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Marketing and Miscommunication: How the New Media Request Policy Hinders Student Journalism at Scripps

Jacqueline Loh ’22

Something that has been drilled into my head since I began journalism is: “always conduct an in-person interview.” Speaking to someone one-on-one creates a more natural dialogue. As a journalist, you’re able to talk to the source candidly, without the added hurdles or rigidity of emailing back and forth with someone. You can add details about how the source emphasizes certain words, their expressions, their tone, and their body language.

Now, imagine my surprise when I was writing my first article for the Scripps Voice, and was immediately told by my sources to direct all questions to Marketing and Communications.

I was confused by this policy. To me, it seemed odd that if someone asked basic questions about school or residential life policies, for example, why can’t one speak directly to the people in charge? Why is there an added barrier of going through Marketing and Communications?

The new policy for media requests states that all requests must go through Marketing on “behalf of the College, which includes responding to reporter requests, ensuring that the College provides accurate and timely information to the media, and maintaining records of media inquiries.”

According to Marketing and Communications, this process is intended to streamline media requests and prevent a backlog of emails. All journalists, including those within student publications, are told to “provide their questions in writing and indicate the due date for their article.”

In a statement provided by Marketing and Communications, “email interviews are generally the most effective approach to obtain responses within the short deadlines that accompany most media inquiries.”

Though it may be true that a written response may be better for a quick turnaround time, this does not hold true for all articles or topics. Depending on the article, some writers may have a two week deadline, which provides plenty of time for reaching out to sources. Of course, the deadline for articles is a case-by-case basis, but an in-person interview can be conducted in quickly as fifteen minutes to half an hour. On the other hand, email requests can take up to or more than two business days to fulfill.

It is worth mentioning that one can still request to conduct an in-person or phone interview. However, Marketing and Communications would prefer for media requests to come through email instead.

It’s understandable for a college to want to streamline media requests. As expected, there may be a lot coming from local or national media outlets. However, what seems most alarming is that the responses to questions are curated statements created by Marketing and Communications. For example, if someone asks a specific faculty member questions, the person will be told to send questions to Marketing, who will then create a statement on the issue.

The new media request inhibits the ability of a student publication to report on news and campus life objectively and truthfully. The only source of information from the college administration now is Marketing and Communications, and therefore student publications receive only curated, hand-picked statements that are inherently created with a bias and, potentially, an agenda. Overall, this negatively impacts the way news is delivered and conveyed to the student body.

Each word of a statement is handpicked to create the best impression of Scripps. But what if students want to voice a negative opinion or concern about Scripps? How else is the school supposed to solve its issues and improve for the future?  After all, it is Marketing’s job to create a positive, but somewhat artificial, impression of the school.

Ultimately, what student journalists, and any student who takes an active interest in what happens on campus, want is transparent and open access to administration. Scripps College is unique for having an aware and proactive student body who want to improve and give back to their community. Part of being an active member of the student body is being able to talk openly to administration without the added guise of curated statements.

These statements call into question whether the administration is readily available to hear student’s concerns, and whether students are even able to voice their concerns.

Image Credit: KissPNG

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