Invisible ink

Journalists have kicked me out of a meeting about how to improve the journalism at the FAU student newspaper.

by Michael Koretzky

This semester, FAU created a Journalism Task Force. Its goal: Make the University Press “better.”

In the past 16 years I’ve either worked or volunteered as the UP’s adviser, “better” has meant….

So I crashed the last JTF meeting a couple weeks ago to find out what “better” meant.

The JTF chairman is the UP’s new part-time faculty adviser and a former Sun Sentinel reporter. Coincidentally, we worked in that same newsroom at the same time, only a few desks apart. He’s a good guy, and he let me sit quietly in the back and listen.

But he won’t let me go to tomorrow’s meeting…

Your last visit caused concern for some faculty who felt it was disruptive to have a non-member of the task force at the table.

How was I disruptive? Remember, I said nothing unless spoken to. But the JTF members – three other former journalists who are now faculty and one Communication professor who teaches theory – were “intimidated by your presence.”

Three students also sit on the JTF. One is the UP editor, and she’s not intimidated by me – at all. (I kind of wish she was.)

The other two students represent the TV and radio stations. Why they attend meetings about the newspaper, I dunno. But they weren’t intimidated, either. They weren’t even paying attention. They spent most of the meeting on their phones.

As the UP’s part-time adviser from 1998 to 2010, and as its volunteer adviser since then, I wanted to hear more about “better.” Here’s the dumbest thing I heard…

Suggestion: The Howard Schnellenberger Student Union Newsroom…with an advertising special for preferred coverage of the new Howard Schnellenberger sports bar/restaurant.

Schnellenberger is FAU’s former football coach. It was the Communication professor’s idea to sell the naming rights to the newsroom to raise money for the paper. I don’t think he’s ever been a journalist, because if he had, he’d know that’s a terrible idea — as is “preferred coverage.”

The others quickly shot that down. Maybe because I was in the room, staring at them with owl eyes? Who knows.

Anyway, after I told a listserv of college media advisers about this silly idea — which got a few LOLs — the JTF sought an opinion from FAU’s attorney…

The interpretation we received: the task force is a fact-finding body, not a decision-making body…In short: JTF meetings are not public.

Which is weird, because in that last meeting, one of the professors said FAU has “promised” to enact the JTF’s final proposals. Sounds like a decision-making body to me.

Anyway, I’m now banned from these meetings. Legal or not, it’s amusing. Journalism professors who teach about the value of transparency are closing meetings about the journalism they want to see in a student newspaper at a public university.

It makes me wonder: What are they hiding? JTF, WTF?