Alumni Voices: Student journalism serves to keep college in check

Julia McMahon was the editor-in-chief of The Lamron from 2010 to 2011

Since I graduated from Geneseo in 2011, I’ve pissed off police officers, lawyers, court clerks, judges, a mayor, some criminals and victims of crimes—all in the interest of doing my job as a reporter. Sometimes, informing the public requires difficult conversations, unpopular decisions and angry and/or poorly-timed phone calls.

I recently learned The Lamron—the newspaper I once edited before attending journalism school and going on to become a reporter—ruffled a few feathers with Geneseo’s Student Association. It’s my understanding that mistakes, miscommunications and a series of otherwise unfortunate events led SA to freeze the newspaper’s funding this week.

As a former editor-in-chief of Geneseo’s beloved college newspaper, I am familiar with the sometimes-contentious, always-tumultuous relationship the student press has with the student government. Both organizations have constant turnover, inflated egos and a serious sense of self-worth. Journalists and politicians are known, too, for their arrogance. And the Geneseo I recall is a hotbed of type-A personalities and fiercely passionate people. I remember this from our hours-long e-board meetings, discussing human nature via differences between Lady Gaga and Ke$ha.

As current editor-in-chief senior Chelsea Butkowski told me in a recent phone call, The Lamron is still a training ground for journalists. I’m proud to say at least three of us who served during my time have already been smashing successes in the field since graduation, working for renowned outlets from BuzzFeed to Reuters. I myself cover crime in the city of Syracuse and will soon be taking on the job of education reporter for The Post-Standard. The college paper has been there to let us figure out whether we really want to be a part of this struggling profession, what beats we’re interested in covering and how a god-forsaken newspaper gets made anyway.

Which brings me back to the issue at hand.

The Lamron has the pleasure and pain of having its budget and funding controlled by SA. Most news outlets pride themselves on their financial independence from the subjects they cover. It’s why we can—without fear of repercussion—question, criticize and praise the people who run our government, operate our schools and enforce our laws.

It is a testament to SA’s good will that it has generally—or at least in my experience—taken The Lamron’s questioning, criticizing and praising in stride. SA also deserves credit for its handling of the newspaper’s failure to meet requirements to receive funding. Despite the unusual relationship SA has with The Lamron, it eventually negotiated a fair outcome, revived a defunct Student Court and passed policy changes that make sense.

Meanwhile, The Lamron showed it was a force to be reckoned with by fundraising the money needed to continue publication throughout the semester, pointing out errors, inconsistencies and ideas for improvement in the process.

In its own way, The Lamron—given its position in the school and using its power of free speech—serves as a Fourth Estate. That’s just what motivated me to become a reporter.

To the members of the college community who took part in this process and especially those who supported The Lamron with your words or donations: Thank you. Don’t stop reading and supporting journalism.