Editorial Board | Nov. 9, 2013, 6:40 a.m.
The Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) and the Forum, a news and opinions publication that focuses mainly on the CMC community, officially separated as per a revised amendment to the ASCMC constitution on Monday. Over the past few semesters, the Forum has grown into an increasingly popular source of information and discussion for CMC and the wider 5C community. This constitutional amendment marks a crucial milestone in its journalistic history: clear separation from the governmental bodies it covers.
There is an inherent tension between journalists and those on whom we report, for it is in our job description to view the influential people in our communities with a critical eye. In a democracy, freedom of the press and critical reporting is important for maintaining transparent and accountable government structures. On a college campus, reporting on student government is crucial because of its control over the fees that students pay each year. In either case, the separation of journalists and media outlets from these governing bodies is essential to avoiding the propaganda and misinformation campaigns all too common in state-run media across the world.
When the ASCMC executive board elected the editor-in-chief of the Forum, who also held a position on the executive board, there existed an inherent conflict of interest for the entire publication. The Forum's coverage of ASCMC and the 5Cs as a whole does not suggest heavy-handed oversight by other student leaders, but the possibility for interference is still a real concern. By gaining true autonomy, the Forum is no longer vulnerable to those pressures.
TSL also covers ASCMC, along with the other student governments, so we know how delicate the relationship can be between student government and the journalists who report on them. Despite some inevitable moments of tension between the paper and students on these governing bodies, there exists a mutual respect between our staff and these student leaders. The functions that we perform on campus—whether that is making decisions on club allocations or deciding which story should make the front page—are of a nature that may include occasional friction but whose intentions are positive and not fundamentally opposed.
It is telling that this amendment to separate Forum from ASCMC passed so decisively. The vote demonstrates an unequivocal respect for journalistic integrity and encourages a more critical look at ASCMC's own governing practices. It can only increase people's trust in government any time those with authority willingly strengthen the checks on their own authority.
A community as small as the Claremont Colleges with so many ambitious students can foster a sense of competition, as we all aspire to be the best at what we do. While the Forum is in that sense a rival news organization, we always like to see the ideals of journalism being upheld, and we hope that its independence improves the news coverage of the 5Cs. We all benefit from the increased scrutiny that objective and thorough journalism provides, and we applaud the steps taken by both ASCMC and the Forum to promote such news coverage.