The Runner: Your Voice

Amy Pachla

Ethicist and former director of the Kegley Institute of Ethics Christopher Meyers defines the profession of journalism as reflection with meaning and expression with purpose. Good journalism does more than compile statistics and recount events. A computer could do that. A journalist is trained to approach those statistics and events with the mind and concerns of the community they serve. As a reporter, my job isn’t to tell you what to think about what happens, but how it fits into the flow of history and how it impacts you, your family, your friends, and your future. My job isn’t just to tell you things. You tell me the things you want to know. My goal as a journalist is to keep you informed about them.
Almost every college and university has a regular campus news organization. If you transferred from Bakersfield College, you remember The Rip. Maybe your high school had a newspaper or launched a student podcast. At CSU Bakersfield, our news organization is The Runner. It may be surprising to some, but these student news outlets are just as vital to journalism, both as a practice and a product, as the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, or Sacramento Bee. We aren’t “just student journalists.” When we act as journalists, we are journalists.
That’s what we do here at The Runner. As students, you are the blood in the heart and the breath in the soul of this campus, and keeping you informed is why we exist. As students ourselves, we share your concerns and want to know what you find important. This isn’t just another way the school tells students what’s up. This paper is for you to tell the school how it’s going to go down. Over the years, The Runner has investigated the misuse of student funds, uncovered blind spots in campus crime reporting, and illuminated problems in campus procedures affecting both students and staff.
And believe me, when we act as journalists, when we serve the public interest, people who don’t want that light put on them absolutely treat us accordingly. The students on school newspapers face threats of insubordination and improper student conduct all the time, and The Runner staff is no different. We make those calls every week knowing full well that all it’ll take is someone having a bad attitude and something to hide to get one of us, maybe even all of us, put on probation, suspended, expelled, or worse.
Every year, reports of clashes between university administrations and their respective campus news organizations blow up in the national press. The Southern Poverty Law Center tracked hundreds of instances of student press censorship and retaliation by administrators and faculty in 2018. Professors have stolen campus newspapers from racks for reporting on their wrongdoings. Administrations have cut funding to journalism programs in order to limit the amount of reporting they can do in the first place. Some high schools and private colleges have even shut down their student news organizations entirely to keep their activities out of the students’ awareness.
There is very little we as the newspaper staff can do about that, either. In 1988, the Supreme Court ruled in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier that elementary and high school administrations have what’s known as “prior restraint” over what their students are allowed to publish in their newspapers. In 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin) extended that prior restraint to colleges and universities. Shortly put, if the administration here doesn’t want us reporting on things, they’re within their legal rights to simply padlock our office door, declare the news over, and dare us to take them to court.
Fortunately for us, CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny has expressed nothing but support, confidence, and pride for The Runner and what we do. Dr. Zelezny understands, just like you do, that the purpose of journalism is to make people’s lives better. We don’t report on things just to throw mud or make a splash. The Runner exists to make this campus the best possible iteration of itself, not just for students and staff, but for Bakersfield, for California, and for the world. This is our goal and our mission, and to support us is to believe in you. We’re not just here for you. We’re here because of you. We are you.
You are The Runner.