Conservative astroturf ‘paper’ sues OSU, plus bonus OSU/Baro commentary

The Liberty

From the Gazette-Times:

CORVALLIS – The Oregon State University student group that publishes The Liberty, a conservative-leaning journal, has sued OSU officials, arguing that the university has discriminated against the journal by arbitrarily limiting the opportunities for its distribution.

And from the Daily Barometer:

During the 2009 winter term, OSU removed seven fixed distribution bins they said were in violation of a policy that regulates media publication distribution on campus. The unofficial and unwritten policy confines any off-campus publication bins to an area around the MU.

The only publication exempt from this policy is The Daily Barometer, which the university considers the official campus newspaper.

As you might have noticed, I don’t have a lot of respect for the Liberty, for two main reasons:

1.  The quality of the writing (and, well, everything else) isn’t very good.

2.  Many of the things that appear on their pages make me think they are assholes.

But that’s more or less besides the point (though I did want to make clear where I stand w/r/t to them).  What’s interesting about the case, to me, is the double standard claim that seems to be an integral part of the Lib’s lawsuit.  For example:

“They are not being treated equally. They want to be treated like the other student publications on campus,” [Alliance Defense Fund Attorney Heather] Hackner said. “They are not asking for special treatment, they just want to have the equal right to put their distribution bins out on the greater part of the campus so that people can read what they write, since their whole purpose is to write for students.”

Here’s the thing…. the Barometer, for better and worse, really is a student publication.  It’s written by students, and students go out and sell the ads that support the paper.  (Is the Baro entirely student-funded/run/supported?  Not quite – more on that later.)  The Liberty, on the other hand, is written (mostly) by students, and sells some ads, but also receives money from outside sources.  And it clearly has no problem asking for help from outside conservative groups with lots of money.  For me, this kind of renders The Lib’s claim of being a student paper laughable.  Instead, I think they (like the Baro, actually) are willing to use their claim of student status when it’s convenient but unwilling to be bound by it when it’s not.  They are, in short, an astroturf outfit:  Created by and used as part of a larger movement with explicitly political – not journalistic – objectives.

And let’s not even get into the irony of a conservative group filing a frivolous lawsuit.  I’m too lazy to check the Lib’s archives, but I’d not be surprised to find someone in their pages decried the exact thing the Lib is doing.

The bottom line is that this lawsuit is silly and insulting, and despite how critical I like to be of OSU, I hope this waste of time ends quickly.  However, that’s not the end of the story – there are things to be said both about the Barometer and OSU on this front.  More on those later.

The Daily Barometer & being the ‘campus paper’

Oh, the Baro.  I started reading it the second I got here in September of 2001, and I’m still reading it.  For those counting, that’s eight years now (!)  I also spent two years on the Student Media Committee that supposedly oversees the Baro (along with all other student media outlets at OSU); for 1.5 years of that, I even got to vote on a few things.

The thing that interests me about the Barometer with regard to the Liberty lawsuit is the claim that it’s the campus newspaper.  This is kind of news to me – when I was on the SMC, and paying pretty close attention to the paper, it was the attitude of the staff and the faculty advisor that the Baro was independent of the university.  Surely the Barometer wouldn’t be as cynical as the Liberty and use their student status when it’s convenient?

Of course they would.  But how does the Baro actually relate to OSU?  The first thing of note is that despite being overseen by the Student Incidental Fee Committee, the Barometer does not directly take student fee dollars, or at least they didn’t used to.  They were proud of this fact, and to an extent, they should be.  That makes them independent, right?

Wrong.  The Baro still receives a boatload of benefits from the university, including, as far as I know, free use of office space in Snell, tech support, and the salaries of the faculty and staff that work with student media.  (I believe, however, the Baro buys all its own equipment, which is cool.)  Those are not insubstantial benefits.  In fact, it’s fair to say the Baro wouldn’t survive without them.  Thus, if you ask me, they are not independent of the university.  They have – as it turns out – the blessing of the university as the official campus paper.  These things mean, to me, that the Barometer needs to either give up any pretense that they are independent, because right now, they are not – or, if they want to be truly independent, they need to give up all forms of financial aid and start being really self-sufficient.

That won’t happen, of course, because the Baro has a cushy position:  Some level of administration favoritism and financial support but the guise of independence.  But as it stands, the Baro’s fence-straddling actually gives, in my mind, the Liberty the best argument it has (not that it’s good enough, but still).

OSU

So what about OSU’s role in all this?  Well, for those of you who know what my day job is, when I hear things like the following I get twitchy:

During the 2009 winter term, OSU removed seven fixed distribution bins they said were in violation of a policy that regulates media publication distribution on campus. The unofficial and unwritten policy confines any off-campus publication bins to an area around the MU.

The only publication exempt from this policy is The Daily Barometer, which the university considers the official campus newspaper.

To be fair, this is from the Baro, so I’m not sure how true it is.  But if OSU’s policy on this really is unwritten and unofficial, then a) they might be in trouble, and b) they deserve to be.  “Unofficial and unwritten” sounds a lot like “making shit up to justify what we’ve already done because we don’t want to change our minds.”  Not that I think the Liberty should get distro space on campus, mind you, but that OSU isn’t doing itself any favors with the rather sad defense of its position.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: