Tag Archives: freepressusf

Staff Editorial: It May be Plastic, But It’s not Fantastic

A few weeks ago, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a bill that would restrict the sale of consumer goods on all city property. The bill, conceived and drafted by board member David Chiu, would ban the sale of plastic water bottles under 21 oz. at all public events and by food trucks that are regulated by the city. Although many city citizens and environmentalists are rallying behind this bill in support, it does appear to be deeply flawed. The bill will only forbid the sale and use of plastic water bottles, and not other kinds of plastic goods and packaging. This raises the question: Is the ban even worth it after all?

Continue reading Staff Editorial: It May be Plastic, But It’s not Fantastic

Staff Editorial: In Comcast’s Real-Life Monopoly Game, the American Consumer Loses

Monopoly is not just a board game, as we at the Foghorn have observed with trepidation at the growing monopoly that Comcast will soon have of the media markets. Comcast intends to purchase Time Warner Cable for a lump sum of $45 billion dollars in stock.

Continue reading Staff Editorial: In Comcast’s Real-Life Monopoly Game, the American Consumer Loses

Staff Editorial: Justin Bieber Sparks Political Outcry

You Better Belieb It

The Internet, and more specifically social media networks, never fail to provide us with plenty of opportunity to give our support for causes or voice our dissent on certain issues. One would think that would mean that our country would be a large body of participating and politically- and socially-aware citizens with the average weekly time spent online at an all-time high of 23 hours, according to an Aug. 2013 report by eMarketer.

Yet, we at the Foghorn have watched with astonishment as Justin Bieber’s recent ‘shenanigans’ topped the news charts as the most viewed news in the past couple weeks, and not just on tabloids or gossip sites, but the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal — known for their more serious reporting.

We watched on in horror as an MSNBC anchorwoman Andrea Mitchell cut off Congresswoman Jane Harman’s (D-CA) discussion on NSA surveillance reform to break the more pressing news of Justin Bieber’s arrest on DUI and drag-racing charges.

As a result of his news-topping antics, the White House will be forced to release an official statement in response to the ‘We The People’ petition, “Deport Justin Bieber and revoke his green card”, which has garnered over 242,000 signatures as of Monday. The text of the petition reads: “We the people of the United States feel that we are being wrongly represented in the world of pop culture. We would like to see the dangerous, reckless, destructive, and drug abusing, Justin Bieber deported and his green card revoked. He is not only threatening the safety of our people but he is also a terrible influence on our nations youth. We the people would like to remove Justin Bieber from our society.”

Surpassing the 100,000 mark is enough to gain the federal government’s attention, but the fact that people feel so strongly about this issue is saddening. More importantly, his charges of DUI and drag-racing are not bad enough to merit deportation, if our politically-involved signers had done their research; as reported by CNN, only “in the event of a violent crime or a prison sentence that exceeds one year”, can our star of the hour’s immigration visa be revoked and he be deported.

This is not the first time that the White House has had to comment on petty celebrity issues. Popular petitions, including the calling for the construction of a Death Star and the cancellation of Jimmy Fallon Live! after a particularly offensive segment, do not really seem to pertain to issues of greater, political impact. Why are we not sharing petitions on Facebook regarding the fact that our government has had open access to our private e-mails and phone conversations? Unfortunately, it seems that Rep. Harman’s interview would not have risen to YouTube fame if it were not for the breaking of Bieber’s arrest.

Bieber’s arraignment is set for Feb. 14, and until then, we can only hope that everyone will turn to more critical news. As politically conscious citizens, we hold the power of defining what is and what is not ‘news’ to us. If we continue to share YouTube videos and links spotlighting the more absurd topics, then we will find that our ever-reliable news stations and media outlets will further exacerbate the lack of awareness amongst our voting society members by feeding our demands and ‘interests’.

Staff Editorial: New Pope New Priorities

A recent interview with Pope Francis in the Jesuit magazine, “America” has set a new tone for the Catholic Church—one less focused on doctrinal enforcement and more focused on ministry, service, and compassion.  Pope Francis described the church as having been “obsessed” with politically charged social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, and that the time has come to take a new approach to perform the church’s main duty of bringing people to God.

Pope Francis sees the necessity of immersing the clergy with the people. “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity.” He fully comprehends that the Church’s agenda of the last few decades of rigorously defending and promoting the church’s teaching on abortion and marriage has created a perception of an institution that is out of touch with the people and small-minded— a church that is un-embracing and exclusive. Focusing in pastoral ministry will allow the church to appear dedicated to the people it serves.

Pope Francis lays out a good plan for the church to undertake. While not dismissing, rejecting, or even changing the most socially contentious Church doctrine, Francis is pointing the church towards a different path certainly more attractive and hopeful.

“Every pope has a different strategy,” says U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan. “What I think [Francis’] saying is, `Those are important issues and the church has got to keep talking about them, but we need to talk about them in a fresh new way.’ If we keep a kind of a negative finger-wagging tone, it’s counterproductive.”

A new outward emphasis from the church based in serving the needs of humanity around the world is certainly a “breath of fresh air.” Over the years, negative attribution of the church received from its defense of its most controversial positions were demoralizing and frustrating to many of the faithful. Those Catholics who supported the church felt always as if they were apologizing for their faith. Those opposed or doubtful of existing Church teaching found themselves battling as what they saw as a close-minded self-centered institution, and drawn away from the Church. Focusing less on the minute details of the Church and more on defining and developing the Church’s mission towards the world’s most venerable and marginalized, is an approach which will attract more people to the Church. Francis’ actions, good works, and compassion will reinforce a view of a Catholicism that teaches ultimately to love one another and bring people to God. The hopeful new direction of the Church can best be summarized by Pope Francis’ comments.

“I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.”

Accused of Censorship, Senate Reverses Foghorn Cutbacks

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This story was produced in its entirety by Professor Michael Robertson’s advanced reporting class with no editing from the Foghorn staff. Since the Foghorn is one of the parties in the dispute, the staff did not want to risk having bias or a conflict of interest affect the quality of the reporting. 

Tanya Dzekon
Contributing Writer

On Friday, Johnny Chibnall, ASUSF Senate President, announced that the Executive Board had reversed the senate’s May vote to reduce the Foghorn to a bi-weekly newspaper. If the paper met senate standards for quality journalism, senate said four months ago, the paper would be allowed to resume its weekly run next spring.

Now the Foghorn will be able to publish this fall the usual 13 issues instead of eight. The Executive Board’s reversal came days after senate was presented a letter from The Student Press Law Center (SPLC), an organization advocating for student journalists’ First Amendment rights. The letter argued that the original senate decision constituted censorship and was in violation of the “Leonard Law”, a California law that applies the First Amendment to private universities like USF.

Johnny Chibnall, ASUSF President
Johnny Chibnall, ASUSF President

In an interview after the reversal, Chibnall said the letter from the Student Press Law Center “was an interesting letter, and the Executive Board was very aware of it, and we were discussing it, but that’s all I can say. I have opinions on it, but it’s in legalese and I don’t speak legalese and we just want to bring it back to the issue of a hand in the quality of the paper.”

Chibnall did not further address the reasoning behind the Executive Board’s decision.

When a reporter noted that senators were rebuffing her attempts to interview them, Chibnall explained that most of this year’s senators are new and don’t have the proper context to comment on the situation yet. When Ajouni Singh, last semester’s VP of Internal Affairs was contacted, she said she could not comment on the issue “out of respect for the current team.”

Madeline Vanden Branden, editor-in-chief of the Foghorn, was thrilled to hear that the newspaper would return to weekly publication.  “We’ve been fighting for this for a long time, and it’s great we finally got our issues back. More students are getting their voices heard every week.”

Foghorn advisor Teresa Moore said, “I’m happy for student media and for the USF community, but I wish I could believe that the reversal was motivated by the ethical arguments we made last spring — that it is wrong for the government — any democratically elected government — to control and inhibit the people’s access to information and discourse. ASUSF Senate and the Foghorn are both charged with representing student interests; both are essential for a healthy campus.”

Privett Scolds Foghorn For ‘Hiding’ Behind Letter

Not everyone shared this enthusiasm about the senate retreat. Earlier in the week, USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J., said, “Are these types of publishing decisions always a good thing? No. But I think [the Senate] should have a legal right to do this.

After the Friday announcement, Privett responded, “I think the Student Senate made a mistake by backing off its initial decision regarding funding for

the Foghorn. The threat of a lawsuit is phony and for the Foghorn to hide behind the threat of a law suit is inappropriate.”

Heidi Patton, Foghorn sports editor, was disturbed by Privett’s comments. “Father Privett should be proud of us for standing up for our rights,” Patton

Father Stephen Privett, S.J., University President
Father Stephen Privett, S.J., University President

said. “It frustrates me as a student at his university that he doesn’t see the direct conflict of interest at play here,” she added.

Patton has been with the paper since the beginning of her freshman year and authored the recent staff editorial calling for a new funding system for the paper so that senate does not have de facto control of the Foghorn.

That was one of the points addressed in the SPLC letter, written by Frank LoMonte, Esq., the group’s Executive Director. “Making budget decisions on the basis of displeasure with a student publication’s content not only is unlawful, but is an educationally unsound decision,” he wrote. He strongly advised USF finding ways to guarantee funding for student publications to protect them from interference.

Senate Backs Off Challenge To Foghorn ‘Quality’

In May, Chibnall said the senate decision had nothing to do with the Foghorn’s selection of material. He explained the budget cuts as an effort to motivate. “This isn’t jail, this is rehabilitation. We are helping (the Foghorn) to get better. We are not sending them to the gallows. We are sending them to the hospital to help them get better.”

On Friday, Chibnall reiterated that Senate had no problems with editorial content. He said what the Senate took issue with was grammatical errors and linking up pictures with the proper stories. “This was always about the constituents and them being proud of the paper and putting out quality stuff,” he said.

However, the LoMonte letter warned that one must be careful not to define censorship too narrowly:

“While we often hear ‘quality’ cited as the justification for punitive action against a student publication, withholding funding, firing the adviser, removing the editor, ‘quality’ is a perilously slippery rationale because it is so subjective,” he wrote. “If simply making a mistake became a legitimate justification for the withdrawal of funding, then the First Amendment would cease to exist at campus publications, since it will always be possible for censors to find mistakes in a publication at any level.”

LoMonte added, “Campus budget committees do not micro-manage other student organizations, or hold them to subjective standards of perfection, when deciding their level of funding. They do not reduce the funding of the glee club because the choral director chose a disagreeable piece of music, reduce the funding for intramural football because the team drops too many passes, or reduce the funding of the marching band because a drummer fell out of step.”

In his Friday interview, Chibnall also said, “Senate will not be implementing a review system that will hold the Foghorn accountable. We will be encouraging them and supporting them in any way that they need help,” though he did not specify what form that help would take.

Patton agreed that the Foghorn staff would like to like to produce a cleaner paper with fewer mistakes. “We are a fully student run organization with a frequent turnover of staff members. We are learning on the job – there really isn’t another option. Take a close look at some professional publications and I guarantee you will find both mistakes and a corrections box from the last issue. Perfect just doesn’t happen.”

Former Foghorn editor James Tedford had this perspective: “The Senate as much as the Foghorn is an experiment for students to learn real-world roles. They are going to make mistakes along the way.”

In an email to the Journalism 2 class, which is responsible for this story, Teresa Moore explained the limits of her role as advisor. “I advise the Foghorn. I don’t edit it.”

Moore said she trains staff at the beginning of the semester and does extensive critiques the day the paper comes out. “But I don’t check the editors’ work before the paper is published. That is what is called ‘prior review,’ and it is illegal under the Leonard Law.”

She said neither she nor the Foghorn staff was aware of the Leonard Law until “about a week ago.” We weren’t engaging in prior review because it defeats the purpose of having a student paper if the end product is the work of a non-student professional.”

Although senate has reinstated the Foghorn as a weekly, the issue of funding remains. “I think the University needs to find a way to fund student media outside of government,” said Bernadette Barker-Plummer, the chair of USF’s Media Studies department. “It’s a conflict if media can’t report on government. I think there’s a teaching moment here. It’s not something that needs to be hostile,” she added.

Gregory Wolcott, assistant vice provost for student engagement – essentially an advisor to the student senate – felt that the issue was communication. “It’s always good to bring people together and have conversations about process, about the success of each organization. I would definitely like to see more consultation between the Foghorn and the Senate,” Wolcott said.