Dear President Carter,
This open letter is a response to a mass email sent by your office to the Shippensburg community, as well as other public comments made about stories that have been published in The Slate over the past several weeks, and in a meeting Tuesday between you and members of The Slate staff.
You have stated that your administration is open and transparent and The Slate staff applauds those efforts, but that openness has not been our experience on numerous occasions. Those occasions involved stories that were not always controversial. You noted many times in your emails and other venues that there are multiple opportunities for students to meet with you and address their concerns. You list some of those opportunities as your “Convos with Carter” and your quarterly sessions in the residence halls. However, stories break at any time of the day or night, and The Slate staff strives to inform the campus as quickly as possible. We cannot wait weeks until an opportunity to sign up for a “Convo with Carter” or appear at one of the dorm sessions and begin shouting questions at you in public to try to get answers and information. You noted in the meeting on Tuesday that you want to improve relations with the student media as well as improve access and The Slate supports that effort. However, President Carter, The Slate is, was and always will be an independent student-run organization that covers the campus.
And that bring us to the point you assert in your email and in our conversation on Tuesday that our coverage of the campus is negative and is hurting campus morale. The Slate’s mission and responsibility is to report on the community that is Shippensburg University — the good, the bad and, sometimes, the ugly. It is not the role of the student newspaper to serve as a public relations arm of the university. Its role is to keep the campus community informed — a role that has been essential in a free and democratic society. To say The Slate is negative in its reportage is inaccurate if you were to look at the mix of news that The Slate staff has reported on over the past year. On those pages you would find many positive stories about the administration, the faculty, the staff and students at this university. There are positive stories about the new engineering program, the first-year experience, students winning awards, the accomplishments of SU student-athletes and an award-winning feature story on an anthropology professor among so many others. To denigrate The Slate staff by calling it and the paper “divisive” or negative ignores all the great work that we do — on a totally volunteer basis — to cover the campus and keep the campus community informed.
Unfortunately, some stories are not positive and it is in these times that it is perhaps even more vital that we fulfill our duty of reporting those stories and the truth to the best of our abilities. To ignore the bad and the ugly — to “talk about the negative in positive ways” as you note we should — is to ignore the harsh realities of life. Trying to gloss over those stories or not give a voice to members of the campus community who want to bring issues they feel important to light is something The Slate is unable to do. In Tuesday’s meeting, you said, “We can’t address challenges we don’t know about.”
Precisely, President Carter, that is what The Slate is all about. It wants to report on those challenges and keep the campus community as informed as possible. We believe strongly that what we share with our readers — positive and sometimes negative — is what the community needs to know. That has been the mission of The Slate for more than 60 years.
Please accept this letter as an open invitation into our newsroom to observe the countless hours and hard work we dedicate to reporting the truth and keeping our community informed.