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Role of Campus Report discussed at Faculty Senate

STANFORD -- Some members of the Stanford faculty are "concerned about the selection and presentation of news in Campus Report," chemistry Professor Richard Zare told President Gerhard Casper at the Faculty Senate meeting on Thursday, March 4.

Saying he was speaking on behalf of several colleagues who are not current senate members, Zare asked Casper in an advance letter - and then at the meeting - to outline his ideas about the newspaper and its role on campus.

Casper responded that he believed Campus Report fit the third of three possible models Zare offered: being a vehicle for informing the community about news and events, and communicating diverse views, even those that are controversial and critical.

Casper said that like the rest of campus, the News Service, which publishes Campus Report, has experienced budget cuts and must divide its limited resources among several functions.

"Campus Report once was the driving force of the News Service; now it is one of many important missions with reduced resources," he said.

Current News Service director Terry Shepard has sought to emphasize coverage of Stanford's "product" - teaching, learning and research - over stories about administrative and governance processes, Casper said. An important target for this information, he said, is the nation as a whole.

"As an outside observer, I have not been overwhelmed by coverage of Stanford's product in the national media, as distinguished from Stanford's scandals," Casper said, adding that other universities do a better job of getting their "product" stories before a national audience.

"I hope no faculty member finds Campus Report less interesting because it devotes more space to teaching, learning and research," he said. The newspaper may be "less flamboyant than it once was, but the New York Times is less flamboyant than the New York Post."

Casper also suggested that "after several years of near- constant crises, campus issues have returned to the relatively routine."

"Crisis-news junkies may be suffering withdrawal symptoms," Casper said. "I for one am delighted when there is no crisis to report and do not intend to create any just to make Campus Report livelier reading."

Zare asked Casper which of three possible models for Campus Report most closely fit Casper's idea of how the weekly faculty-staff newspaper should function:

  • "Simply a 'fact sheet' about important happenings at Stanford." Under this model, the present size and presumably cost "could be significantly reduced," Zare suggested.
  • "A 'fact sheet,' plus a way to cast news about Stanford in the most favorable light possible. It may be argued that this approach will be most effective in enhancing Stanford's reputation outside the Stanford community," Zare said.
  • "A 'fact sheet' plus vehicle for communicating diverse opinions on contemporary issues of concern to the Stanford community, including ones that are controversial and even critical of the way things are being done on campus," Zare said. "This approach may be less effective in enhancing Stanford's external reputation but more effective in promoting constructive dialogue within the Stanford community."

The last model is consistent with the News Service mission statement, Casper told Zare. "I'm quite comfortable with that model," the president said.

To Zare's question about what mechanism Casper had for ensuring his model is achieved, Casper said that mechanism was Shepard's direct reporting line to the president. Casper did, however, disavow interest in running the newspaper.

"I have no ambition to become editor-in-chief of Campus Report," Casper said. He repeated what he heard secondhand: that former long-time News Service director Robert W. Beyers had sought and been denied a direct reporting relationship to the president or provost.

Zare told Casper that faculty concern about the faculty- staff newspaper dated back to late 1989, when Beyers took a three- month sabbatical, then resigned. In his letter of resignation, Beyers told then-President Donald Kennedy that others - not Kennedy - were pressuring the News Service to behave like a corporate public relations office.

Casper read to the senate the department's three- paragraph mission statement, which states in part: "The News Service serves indispensable roles in communication, accountability and education by providing full, fair and timely information about the institution and its people, its teaching and research, and its ideas and issues."

The statement, adopted in August 1991, also says that the office aspires "to the highest standards of a great university and of quality journalism, including the free and open pursuit of knowledge, without embellishment or slant, both for its own sake and for the benefit of all."

In addition to Campus Report, the News Service publishes the Stanford Observer for alumni, parents and donors. The office also assists faculty, staff and students in interacting with the news media, and deals with international, national, state and local newspapers, magazines, television and radio.

Zare declined after the meeting to elaborate on his concerns or comment on Casper's discussion.



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