NEW JERSEY– The Montclarion, the independentnewspaper at Montclair State University in Montclair, is the recipient of the2008 College Press Freedom award given by the Student Press Law Center and theAssociated Collegiate Press, the SPLC announced Friday.
The award is given each year to a college journalist or college news mediumthat has demonstrated outstanding support for the free press rights ofstudents.
After a year of frozen funds and fighting at Montclair State University,the battle between the Montclarion and the student government has calmedsince the student newspaper gained its independence from student government.
During the spring 2008 semester, problems arose for the newspaper whenRonald Chicken, student government president, froze the newspaper’s fundsafter declaring that the paper misappropriated funds to hire its own lawyer.Montclarion staff hired a lawyer to advise them on claims that the SGAviolated state open meeting laws. When the newspaper’s funds were frozen,the first day of school passed without a print edition of the
The path toward independence has been a rocky one. However, thedetermination of former editor in chief Karl de Vries, Montclarion staffand current editor in chief Bobby Melok finally paid off in July when theMontclarion filed paperwork with the New Jersey Office of the Secretaryof State to become independent and a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation.
“It was a matter of continuing the goal that was put in place fromprevious editors in chief and staff,” said Melok. “They wanted toensure that the paper continue and not be interfered with.”
The university has said it would provide financial help to theMontclarion until it is able to fund itself.
Mike Hiestand, legal consultant to the Student Press Law Center said a freeand independent student press is vital to the life of a healthy and robustcampus.
“While the SGA might not think so right now, I believe, in time theywill understand that it is in the Montclair community’s best interest that thestudent newspaper not be viewed as a pawn of the SGA or universityadministration,” he said.
De Vries said the newspaper’s independence was a dream come true andbelieves students at MSU are in a better situation to get their newsunadulterated.
“It’s a coronation of a dream 80 years in the making,” hesaid. ” For years, editors recognized that the previous relation with SGAwas inappropriate.”
While there is no set day for the paper to gain its total independence, deVries said it is more important that there is a goal to work toward.
“The idea is that if the goal is to separate the newspaper, then thatmeant the editors today are far more conscious in controlling expenses and[increasing] advertising revenue,” he said.
As editor in chief, Melok said he is happy to be able to report on whateverissues deemed appropriate without being questioned by student government orworrying about a budget freeze.
The award ceremony will take place Oct. 29 in Kansas City, Mo. during theNational College Media Convention.