The main image accompanying a new editorial in The Daily Titan at California State University, Fullerton depicts a massive, seemingly impenetrable red brick wall with the words "CSUF ADMINISTRATION" scrawled across it. At the bottom, a tiny gentleman in a reporter's cap is shown asking, "Would you like to comment on anything?"
According to the Daily Titan, the answer is often "nope," or at least "not really." Student newspaper staffers are apparently facing an increasingly air-tight and frustrating wall of silence or an overwhelmingly slew of PR dreck when seeking quotes and context for stories.
As the Daily Titan editorial taking this tight-lipped mentality to task contends, the university media relations team and far too many higher-ups at the school are prone to shutting down on, well, everything -- from reports on sexual violence and smoking bans to lighthearted fare like a campus custodian profile.
A portion of the editorial, run on the front page under the headline "Transparency? Not at CSUF":
"CSUF media relations officials block the Daily Titan's access to administrators and require reporters to submit all questions through email, denying requests for in-person or phone interviews. When a response is received, sometimes more than a month later, the information it contains is often watered-down, filtered and written by a media relations officer. ... In-person and phone interviews are key to the journalistic process and to deny them allows the university a massive opportunity to conceal public information. Denying the news media the opportunity to question university administrators directly is an intolerable disservice to the students who bankroll the majority of the university's operating fund."
The paper does express gratitude to the small crew of school officials willing to speak frequently, in full, in real time and on the record about campus issues.
But, alas, the much more common response to inquiries is silence, rudeness, blanket off-the-record requirements and the use of "delaying tactics to purposefully kill a story."
The Daily Titan: "A reporter might expect to be stonewalled when an administrator is trying to hide something, but the fact that even the most innocuous stories are being met with firm roadblocks sends the message that the university does not hold transparency as a priority."
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the Daily Titan as Cal State, Fresno's student newspaper. It is Cal State, Fullerton's student newspaper.