The director of student media at Colorado State University is preparing a proposal to keep the student newspaper, The Rocky Mountain Collegian, under student affairs after the university's president announced he was entertaining a proposal for a strategic partnership with Gannett.
"The president has asked for a proposal from Gannett," said Jeff Browne, director of student media at the Fort Collins, Colo. university. "He has not asked us for a proposal but we're going to give him one. We're going to present the president with an alternative to corporate ownership."
On Tuesday, Colorado State University President Larry Penley sent an email to the campus community confirming rumors that university officials had met with the editor and publisher of The Coloradoan, the local Gannett paper, earlier that day.
"As a result of today's meeting," Penley wrote, "we have asked Gannett to submit a
formal proposal, and asked that they address how a strategic
-Would enhance educational opportunities for student journalists;
-Would enhance professional opportunities for student journalists;
-Could enhance journalism faculty advisory participation;
-Could improve services to the larger student body."
Browne said he plans to address these same points in his proposal. He is collecting letters of support from journalism educators, students and others concerned about the independence of student media.
"Even if people aren't familiar with our organization they can write letters explaining why an organization headed by journalism educators is a better fit than one headed by a private corporation and why student media as an educational experience is preferable to student media as a niche publication for corporate overlord experience."
Browne said students involved in media at Colorado State University are "very upset" about Gannett's overture.
Though rumors had been circling for some time, Browne was only notified about discussions between the university and Gannett officials on Tuesday morning when Bob Moore, editor in chief of The Coloradoan, called him as a matter of courtesy to let him know about the meeting later that day with Penley. Apparently, The Coloradoan had approached Penley with the idea of a partnership three months ago and the university president had discussed the matter with the university's Board of Governors in closed-session meetings.
Gannett already owns two student newspapers, FSView & Florida Flambeau, the twice-weekly student paper serving Florida State University, and Central Florida Future at the University of Central Florida. In both cases, the local Gannett newspapers bought independently owned student publications. If a deal goes through with Colorado State University, it would be the first time Gannett gets involved in a student paper that had been run by a public university, Browne said.
The CSU Student Media Office is operated under the Division of Student Affairs.
Asked what he thought about Gannett getting into the student newspaper business, Brown remarked wryly, "I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for their stockholders to see their stock rise in value.... They are brilliant capitalists seeing an opportunity to acquire established brands in niche markets."
People who want to submit letters of support may write to:
Jeff Browne, Director of Student Media
LSC Box 13
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-8038