Is The Hornet Tribune being censored?


Alabama State University, located on the corner of North University Drive and South Jackson Street

Nefsa'Hyatt Brown, Editor-in-Chief

As the editor-in-chief of the newspaper at a university with a less than friendly relationship with the media, my job is not one for the weak. Taking on the responsibility of informing the masses and keeping the powers that be as the fourth pillar of the government, any journalist’s job is not taken lightly. In the age of fake news where people get most of their information from a social media account, journalists’ jobs become more difficult each day. Understanding this, one would think that people would cling to the media using their platform to ensure that they are printing the truth. For student media, one would expect that university administrations worldwide would use their student media outlets to tell their stories better than any outside source. Unfortunately, that is not the case at my illustrious institution.

The Hornet Tribune has been around for decades. As the primary source of news for the university and the surrounding community, The Hornet Tribune has always acted as one of the leading champions of the community we represent. From articles about the removal of university presidents to the first black Mayor of Montgomery’s election, The Hornet Tribune has dedicated its existence to the truth. However, despite our responsibility to report the facts, the masses are not always receptive to this, especially when the truth paints them in a not so flattering light.

As a result of this dynamic, the relationship between the media and people in positions of power is growing hostility. Students go out of their way to uncover the truth of their universities, and the administration works even harder to project the university’s image in a positive light. Of course, some journalists out there do not use their platforms to promote truth but instead are dedicated to demolishing the images of those they find undesirable. As a result of the actions of these few “bad apples,” the integrity of journalists everywhere is always in question. From this perspective, it is expected for university administrators to be wary of young journalists only looking for opportunities to expose the shortcomings of their instructions. Understanding this, I have been more than patient with my university administration by attempting to build relationships with administrators in each department to show them that I am not here to do that. But, instead of greeting me with the same understanding and compassion, I have spent the last years fighting with them at every turn.

Whether that be SGA officials or university officials, there is a constant uphill battle. In previous years, the reporters and writers of The Hornet Tribune have had direct access to any administrator they needed to speak with on campus. Getting a story was as easy as simply sending an email. With new protocols in place, the university has started enforcing the policy of all news going through the Office of Institutional Advancement. Understanding that all media outlets follow this same protocol, I had no problem following the current system and procedures. However, I do have a problem with the difficulty this process is causing me.

For weeks, I have been submitting interview requests through to the proper channels. In the beginning, it seemed to be working. I would submit the requests, and usually, by the end of the week, I would have received a response back. But now, the process has slowed significantly, leaving me to think one thing, is my university trying to censor me?

Now, censorship is a very controversial word. Censorship is defined as the suppression or prohibition of any media that is considered obscene, politically unacceptable or a threat to security. In my university’s case, as much as it pains me to say, some of the newspaper’s proposed content from students could easily fall into any of those categories. Students see a newspaper and expect us to be a printed version of The Shade Room. Although it is our job to ask the hard-hitting questions and get to the bottom of the scandal in the name of truth, it is not our responsibility to purposely go out and seek negativity. This is especially true in the case of The Hornet Tribune. We do not shy away from controversy; if anything, it is welcomed because the truth is not always pretty. But, as we continue this relationship with our university administration, it seems that they are going out of their way to “sugar coat” those truths.

When speaking with the press, I know that the university officials are not talking as themselves, but as representatives of a brand that will outlive them. Understanding that reputation is anything, I do not believe that my university should allow people to dismantle that reputation, but I do expect that they urge them to tell the truth as candidly as they can without fear. There is a fine line between protecting the university’s interests and bullying people into silence out of the fear of what will happen if the truth is revealed.