In the aftermath of the Leader ceasing its 105 year print publication, President Hammond announced plans for a media task force Friday that will address student media at Fort Hays State.
At a press conference in Dreiling Lobby, Hammond discussed his plans for the Task Force on Dissemination of News and Information. “The charge of this task force is to review the media needs and aspirations and then to develop recommendations aimed at increasing student engagement and implementing a multi-media model for the dissemination of student-produced news, information, analysis, opinion, and entertainment,” Hammond said.
“FHSU is looking not to reduce its investment in the dissemination of news and information but to strengthen engagement with members of our community in responsible and efficient ways,” Hammond said.
Hammond appointed the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Paul Faber to head the task force. He also appointed six faculty members to the task force, with two of the members being chosen by the faculty senate.
The faculty members are Dr. Scott Robson, Communication Studies chair; Stephen Schleicher, Informatics chair; Ron Rohlf, informatics professor; Dr. Chapman Rackaway, associate professor of political science; Shana Meyer, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs; and Jennifer Robinson, graphics and animation specialist in the Center of Teaching Excellence and Learning Technology.
Hammond also announced that two students, junior Gentry Heimerman, a health and human performance major, and senior Matthew Whitmore, a finance major. Both students are Student Government Association members and were selected by SGA President Kyle Calvin.
Some faculty members along with the editors of the Leader questioned why no one involved with student media was selected. Linn Ann Huntington, director of Journalism at FHSU, felt that for the task force to work, it needed to include such people. “The best laid plans are not going to work unless the people charged with carrying out the plan are on board and involved in the planning process from day one,” Huntington said.
The question was raised to both President Hammond and to SGA President Calvin. Both agreed that the main reason for this was that they wanted to avoid any bias that may occur from having members of the student media on the task force.
Calvin said that he wanted to have people that either were not involved with allocations talks last year, or had voted against the cut. In this way he said, there would be less bias from SGA members. “Gentry knows the whole process, is respected on campus, and voted against the cut,” Calvin said. “Matthew is a first year senator who does not know the history and has no idea of the struggle.” Calvin added that both have an open mind and are the best choices of students to be on the task force.
Some faculty members on the task force have raised concerns about the current state of on-campus student media as well. For Meyer, her concern was about how the Leader was not tied into academics. “The biggest downfall is that it is not tied into an academic program.” Meyer said. “It has a potential to tie into academics.”
Meyer added that by having the Leader tie into academics, it would bring more attention to its being on campus. Meyer said that she wanted an answer of how media convergence will all tie together.
Upon completion of the task force, Meyer questioned how well received the group’s proposal will be. “People on the task force represent different constituencies,” Meyer said. “Is it possible to please everyone?” She said that the final decision will be dependent on what SGA decides, as well as the decision of the task force.
The task force completed its first meeting on February 11. According to Meyer, the meeting consisted of “general information on why the group was formed.” “There was a lot of background and context info, and a timeline was set forth,” Meyer said.
The agenda of the February 11 meeting, stated that the group looked at the background information of the various on-campus student media, including The University Leader, KFHS radio and television, the Reveille, and “an array of internet-based communications.”
The task force also focused on the “problems of our current or recent student media.” In this category, the group looked at things such as finances, levels of staffing and student engagement, and levels of community interest which may have posed a problem to student media.
Hammond said that the task force members will discuss the possible options for student media at FHSU by having a public discussion and by hosting “a symposium of local and regional experts during the month of March.” He said that the symposium will consist of editors of local newspapers and people involved in electronic media.
The symposium will be held March 26, at 6:30 p.m. in the Black and Gold Room of the Memorial Union.
“I hope that everyone will get involved in the public symposium,” Hammond said. “Having the Leader suspended leads to a discussion and a challenge.”
In addition to the symposium, the agenda of the first task force meeting stated that the Docking Institute will survey the university community about student media. They will also survey other institutions and get input from other interested parties.
The task force is scheduled to have their next meeting on February 25, followed by meetings on March 11, March 25, and April 8. The task force will submit its recommendations to President Hammond by April 19. At that time, the Kan. legislature will know their budgets and the University can make the proper considerations for its budget for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1.