The Sun Star's Independence

Heather Bryant / Editor-in -Chief
Nov. 29, 2011

When you write a story, the most important part of it is the sources used.

If the sources aren’t good, the story won’t be good.

Life works that way too.

When you are trying to accomplish something, let’s say for example, creating an independent newspaper, your process is guided by the information from your sources.

When the information isn’t provided or your source is wrong, it becomes impossible to accomplish your goals.

That’s what has happened to The Sun Star’s independence initiative.

I’ve been honest about my intentions for The Sun Star since I took over in May. It’s never been a secret that I intended to pursue independence and a realistic budget.

It’s something that had been discussed at multiple publication board meetings even during last year.

Based on all the information we gathered from ASUAF and what we knew about the arrangement between The Sun Star and ASUAF, we proceeded with a ballot initiative. And even though we ran the initiative past people at ASUAF to verify we had written it correctly, in this week before the election, ASUAF has come up with problem after problem regarding the wording of the initiative.

At the beginning of November, more than 400 students signed a petition to get that initiative on the ballot for the fall elections.

However, last night I had to request the initiative be removed from the ballot.

Information requested a long time ago, was finally presented hours before the election was to start.

The best way to sum it up is to say that the initiative as it would have appeared on the ballot, would not do anything and could have made independence, at least what the University of Alaska considers independence, to be harder to achieve.

The university structure simply does not allow for a media outlet to stand completely independent of student government. It only recognizes the authority of student government as an entity that collect fees other than the university itself.

At this point, the only way forward in the maze that is a University bureaucracy, is to step back and work on this campaign for the spring election.

What we want–what all you who signed the petition, posted encouraging notes, or talked to us about the initiative want–is a genuinely independent newspaper that answers to it’s readers.

Make no mistake, I am not quitting. I am not backing down.

I apologize to the staffers who spent hours gathering signatures and the students who were hoping that they were finally going to get the newspaper they wanted and that UAF needs.

What has happened over the past few weeks is the best evidence for why The Sun Star needs its independence and a better budget. There are serious issues that need to be reported on. Changes need to happen, and we can’t stop now.

One of my favorite fiction characters once said:

“For us there is no victory – there are only battles. And in the end, the best you can hope for is to find a place to make your stand. And if you’re very lucky, you find someone willing to stand with you.”

Stick with us through this, and help us show the University that The Sun Star is a voice that won’t be silenced.

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8 Responses

  1. If you really want independence, go to a pay per copy service!

  2. Eryn says:

    I agree with arctic knight, Those 400 petition signers need
    to put their money where their mouth is and buy their own newspapers if they want it so bad.I’m not paying another fee so you can have “freedom” or what ever you’re whining about. Because all of us college students are sooo oppresssed…bigger things in the world to worry about than a school paper lady.

  3. Clarence says:

    I’m deeply disappointed by the lack of intelligence contained in the two comments above.

    It’s sad when students don’t realize they are already paying the fee that they’re whining about.

    Perhaps dealing with stupidity is the price one must pay today in dealing with youth.

  4. Arctic-Knight907 says:

    Ditto to what Eryn said. Pay for your own independence and freedom Sun Star and don’t oppress the student body with another ridiculous fee! While The Sun Star is claiming they want to be more responsive and a newspaper that “answers to it’s readers” I’m getting the distinct impression that a very small percentage of it’s intended “readers” (probably just those 400 petition signers…and maybe not even them) actually want this fee on their semester bill. If they really want to answer to their readers they should just drop this whole idea…

  5. Arctic-Knight907 says:

    I know that we pay for the $35 ASUAF fee, 7% of which goes to the Sun Star, that is why I think it is ridiculous that we should be charged another fee to pay for a student newspaper that I rarely if ever read. If the Sun Star want’s independence from ASUAF they should just reject that funding and raise that money themselves without taxing the student body any more. From what it sounds like the Sun Star just wants a new source of cash that they didn’t have to earn (what kind of business model is that? socialism…) and that the contributors of that cash will have no say in how its used.

  6. Mike E says:

    Wow, some real ignorance on display here. It’s not “socialism” to have student fees support student journalism and a student press. If one believes that, then you should be out protesting all student fees, in particular the complete mismanagement of the money we are ALREADY contributing to ASUAF for little appreciable benefit. And a free press is one of the cornerstones of the country we live in. There are bigger things to worry about, but not many, and probably none of THOSE are being worried about by ignoramuses like some of those posting above. Its YOUR freedom that is being talked about here, not someone else’s.

    If you think current student fees are enough, then a reallocation to support the paper properly (and proportionately to other activities and organizations) would also be reasonable. Why aren’t you all complaining that KSUA and the Concert Board receive so many of your dollars instead of putting your dullness on display and disputing the tenets of a free press and what students are supposed to stand for? Trying to right that is suddenly “oppression?” Maybe you should get back under the beer bong a few times.

    Are you too slow to see that you are ALREADY paying and your dollars are being mismanaged?

  7. Mike says:

    Also, the “I don’t read the Sun Star anyway” is at best a red herring (and at worst simply marks you as someone who doesn’t read or care… in other words, a typically self-involved, sluggard student). The student fee is like any tax… it is meant to support a well-functioning institution for students, not any individual student’s personal needs. I don’t listen to the crap-storm that is KSUA or the mediocre artists supported by the Concert Board, both of which come from the fees I pay. But I recognize others do, and I recognize that support of the arts is something that student fees should cover.

    Likewise, an independent press– a press that, btw, has not only improved in recent years but has also broken and shared all kinds of stories that actually do affect you–is a cornerstone of a university. It’s a shame that people are too narrow-minded to recognize that. All kinds of nefarious and ignorant things happen at the University that should be exposed. When one of them happens to you or to something you care about, you’ll wish that entities like the Sun Star were there to help your cause.

    But, like so many, by the time you’ve given up these rights to have a student voice within the University it will be too late to take them back. And by giving them away you show you don’t deserve them. “…and then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

    Grow up.

  8. Arctic-knight907 says:

    Whoa, it’s really starting to get heated up in here. Let’s be civil guys…I’ll start: last time I checked freedom of the press didn’t involve government funding of the press, doing so would make it state sponsored and thus erode its neutrality. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and pretty much any other respectable news organization does not benefit from some form of government taxation on their readers,they actually produce a product that they can exchange for a profit. 

    I’ll go on record saying that I think pretty much all the student fees are wasteful and examples of poor management but at least with this media fee we were going to be given a choice to not add another. Money mismanagement is endemic to beauracracy, the same would inevitably be true with the Sun Star. 

    That aside, being forced to pay for a publication that you have no say in how your money is being used is just wrong. We would not become some kind of shareholder in the Sun Star because students would have no oversight in the usage of the fee. At least in the case of the ASUAF fee there is some appearance of oversight: if I strongly enough disagree to be called to action over how my $35 are being used I can go to their meetings and speak out, I could run for senate, or I could even stage my own Occupy ASUAF protest. Such recourse was not at all outlined in The Sun Star’s proposed fee, but even if it was I would still oppose increasing student fees on something I feel poorly represents me as a student and for a service I rarely use. The Sun Star, by virtue of having editorials advocates private positions I do not support (such as this media fee…) and I do not believe I should be obligated to pay any additional money for the dissemination of such material. 

    But, just so I’m not misunderstood, I definitely support the free press and strongly believe news outlets are important to keep citizens informed. Personally, I like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. However, freedom of the press is a negative freedom, not a positive freedom: it denies the government the ability to interfere with the press, it doesn’t entitle citizens to be given copies of the press, particularly against their will. Thus, we each must choose to inform ourselves by being willing to pay for it individually, the government can’t do everything for us… 

    We aren’t in the holocaust here and things might be bad out there but I think it’s more than an exaggeration to compare the present state of things to the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. That said, I think our freedoms are continuously under attack and the price of liberty is constant vigilance. Personally, I see new attempts to usurp my hard earned money as a grave threat to my liberty, and so did the Founders! 

    If The Sun Star is really not content with the funding from ASUAF and truly wants independence then that goal would best be accomplished by that organization (which advocates and broadcasts its own opinions) raising its own funds, like any other independent news outlet. That way their neutrality could not be challenged or questioned because the funding would be completely on them. Instead, they sought to incur another fee on the student body to fund their operation and quest for “independence”; a quest they chose, not me. As another commenter put it on another editorial on this topic: “[it’s] pretty easy to be a revolutionary when someone else is paying the bills.” 

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