In recent weeks, ASUN officials have been in a bit of a spit with the staff of the Nevada Sagebrush. Their anger isn’t unfounded: the paper has published several articles critical of the student government, ranging from an ongoing series criticizing the organization to a staff editorial proclaiming both candidates for ASUN President unfit for office. While in the past, Senators and other ASUN officials would complain privately about the Sagebrush, this new world of social media and online-oriented lifestyles means that comments made by certain senators are made available to anyone with a computer and the ability to take screenshots.
On that note, College of Liberal Arts Senator Taylor Snell has been on a warpath lately, commenting on the Sagebrush website and posting vague threats via Facebook of stripping funding from the Sagebrush. Three senators (MacCallister Higgins, Drew Sheehy and Jasper Allen Jacobs) liked the status, though it’s nigh impossible to decipher the intentioned meaning of a Facebook ‘like.’ If you don’t want to read the entirety of Snell’s writings, I’ve taken a few quotes from both posting, which still happen to be online:
Lovely, just fucking lovely. Here’s an idea you sad excuse for a writer; TALK TO THE SENATORS. CALL ME. There’s more that’s been done and gone under your blissful noses, and just because you idiots didn’t report on it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. (Nevada Sagebrush)As lovely as of a paper as it is, we should consider if it is ethically acceptable, on behalf of our constituents, to allocate the Sagebrush money and have them report on our behavior and workings in office. (Facebook)
Here’s something that Senator Snell should of considered before publicly denouncing the Sagebrush: ASUN doesn’t pay for the Sagebrush. I’ll repeat it, for clarification’s sake. ASUN gives no money directly to the Nevada Sagebrush. The staff themselves made the same point after criticism arose over the sexual awareness issue. No student fees go toward the production of the newspaper, whether that’s staff salaries or printing costs- all is covered by advertising revenue. (For additional clarification, Director of ASUN Sandra Rodriguez also posted on Facebook regarding the same topic.)
That being said, there are a few things ASUN helps support, which in turn also assist the Sagebrush. According to this session’s budget, tens of thousands of dollars go toward running and staffing the Publications and Advertising department, which does the legwork of finding advertisers and getting them to advertise in the Sagebrush. But the department also provides the same service for all other on-campus publications, (Insight, Wolf Pack Radio & Brushfire) and the paper provides a portion of the salary for the graduate assistant in charge of the program. ASUN also provides the office space in the Joe Crowley Student Union, pays for any computer updates needed, and pays for maintenance. So it’s safe to say that while the Sagebrush is mostly independent of the student government, it is still in some ways tied to ASUN.
For senators such as Snell, who would seek to cut whatever funding ASUN does provide that benefits the Sagebrush, I would strongly caution against. The Nevada Sagebrush has existed since 1893, and is the oldest student-run and student-operated organization in the state of Nevada. It’s won several Associated Collegiate Press awards for both it’s print product and website. Yes, the paper has made mistakes. I’ve written many times of the Sagebrush’s failings, from news judgment to lying in a graph to making unsupported statements on it’s front page. But I’ve never once called for the paper to lose funding or declare bankruptcy.
There’s a fine line between critiquing the Sagebrush and actively trying to censor it, and I fear Senator Snell has made it apparent that he supports the later. For anyone who has a problem with the Sagebrush, don’t passively make snarky comments on a Facebook group or insult a writer on a website: email the writer in question, or set up a meeting with the editor-in-chief. Or go visit their office- it’s in the ASUN section of the Joe Crowley Student Union, on the third floor.
I’m not saying that the Sagebrush should be free from criticism. If anything, it needs to take a look at itself as much as it claims ASUN needs to self-examine. But a disagreement over coverage shouldn’t prevent the operation of what has been the student voice of the University of Nevada, Reno for the past 119 years.