly post up the one or two articles The Statesman published on the walls in their offices—concluding that The Statesman is not doing enough.
The Statesman does have a responsibility to inform their readers, but the USG has a responsibility to respect the special protections afforded to the media and avoid a potentially self-interested budgetary process favoring groups, which publicize the USG.
The problem with judging quality is that it is highly subjective and that doesn’t bode well the attempted objectivity required when allocating funds for clubs on campus.
If The Statesman is getting cut because of their fiscal irresponsibility and failure to defend their importance on campus (their budget application and defense was inept and inadequate), then let them be cut. The $27,000 saved would probably go towards something much more beneficial anyway. But because there seems to be a strong underlying tone of complaints regarding the quality of The Statesman, there’s no question that those dealing with The Statesman’s budget, in an effort to address that tone, should make the process as transparent as possible.
And because The Statesman can’t seem to do anything right, we would offer our advice—that they start reporting on their own situation rather than leaving other publications like The Independent and The Press to report on it. Editorialize on it, protest against and get angry about it.
But again, The Statesman wouldn’t be in the position that they are in if it weren’t for the leadership.