Letter to the editor

Hi Editor,

I was recently made aware of the student government’s threat to eliminate funding for the Advocate. As a 1996 graduate of Pitt-Johnstown, one who contributed to the paper, the news was unsettling.

When I first noticed the Facebook post, my mind was contemplating the whys? Why would the student government want to curtail the source of news on their campus? Is there a budgetary issue? Is there an issue with the school administration? As I read the post further I saw the light. The reason is accountability. The reason is not wanting crimes from the magistrate’s office to appear in print or online.

Unfortunately, these days, things that are posted on the Internet have eternal life. I get that it might be daunting to have something tarnish a person’s reputation even before they step out into the real world. I get that it also might be daunting when years down the road a potential employer’s search might uncover an embarrassing tidbit. But at what age do we stop protecting people from their own behavior? When a person graduates from college – after they have had time to blow off steam? After they safely get their first job? After the next DUI takes a life?

When we punish the press for printing what is public record or tell the press what is or isn’t acceptable to print we strip away the fabric of society. What is the reason for news publications if they can merely be the puppet of its community? People are entitled to an unbiased account of what is happening where they live.  When we begin to eliminate the free press, all that we are left with is the notion of a perfect land where nothing bad happens, no one gets in trouble and no one is held accountable for unlawful behavior – that is when bad things can really happen and a democracy becomes a dictatorship.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” I think UPJ would be lost without the Advocate and its ability to be a platform for students charting their course in journalism. The journalism classes, taught by Professor (Lee) Wood, prepared me well for a career that started in television and has landed me back in print.

Now in an era of fake news, a presidency that requires all hands on deck reporting and fiction being packaged as fact, students need to be prepared to report the truth now more than ever. Limiting their ability to do so on the college level will only prevent them from being the unbiased, unwavering force we need them to be in the real world.

Please don’t allow UPJ to send journalists out into the world that have been forced to compromise the integrity of the free press.

According to a possible employer of these future journalists, Mr. David Shribman, the executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “These students are being taught a very dangerous lesson in tyranny. They may soon discover what life is like without a free press. They may feel good in the short run but will be short changed in the long run.”

Kristen Keleschenyi

Pitt-Johnstown Class of 1996