Student government and The Beacon at odds

by Beacon Staff • April 11, 2007

Our view: The tense relationship between The Beacon and SGA is healthy.,Last week's Berkeley Beacon article, "Freshman vies for SGA pres.," about freshman candidate Scott Fisher, has since drawn criticism from some members of the SGA and elsewhere on campus. The judgment intensified after Fisher won the position.

Critics claim The Beacon showed bias in reporting on only one of the SGA candidates, that the article was a fawning profile and that publishing the story on a designated election day may have influenced the vote.

Fisher was the only candidate officially on the ballot for the position of SGA president, although there were two write-in candidates.

As a somewhat maverick candidate not shy of criticizing his organization, it isn't surprising some within the SGA would take issue with an article they felt gave him an unfair advantage. But regardless of motivation, the criticisms about the article were not without merit.

We at The Beacon stand by the decision to run the profile of Fisher at the expense of the other write-in candidates, who, for one reason or another, didn't file necessary election paperwork by the set deadline.

While they may have indeed been qualified students with substantial platforms, their campaigns simply lacked the newsworthiness of 18-year-old Fisher's.

The fact Fisher was the only candidate on the ballot had more to do with his victory than The Beacon's reporting.

There is an argument to be made that the article itself could have been more balanced by presenting the views of those who felt Fisher was too young or otherwise unfit to serve as president. It might also have been valuable to provide a sidebar with the positions of all three candidates.

The Beacon is your newspaper, with the stories reported and edited by students-your peers in classes and from the dorms. We welcome all criticism aimed at making the paper better and more tailored to what the student body wants to see.

Much criticism directed toward the paper comes from the SGA.

This is the way it should be.

A community's press and its governing authority must have a naturally adversarial relationship in the interest of providing a vital check on that government's power.

Such skepticism does not imply that those at the paper don't recognize the positive things that the SGA does. However, it is infinitely more important to focus on those things that may be perceived as negative, in the hopes of ensuring the SGA works in the best interest of those it represents-the students.

This is true nationally. A critical press is fundamentally crucial for a democracy precisely because it holds accountable those who have been trusted with power. As students of journalism, we would be remiss not to embrace that philosophy.

The fallout over the Fisher article is just one example of a Beacon SGA article drawing criticism for one reason or another. We sincerely hope there are many more to come.