Response to Zahner on TSL

In the past several semesters, editors of The Student Life have made a concerted effort to expand our publication’s 5-C reach and staff beyond the historical norm as a Pomona-centric publication. The idea is to use our considerable resources to create a publication with appeal to readers from all of the 5Cs and beyond who are interested in what is happening at the schools, and also to maintain a dependable resource for students from all of the colleges who are interested in writing and the media.

Over the past several weeks, a couple of authors have weighed in on the question of whether TSL should continue its 5-C coverage. The conversation is an important one, and we are happy to hear the ideas of students. However, while we have incorporated more 5-C coverage in pages and more students from Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, and Pitzer colleges into our staff, it is important to remember that we are funded by Pomona students and will remain so in the upcoming budgetary process.

A letter to the editor this week by Greg Zahner deserves a response from us, particularly so that the author’s perceptions are not disseminated without the perspective of the individuals who have made the decisions of which he is critical.

1) Zahner says that TSL is notorious among CMC students for occasionally putting a pro-Pomona slant in the paper. He offers three examples: a Sept. 26 news article about the “U.S. News and World Report” rankings, an Apr. 10 sports article calling for a Sagehen-Stag track rivalry, and an Apr. 10 news article about admissions rates.

In the rankings article, Zahner says that author Rebecca Golden “thought” Pomona’s ranking “was too low.” In fact, as it was a news article, Golden did not express an opinion. However, she did quote a number of students and an administrator who explained why they thought the ranking was not fair. She also explained the mechanics behind how the assessment for CMC’s ranking was created without offering an opinion on it.

The sports article by Torrey Olson is an example of a Pomona student offering an opinion on a team for which he plays. You may disagree with his opinion, but we have offered comparable space for CMS players this semester, for writers such as Edward La Cava CM ’12, who regularly writes about tennis and is a member of the CMS men’s tennis team. Our news articles must have an neutral point of view, but our sportswriters are often encouraged to develop a voice and opinion about the stories they cover. Our sportswriters from Pomona or Pitzer often favor the schools they attend, and the same is true for CMS students writing for our sports section. Zahner does not mention that we have several CMS writers who write in our pages every week, who express affection for their teams, much to the dismay of some P-P fans.

Finally, Zahner offers the example of an Apr. 10 news article about the 5-C admissions that he claims is unfair to CMC by rounding up their admissions rate to 16 percent, for ignoring the rumor of Pomona sending out an e-mail in search of late applications, and for representing the pro-Pomona bias of our reporters. All I can say is that: (1) we reported all of the information we had; (2) it is common practice here to round numbers; (3) it is not common practice here to report unsubstantiated rumors; and (4) the author of the article, Becky Scott, is a Pitzer student.

2) According to Zahner, “TSL editors and writers are predominately Pomona students and therefore exert almost complete control over the stories covered.” As a publication funded exclusively by the Associated Students of Pomona College and headquartered here, it would make sense that a good number of our employees are students here. But Zahner underplays the significant role played by students of other colleges. Of our News Associates—our go-to writers for news coverage—only one of three is a Pomona student. One of our managing editors—the second-in-command position here—is a Scripps student. One of our two sports editors is a CMC student. I could go on. But considering the fact that we are funded entirely by Pomona, the fact that we employ as many top employees from other campuses and pay non-Pomona writers and editors such as Zahner for their contributions represents an extraordinary commitment to 5-C coverage, particularly when you consider that what they write is sometimes unfavorable to our publisher, the student government at Pomona (from whom we have complete editorial independence).

We believe that the contributions of 5-C students make this publication stronger, and we are always looking for an even greater contribution from students from all five undergraduate colleges—if you would like to contribute, please send us an e-mail. We would be happy to have you on board.

We can end on a note of accord. I agree with Zahner that if TSL is to receive funding from all schools, it should be governed by and opened to the 5Cs. Perhaps these schools will recognize the value that their students are already getting from reading and contributing to this 5-C publication. We are grateful for the support of Pomona students, and we hope to have their continued support as time goes on.

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